Manitoba family suing school division over handling of bullying speaks out
WINNIPEG — A Manitoba man at the centre of a unique bullying lawsuit says he’s still recovering from years of physical, verbal and online abuse.
Cole Froese, 19, and his family are suing the Evergreen School Division as well as former and current administrators at Gimli High School over allegations not enough was done to stop the bullying.
The bullying began in middle school, Froese said.
“I remember one of the first things, it was comments about my weight. I was just a bigger kid and most of the kids in class they would pick on me for that,” he said.
He claims the bullying escalated when he started at Gimli High School in 2012.
“Pushing into lockers for example, slapping in the back of the head, tripping … whatever they could think of at the time, they would do it,” Froese said.
He says the bullying didn’t stop when he would come home from school but would continue unabated online and on social media in the form of lewd posts and death threats.
According to the statement of claim filed in 2015, even though the family contacted the principal of Gimli High School and the superintendent of the Evergreen School Division many times about the bullying, it continued.
The documents also allege the school division did not cooperate with an RCMP investigation into reported physical assaults against Cole.
“This breach of duty by the defendants resulted in escalated physical and psychological harm to Cole, stress, and damage to his education,” reads the Froese’s statement of claim.
The lawyer representing the school division and the other defendants declined an interview request, saying the matter is still before the courts.
But a statement of defence filed in response to the Froese claim denied not assisting the police investigation and claimed the reports of physical contact and harassment were appropriately addressed.
“Meetings with students, parents and teachers” were part of addressing the issue, read the documents, along with the “implementation of student and classroom specific strategies to assist in bringing about positive behavioral changes.”vHowever, Cole’s father Brent, maintains the school should have done more to help his son.
The bullying caused Cole to switch from Gimli High School to one that took over an hour to drive to, Brent continued.
Cole says things improved for him after he moved schools but the painful memories didn’t go away.
“It happened every day and it’s always going to stick with me it feels like as of right now. It’s going to take a lot, it’s a long road of recovery. It’s a long road,” he said.
Cole continues to need counselling but was able to graduate last year.
The family hopes by sharing their story, others may be encouraged to talk more openly about similar situations they might be in.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
None of the allegations against any of the defendants have been proven in court. You can see the entire statements of claim and defence below.