In September, after more than a year of what she alleges was rampant bullying and harassment, a student at one of Vancouver’s prestigious private schools overdosed, allegedly on a drug obtained on school grounds.
The 13-year-old girl’s parents, Natalie Boll and Uwe Boll, allege their daughter, a Grade 8 student at Crofton House School, had been told that Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication, would ease the pain from being bullied.
Her mother says she received a call from Crofton House advisers indicating that the girl had fallen asleep in class and that she’d previously been in a washroom with another student, with the other student later turning grey in class and being sent home.
When the mother arrived at the all-girls school, she says that her daughter could barely walk to the car and her eyes were rolling back. While the car was in motion, the girl’s head hit the window and glove compartment.
At the University of B.C. hospital emergency department, the girl was given a drug to revive her and at first it was thought she had fentanyl in her system, says a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
“Upon looking at her arms, it was discovered that (the girl) had been cutting herself.”
What preceded the overdose was, the lawsuit alleges, more than a year of the girl being the target of homophobia, racism, harassment and bullying.
In September 2017, when she was 11, the girl was enrolled in Grade 6 at Crofton House.
“She was a bright and happy girl and a near straight A student,” says the lawsuit, which said the girl won literature competitions, was a ballerina and found joy in dancing, reading and singing.
But during the school year, it alleges, another student began making disparaging remarks about the girl’s race, suggesting that she would be much better looking if she were “full white” and if “your mother had married a white guy.”
The girl was told by the other student to get plastic surgery to look more white, with the girl coming home daily to ask her mother, ‘If I do this, would I look more white?’ says the lawsuit.
“This marked the commencement of the verbal and psychological abuse of (the girl) at Crofton House. The staff at Crofton House did nothing to curtail the Crofton student’s racist disparagements that were occurring regularly on school grounds.”
In January 2019, the girl’s mother met with the Crofton director who told her that the girl was socially awkward and laughed at how the girl would go up to other girls to try to be friends, only to be rejected by them, alleges the lawsuit.
The bullying spread to the anonymous online apps Tellonym and YOLO, alleges the lawsuit, with messages berating the girl including “everyone at Crofton hates you,” “kill yourself,” and “drink bleach.” The mother has started an online petition calling for a ban on the apps.
At the UBC hospital following the September incident, the girl was put on a suicide watch and transferred to B.C. Children’s Hospital where a doctor advised that she should not return to the school, the lawsuit alleges.
The parents are seeking general and special damages.
In an email, Ena Harrop, head of Crofton House School, said that the school does not agree with the characterization of events as portrayed in the lawsuit and will provide a “robust” defence.
“The well-being of all students is at the heart of everything we do as a school community. We make every effort to create an environment that is free from all forms of discrimination and unacceptable behaviour.”
Harrop added that as part of their efforts to actively promote a culture of respect and inclusion, lessons on bullying and cyber safety are included in the school curriculum.
The concerns raised were “thoroughly investigated,” including working with the school’s Vancouver police liaison officer and where warranted, actions were taken in line with the school’s code of conduct, she said.