He’s been bullied so badly over the years that he’s twice threatened suicide.
Yet the expelled teen who’s made Fraser Sutherland’s life a living hell is being allowed back into his high school next year. And administrators have told the 15-year-old victim to suck it up and forgive his “reformed” tormentor – or find somewhere else to go in September.
“I shouldn’t have to leave the school when I didn’t do anything wrong. I believe the person that is doing the harm should leave,” said Fraser, who’s just finished Grade 10 at St. Brother Andre Catholic School in Markham, Ont.
“What we’re fearing is this individual is going to come back to finish the job,” his angry dad, Kirk, said. “What’s it going to take? Does he have to be left lying in a puddle of blood in the school bathroom?”
As father and son take turns speaking in the living room of their townhome, there is the most disturbing sense of deja vu. Haven’t we written this story before? Only in its last tragic version, 11-year-old Mitchell Wilson did indeed take his own life last Labour Day rather than go back to school and face his bully.
Has nothing changed? This harrowing bullying tale dates back to elementary school, with Fraser saying one classmate has continually teased and harassed him about his weight and his solitary nature. But it took a dangerous turn in February 2009, when he says he was lured to the top of a hill during their Grade 7 ski trip and pushed down an embankment.
“He slid approximately 25 feet head first into a tree. That was his first concussion,” recalls his father. “My son missed 50 days of school that year.”
The kid was never punished. Fraser became consumed by fear and anxiety. A school psychologist wrongly diagnosed him with Asperger’s and recommended a remedial centre.
Placed on heavy medication, he sank into a deep depression.
“Right here on the kitchen floor, he had a meltdown,” the dad recalls. “He wanted to kill himself.”
Taken off the meds, Fraser rapidly improved until he began high school with the same student who’d tormented him before. Within weeks, the teasing and the assaults resumed.
But this time, it was caught on tape: In February 2011, a camera in Brother Andre’s vestibule captured the bully beating him so severely that he suffered his second concussion. He was suspended for four days.
“He got a nice holiday, playing X-box and going to the mall,” a disgusted Sutherland said.
In January of this year Fraser had gone skating at a Unionville, Ont., arena when he was suddenly jumped from behind and beaten by the bully and two of his friends. He was rushed by ambulance to Markham-Stouffville Hospital with neck injuries – and his third concussion.
“I was out cold for a few seconds,” the boy recalls. “I didn’t know whether I was going to live or not.”
The kids were arrested – though charges were later dropped – and his assailant was finally expelled. For the first time in a long time, Fraser could breathe. Until this week. The Sutherlands were called into a meeting and informed by the principal and a superintendent with the York Catholic District School Board that all the professionals believe the violent teen has now changed and should be allowed to return to Brother Andre this fall.
“We should reconcile, hold hands, sing kumbaya, because he’s a model citizen and we should feel bad for him,” scoffs an incredulous Sutherland.
When he balked, the administrators actually had the nerve to accuse him of not believing in the Christian virtue of reconciliation. And they told him if he doesn’t like it, he can move Fraser to a different school.
Citing privacy and confidentiality restraints, spokesman May Moore wouldn’t comment on the board’s decision. Meanwhile, yet another child is left terrified to return to school in the fall.
“My son has gone to bed crying, it breaks my bloody heart,” Sutherland said, “but they have no regard or sympathy for him, for his injuries or his emotional state.”
Have we really learned so little? Are we really willing to lose another Mitchell Wilson?