‘We need to talk’: School board speaks to fatal stabbing at Hamilton school

The sister of the victim of a fatal stabbing outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School says her brother tried to get help with the bullying he experienced.
The sister of the victim of a fatal stabbing outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School says her brother tried to get help with the bullying he experienced. (Submitted to Global News by victim's family)

Staff and students at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School are trying to come to grips with Monday’s fatal stabbing.

Hamilton Police have arrested four teens in connection with the death of a male student outside of the school on Monday afternoon. Two have already appeared in court on first-degree murder charges.

Police identified the victim as Devan Selvey, 14, a Grade 9 student at Sir Winston Churchill.

A crisis response intervention team was on hand at the school on Tuesday, as well as social workers, wellness counsellors and extra staff support for teachers and administrators.

READ MORE: 2 suspects face 1st-degree murder charge after teen fatally stabbed outside Hamilton high school

Speaking on Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board director Manny Figuerido said he was at the school on Tuesday morning, speaking with students, teachers, and parents.

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“The common theme I’ve been messaging is that we need to talk,” said Figuerido. “And I know there’s a range of feelings on social media, from ‘Could the school have done something more?’ to ‘We love our school, we can’t believe this happened’.

“And what I continue to say to people is the school doesn’t live in isolation of the community.”

It remains unclear what exactly led to the assault, and Figuerido said he doesn’t want to speculate, adding that there is already a lot of speculation swirling on social media.

The victim’s sister, Karissa Selvey, has organized a GoFundMe for her brother and specifically mentioned that Devan struggled with bullying.

“Devan tried to get help with the bullying he was experiencing,” she wrote on the page. “He was a great kid; shy, quiet and always helped his family and friends.”

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Click to play video 'Back to school: How to protect your kids from bullies' Back to school: How to protect your kids from bullies
Back to school: How to protect your kids from bullies – Sep 2, 2019

When asked if bullying could have been a factor, Figuerido said the school administration works “tirelessly” to create a positive environment to discourage bullying, but said it’s difficult to keep it from happening at all.

“Bullying does happen in our society and our schools are a reflection of our society.”

“We know what the research says, that the most effective strategy is ‘how do we help bystanders intervene?’ Because most acts of bullying occur – whether it’s in the physical world or in the digital world – where there’s less adult supervision.”

“We have to continue to work with our students around positive and safe ways for bystanders to intervene earlier. And that’s where we encourage our students – I know it’s difficult – to reach out to adults earlier so we can provide support.”

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He said students are encouraged to reach out to adults in the school if they’re being bullied, whether it’s to a teacher, guidance counsellor, or athletics coach.

Speaking to media on Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton Police Det. Sgt. Steve Berezuik could not confirm whether or not bullying was a factor in the assault.

“We have a pretty good picture as to what went on,” Berezuik said, “but again, we have two people in custody right now that we’re looking forward to speaking with, to try to again, find out more of the truth. And we’ll see what that shows.”

READ MORE: Mission mother furious at school after son’s assault caught on video

Police have obtained some video footage of the assault and have asked any students who may also have cell phone footage to contact them.

Figuerido said there are security cameras on school property and they have provided police with that footage, but added that the assault took place on the sidewalk beside the school, which is an area not covered by the cameras.

As for whether or not students were being supervised, he said secondary school students have lunch breaks at different times and are allowed to leave school property, which means that teachers who are on supervision duty cannot monitor everywhere students might be.

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“I think the most important strategy – no matter how many videos or cameras you have in school – the relationship piece with the adults is the number one way to have people feel safe.”