The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) will be conducting a review of its anti-bullying procedures in the wake of 14-year-old Devan Selvey’s death.
His mother has said they had tried to get the school to deal with Devan’s bullying before he was fatally stabbed outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School on Monday.
A friend of Devan’s told Global News that the school had been told several times about a bullying issue with the group of students who were allegedly involved in the attack leading up to the stabbing.
Sharon Stephanian, superintendent of equity and well-being for the HWDSB, told Global News Radio 900 CHML’s Scott Thompson Show that the board has procedures to deal with bullying, but acknowledges there could always be improvements.
“We’re looking at a formal review of our board’s safe school practices once both the police and the school investigations around Devan’s death are complete,” said Stephanian.
“We’re going to be looking at any recommendations or changes that we need to be making.”
She said school staff receive annual training every September on how to recognize bullying, how to intervene, and how they can support students.
When bullying is reported to schools by students or families, Stephanian said staff are required to take down a detailed statement of where and when the bullying has taken place, as well as who was involved.
That’s followed by an investigation involving both the family of the victim and the bully’s family, and the outcome can vary from restorative processes to suspension or expulsion.
Stephanian acknowledges that the school may need to improve how it communicates with those involved in the process.
“Perhaps we’re not as clear in our communication with families around what the outcome of an investigation has been,” said Stephanian. “Certainly if we’re investigating a situation, we have to maintain confidentiality. But we should be reporting back to parents to say that we have investigated and what the outcomes of that investigation have been.
“And we should be having conversations with families as well, as what measures we need to put in place for their child to feel safe when they are back in school.”
She said if families feel that a situation hasn’t been properly investigated or resolved, they’re encouraged to reach out to the school or the superintendent.
Ontario’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, was asked about Devan’s case during a press conference on Thursday. He said the safety of children is paramount and that the incident is being looked into.
“What I will ask is for a rigorous investigation to understand where the gaps existed so there are lessons learned to ensure no child is left behind, as a consequence of a system that is not improving the lives of young people,” said Lecce. “That is the obligation I have to his mother, and to all parents in the province of Ontario.”
A 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man are facing first-degree murder charges in connection with Devan’s death. Police had arrested three other teens as well, but they were released unconditionally.
Devan’s funeral will be held at Stoney Creek United Church at 1 p.m. on Saturday and will be open to the public.