News source from CTV News
Hamilton police are speaking about how they deal with the difficult issue of bullying in schools following the death of 14-year-old Devan Selvey, who was murdered on school grounds on Oct. 7 and believed to be a victim of bullying.
One of the biggest problems, according to Constable Indy Bharaj is that bullying is not technically a crime.
“When bullying hits a certain point where it becomes criminal, when individuals are being pushed, threatened, spat at, any of those things, that’s when it becomes criminal in nature, and that’s where police can actually lay criminal charges,” he said.
However, in the days following Selvey’s tragic death, Constable Bharaj said he’s noticed a trend.
“I’d say a lot more people are coming forward. They’re not letting it get to a certain point where it needs to be dealt with at that moment. They’re being a lot more proactive.”
Bharaj said his main message for students or parents dealing with bullying is simple: “speak out, or have someone speak out for you.”
“If we don’t know [about] it, unfortunately, we can’t investigate it,” Bharaj said.
Selvey’s mother said last week that she had reported the bullying to school officials at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.
Devan Selvey and his mother Shari-Ann Sullivan Selvey are seen in this undated image. (Supplied)
And last week, Manny Figueirdo, the director of education for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, confirmed there were incidents of bullying reported to the school, and that they would be passed on to police for the investigation.
Because the case is before the courts, Constable Bharaj cannot speak about the specifics of Selvey’s tragic death, but he wants people to know, “If the bullying reached a point where mediation wouldn’t be appropriate, we look at other avenues. If it’s to a point of criminality we would look to [press] criminal charges.”
Another family contacted CTV News Toronto with stories about how their now 16-year-old son was being allegedly badly beaten and bullied by the same teens now facing first degree murder charges.
They didn’t want to be identified for fear of reprisals, but said their appeals for help to the school and police were ignored.
But Hamilton police said when the family did report a robbery, investigators looked into it, five different teens were charged, and are due in court next month.
Constable Bharaj encourages people to talk to him, to tackle problems before they get too serious.
Hamilton Police Constable Indy Bharaj is seen here speaking to CTV News Toronto.
“Everything’s proactive. It’s about mending bridges with the students and building relationships, so that when something does arise where they need police they have a familiar face that they can reach out to.”
Despite the increased attention toward the issue of bullying, Bharaj said it hasn’t changed the way he or his fellow school liaison officers do their jobs.
“I police the way I’ve always policed. I feel I act in good faith and that’s all I rely on.”
He wants people to know that he can be relied on too.
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