A southern Ontario school board that’s been fielding criticisms since the death of a 14-year-old student, who was stabbed outside of school, has voted in favour of creating a panel to improve its response to bullying.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board unanimously voted in support of creating the panel at a Monday night meeting, adopting a recommendation contained in a report from the Director of Education.
Manny Figueiredo says the recent death of Devan Bracci-Selvey has raised concerns about bullying in the community that the panel will try to address.
Devan was fatally stabbed outside of his high school earlier this month, and two teens are now facing first-degree murder charges in his death.
His mother, who witnessed the alleged attack on her son, says Devan endured weeks of bullying before he died.
The panel, which will seek feedback from the community and independent experts on how to prevent and respond to bullying incidents, is expected to present its findings next May.
Board Chair Alex Johnston has previously said there have been past errors in how the school board reported bullying incidents to the province, though she declined to specify what those errors were or whether they were related to Bracci-Selvey’s case.
Part of the panel’s mandate, she said, would be to improve the board’s reporting process.
In an interview the day before the formal vote on establishing the panel, Johnston said the board could be doing more to prevent bullying.
“We want to work our community to make our school and our community safer for everyone,” she said. “No one should have to suffer the consequences of bullying in silence.”
Johnston urged parents and students to continue to tell schools about bullying when it happens so they can help address the issue.
The Board has shared little information about Devan’s case, citing the ongoing investigation by Hamilton Police, but has previously acknowledged it was aware of bullying complaints related to him.
Figueiredo has said the anti-bullying panel will study bullying as a broader issue rather than focusing on Devan’s death alone. A third party will look into the killing at a later date when the police investigation is completed, he added.
Police charged a 14-year-old boy and 18-year-old man in the case hours after Devan’s death, later alleging that the younger teen was the one wielding the knife.
The 18-year-old’s name is protected by a publication ban, while the identity of the 14-year-old is shielded by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.