Parent of trans teen seeks answers from CBE after saying bully was transferred to same school

Charles Lee and his teenage boy Kai want to know why a student who allegedly bullied Kai at his old school got transferred to his new one.  (Dan McGarvey/CBC - photo credit)

Charles Lee and his teenage boy Kai want to know why a student who allegedly bullied Kai at his old school got transferred to his new one. (Dan McGarvey/CBC – photo credit)

The father of a trans teenager says he’s still waiting for an explanation from the Calgary Board of Education as to why a student who he says bullied his child ended up at the same school they moved to for a fresh start be.

Charles Lee says his 16-year-old son Kai was attending a junior high school in the city’s northwest when the bullying began about a year and a half ago.

At worst, Lee said the bullying led to Kai being admitted as a psychiatric inpatient at Alberta Children’s Hospital, where he was at risk of suicide.

He says the student allegedly responsible for the bullying was suspended multiple times and eventually transferred to another school.

Kai then received special permission to attend a school outside of her district.

“Things were going really, really well. Grades were better than they had been in the last three or four years and Kai was really enjoying school with a good tribe of friends and it seemed like the worst was behind us,” said Charles Lee.

But one day, Lee says Kai’s worst nightmare came true: the student they feared ended up in the same school.

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Kai says they were always seen as one of those kids that was different from everyone else. Kai says things escalated when they started attending the school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance).

“I found out what transgender meant and realized that I am,” Kai said. “The moment I came out publicly and told people I was a guy, the bullying got really bad. It was a group but led by one person.”

Kai says they have been subjected to deadnaming, the use of a trans person’s former name when they no longer identify with it.

“People corrected the students when they said ‘It’s a girl and that’s her name,’ even when they were told otherwise by me or the teachers,” Kai said. “Notes were going around, just constant harassment and shaming.”

Kai says they were attacked for using washrooms and struggled with gender-specific sports classes and sports teams, which drew renewed attention and led to bullying.

“They had photos of me before I switched and it was constant mental torture,” Kai said.

When the student who Kai said was responsible for the bullying was removed from the school, Kai was greatly relieved. But more than a year later, Kai’s discovery that this student was now attending the same school was devastating.

“I couldn’t get out of bed and refused to leave the house,” Kai said. “The thought of even seeing him on the bus or in public was something I couldn’t handle.”

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Dan McGarvey/CBC

Charles Lee says the school board offered to transfer Kai to a new school, but the two feel it should be the other student who gets transferred – especially given Kai’s newfound academic success and happiness in a new environment .

Lee says the lack of communication and clear answers about what happened is the most frustrating part of the situation, which he says remains unresolved.

Lee says he was shut down when he alerted the school.

“To date I can only learn that it has been raised but they refuse to confirm or deny if this child is there,” he said. “I knew they were, and I had confirmation from several people, and I let them know that.”

Lee says that Kai doesn’t feel safe returning until they are certain that the student they say was responsible for the bullying is no longer there.

“They assure me Kai is safe, but they can’t give us what we need,” he said.

Lee said he contacted the office of Alberta Secretary of Education Adriana LaGrange, who told him there was nothing they could do to help. He has also reached out to his MLA and the mayor about the case.

He says he is now in the process of applying for a restraining order.

Monty Krueger/CBC

Monty Krueger/CBC

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) released an independent report in 2019 on bullying following the death of nine-year-old Syrian newcomer Amal Alshteiwi, whose parents say she was relentlessly bullied before taking her own life.

It found that while CBE anti-bullying policies and practices were fundamentally sound, there was still work to be done, particularly in relation to definitions and consistent tackling of bullying.

“It leaves me speechless,” said Charles Lee. “We are so far behind where we should be when it comes to protecting children. It is ridiculous.”

The CBE declined to participate in an interview with CBC News on Kai’s case.

An emailed statement said the board takes the safety of all students seriously. However, she was unable to comment on the specifics of the situation, in accordance with the province’s data protection regulations.

“However, we can report that the family’s specific concerns have been addressed and we are working with the family to ensure the student feels supported to return to school as soon as possible,” the statement said.


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