Bullied teen chooses home schooling
A west-Ottawa family has made the brave decision to go public with their story of bullying.
David Armitage, 17, was in grade 12 at Dunrobin’s West Carleton Secondary School (WCSS) when he became the victim of bullying. He is still reluctant to speak out so asked that his parents speak for him, sharing his story with CTV Ottawa.
“He’s the perfect kid,” says Jim Armitage, describing his son David, as any parent would.
David says the bullying started in November 2015 during shop class at WCSS. He says the bully had continuously teased him, kept asking him if he was Jewish. He is not. David was bothered, but didn’t mention anything to his parents because around the same time his mother Laura was diagnosed with epilepsy, and didn’t want to further stress out his parents.
On November 23, David says the bullying intensified. He says the bully, in shop class, punched him three times in the stomach, “jabbed at him” with a screwdriver and motioned that he was going to slit his throat. David did not fight back.
The teen, while nervous and embarrassed, knew it was time to come forward and report the bullying. He, with the support of his shop teacher, told his parents about the assault.
“David is six-foot-five but he’s a gentle giant and he can be affected by anything just like anybody else,” David’s dad Jim Armitage tells CTV.
After the assault, the Armitage family pressed charges; they say the bully was suspended from school for 21-days. Just days after, the family was the victim of a day-time hate crime, a swastika and the words “greetings bitch” were scratched into the family’s car in their laneway, “It’s broad daylight and someone spends a great deal of time scribing these things into the car, it’s not just a quick hit” says Jim. Ottawa Police told the Armitage’s they could not lay charges because they couldn’t prove who was responsible for the vandalism.
Jim Armitage says he refused to get the car fixed through insurance, “the thought of having a company clean up this up and make it all go away and to have this be forgotten didn’t sit right with me.”
So the family decided to set up a go-fund-me page https://www.gofundme.com/24d5t3g not because they needed the money, but they wanted to raise awareness. “Anybody can be bullied right? That’s the message,” says Jim.
Minutes after CTV Ottawa’s story aired on Tuesday May 17, Maureen Graham with Tony Graham Automotive Group, contacted the Armitage family and told them their collision centre would repair the car for free so that all of the money raised through the go-fund-me page could be donated to David’s charity of choice, PREVnet, http://www.prevnet.ca/ a national network of researchers and organizations working together to stop bullying in Canada.
PREVnet was so impressed by David and his story; they’ve asked the teen to sit as a member of the organization’s youth bullying advisory committee.
David’s bully has since returned to school, even though David and his parents asked the principal and board to re-consider because David didn’t feel safe. David decided on his own that he didn’t feel comfortable going back to school, so he is finishing his final semester of grade 12 through homeschooling, taking his courses online.
“He misses out on this friendships, he misses out on his graduation, he misses out on that final semester in grade 12,” says Jim holding back tears, “I think the system took care of the wrong person in this case.”
CTV Ottawa asked the Ottawa Public School Board to comment on the case, in a statement Communications Officer Sharlene Hunter wrote, “As a matter of practice, we do not speak to issues involving identifiable students. The school district has policies in place to deal with beahviourial issues and a number of resources and supports which are available to assist students in need. We continue to make those supports available.”
David’s dad Jim is proud of his son for coming forward and sharing his story, “it took a lot of guts,” he hopes it will encourage other victims of bullying to do the same.