One of the panellists on the ongoing Hamilton public school board bullying review panel says the much-publicized death of Devan Selvey has “deeply influenced” the process.
Dr. Jean Clinton, a clinical professor in the department of psychology, psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster University, says the fatal stabbing has put the suffering of the Selvey family “front of mind” in each discussion.
“It really has propelled a deep dive into what’s happened,” Clinton told Global News.
“We have a commitment that we will make recommendations that affect significant change so that Devan’s death, as horrific as it is, is not unmarked, has consequence and change.”
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) panel has accounted for 26 virtual meetings so far in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which altered the original plan for local in-person community meetings.
The panel was conceived just months after the stabbing death of Selvey on Oct. 7, 2019, outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in Hamilton’s east end.
In the days following the murder, friends and family revealed that Selvey was the victim of several bullying incidents in which complaints were filed formally with the school and with Hamilton police.
Two people have been charged in connection with the incident – an 18-year-old facing charges related to an assault with a weapon and a 14-year-old facing a first-degree murder plus three other charges.
Keven Ellis, the organizer of Selvey’s vigil and a victim of teen bullying himself, says a year later, things have not gotten easier for Selvey’s mother Shari-Ann.
“Every day she’s meeting struggles that no mother should have to go through that are being placed on her by people in the general public, people that know her situation,” said Ellis.
Since her son’s death, Ellis says Selvey has been using her voice to communicate to the public about “what bullying means,” which has not given her much time to grieve.
“She’s kind of not really had the opportunity to heal,” Ellis said.
Responding to bullying and putting together well-organized meetings with community involvement have been a positive, according to Ellis.
However, he did suggest that the interim report, which was a summary of the voices heard at the gatherings, appears to be different from what a number of the stakeholders actually said.
“Once we finish off with these last few set meetings and the panel puts together their recommendations, it’s difficult to say exactly how effective it will be,” Ellis said.
Clinton says the final report and its recommendations to the board are set for mid-December.
Ellis says an anniversary vigil for Devan Selvey, originally planned as an in-person event, will now be virtual due to the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in the Hamilton area.
The event is set for 7:p.m. EDT on Facebook.