Havergal College in Toronto sued for $5.5M after student alleging bullying expelled

Click to play video: 'Family of student at centre of bullying complaint sues Toronto private school' Family of student at centre of bullying complaint sues Toronto private school
WATCH ABOVE: The family of a 7-year-old girl, who claims she has been bullied physically and verbally for years, is suing her private school. Caryn Lieberman reports – Oct 24, 2019

The father of a seven-year-old student at Havergal College in Toronto says his daughter is being expelled because he expressed frustration over a lack of action dealing with bullying on school property.

“Grace was attacked and had a 20-minute nose bleed,” said Andrew Rogerson.

After many attempts to have the bullying addressed by the school, he said, he challenged the administration and raised his voice in frustration.

READ MORE: Grieving Toronto mother questions whether bullying led to son’s death ruled suicide

Rogerson and his wife were then called in for a meeting, he recalled, at which point they were informed their child would be expelled.

“I don’t see why she, as the person who is being attacked, should be kicked out,” said Rogerson.

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The family is now suing Havergal College for $5.5 million and seeking an injunction to stop Grace’s expulsion.

The statement of claim notes his daughter “is and has been a victim of verbal and physical bullying at Havergal College for almost two years.”

“Her parents have tried, to no avail, to work with the Defendants to put an end to the bullying and to ensure her health and safety.”

Rogerson said his daughter is happy at school, despite the incidents of bullying, and that the school informed him his daughter has done nothing wrong.

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“It’s very, very frightening. Many parents have told me ‘if you complain, you run the risk of being punished for complaining’… We were told to get out in three weeks’ notice,” said Rogerson.

That has since been extended, but the family is still hopeful to come to an agreement to keep Grace at the school.

“I wish her to remain at the school and the school sort its problems out,” said Rogerson.

Grace has been a student at Havergal since 2016.

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Rogerson recalled a lengthy application process to have her enrolled, including an interview and written essay.

He said he asked the school in person “what is your policy on bullying because it’s very important to me … and she said ‘we have a zero tolerance on bullying.'”

READ MORE: Experts say zero-tolerance policies aimed at stopping bullying aren’t working

The issue however, said Rogerson, is that the school is denying that bullying took place.

Havergal College released a statement on its website Thursday.

“I can confirm that Havergal will refute and defend the allegations made against the school and the parties involved. We conducted investigations into the alleged bullying and are satisfied that no bullying of the student occurred at the school as alleged in the statement of claim.”

“Whilst they may have a procedure in place for bullying, if they deny that bullying is taking place… then the protocol doesn’t apply,” said Rogerson.

READ MORE: Canada’s bullying problem — and why we can’t seem to fix it

Rogerson’s lawyer Leanne Rapley told Global News, “These things just do get swept under the carpet and we’ve got to try to put a stop to this.”

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“There are a lot of parents who probably think their kids might be safer at private school and I’m not saying that they’re in more danger at private school, but I’m certainly saying that they’re no safer because bullying knows no bounds,” she added.

Rogerson’s statement of claim calls the school and headmistress “grossly negligent in failing to address the ongoing issues of bullying in any way and in expelling Grace, the victim of the bullying.”

“It’s like your worst nightmare, you are summoned to be expelled, because you’ve complained,” he said.

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