School teasing blamed in Surrey teen's suicide

CBC news Fri Mar 17 08:20:01 2000
Hamed Memorial Website

The family of a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide last weekend blames his death on constant teasing and bullying at his high school. Hamed Nastoh was a Grade 9 student at Enver Creek Secondary School in Surrey. He described the harassment he suffered in a five-page note he left for his family, before leaping to his death from the Patullo Bridge. Police found the boy's body resting against a log in the Fraser River early Sunday morning. Nasima Nastoh Hamed's grieving mother, Nasima Nastoh, says her son told the family in his note that bullying and tauting drove him to suicide. "And the letter said, 'Mom I was teased at school by my mates, my classmates, even my own friends laughed at me. They always called me four-eyes, big-nose, and geek,' because his average mark was over 90. He had very good marks and he was very intelligent," says Nasima Nastoh. Muriel Wilson of the Surrey School Board says she tells students there is a zero tolerance policy on bullying. "If they witness bullying, they take an active role in trying to stop it. Let us know so we can deal with it. And if the children are being bullied, let us know so we can deal with it," says Wilson. But that did not happen in this case. Hamed's mother says he refused to talk to school officials. His friends also felt powerless to stop the taunting he endured. "Everyone gets bullied. But this went too far. We stood up for him, but people couldn't get the hint that this went too far, and this pushed him," says one Enver Creek student. A memorial to Hamed was set up in the school hallways this week, and trauma counsellors were available to distraught students. His mother says one of the last wishes Hamed expressed in his suicide note was for people to stop harassing each other and to realize that teasing is hurtful. Authorities say the issue of school bullying will likely be examined at a coroner's inquest.

Mother carries on son's plea to save lives

When 14-year-old Grade 8 student Hamed Nastoh leapt from the Patullo Bridge into the darkness on the night of March 11, 2000 he left behind a life full of torment, intimidation and bullying. At Enver Creek Secondary School in Surrey, the straight A student was called geek, faggot, queer and four-eyes. The incessant taunts never stopped. Hours before he made his way to the bridge, back in his bedroom in the family home, he placed a seven-page letter on his dresser. In what would become his final words, Hamed detailed his final wish. "...Please make people stop name-calling and teasing other people because it really hurts, that's my only wish and I hope people will listen to me...I love you dad and mom. I don't want someone else to do what I did." Since Hamed's death two-years ago, his tragic story has made international headlines and elevated the issues surrounding school bullying. Numerous studies have been done, government web sites posted, forums with parents, teachers and students held. And most importantly, lives have been saved. Driving that message - and fulfilling her son's plea for an end to bullying - has been his mother, Nasima Nastoh. Immediately following her son's death, Nasima remembers making the decision that Hamed's life, and his death, would not have been in vain. "That's was a horrible night," Nasima recalled Wednesday, seated in the family's Maple Ridge home, surrounded by photographs of Hamed and clutching a photocopied letter he left behind. "But after that night my perspective changed forever. Nasima, her husband and two sons moved from Surrey to Maple Ridge this month. Here, in her new community, Nasima says she wants to continue the exhaustive work she has done to educate parents and teens about the potentail deadly consequences of bullying. "I want to help children who are victims of bullying, and bullies themselves to make them aware of how serious an issue it is," she explains. "I want the community of Maple Ridge to know I'm here to help the children." Shortly after Hamed's death, his mother formed the Hamed Nastoh Anti-Bullying Coalition, aimed at raising awareness of bullying in public schools and to provide assistance to those students and parents affected by bullying. She has taken her and Hamed's story to schools all over Canada and has spoken to well over 50 schools in the Lower Mainland. Next week she will travel to Edmonton to speak at six schools about bullying. Her message is simple: "Suicide is not the solution." Using Hamed's letter to illustrate the pain and internal suffering he experienced before taking his life, Nasima said she hopes to reach out to teens and the community to let them know they don't have to go through life with bullying alone. "Seek help. If you don't talk about it nobody can hear," Nasima said, adding that teens often feel embarrassed to talk about being bullied for fear repercussions it they let an adult of teacher know. Nasima says her crusade has helped her overcome her grief and sorrow. She recalls a speech she gave to a high school in Naniamo where a girl approached her in tears. The girl told her that she was the victim of relentless bullying had planned to kill herself that afternoon. Moved by the Nastoh family's story she said she'd seek help. "It helps me because Hamed isn't going to come back but I'm saving other people." Nasima invites students who are victims of bullying or parents who think or know their children are being bullied to call her. She can be reached at 460-2002, or 377-0756. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

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