“If They Want to Live with Themselves, Let Them. That’s Their World, Not Mine”

It took 42 years, but Robin Tomlin finally received an official apology from the North Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) school district in which he had been bullied in grade 12. No doubt, getting help from a lawyer and going public in 2012 helped him get the apology. In the annual (yearbook) for Grade 12, the text that he had submitted to be printed with his photograph had been replaced with the word “fag.” Mr. Tomlin spent years trying to get the text changed. Finally, in 2012, the text was changed to the words he had submitted: “Meet as many people from all over the world as I can. I want to be a cowboy.” A little later, he also got an official apology. Mr. Tomlin said about the North Vancouver school district, “They made a very sincere apology. It’s a happy day.” Superintendent John Lewis, reading from a prepared statement, said, “I hope that the school district’s apology will bring some peace and long overdue closure for Mr. Tomlin and his family. We share a common and continued concern for the youth of today and an interest in creating a more positive environment for the future.” Who changed the text of the annual? Mr. Lewis said, “We really don’t have the resources to go back 42 years and investigate what transpired at that time. We would count upon people coming forward. … We would certainly welcome answers.” Vicki Nettles, a classmate of Mr. Tomlin’s, said, “As Robin stated, it brings closure. But more than that, it bring[s] light, and we need a huge light shone on bullying, on the mental, physical, and emotional abuse of people—not just children—of people.” In September 2012, Mr. Tomlin got the help of a lawyer. The school district agreed to alter the page in the annual. After Mr. Tomlin went public with the bullying and his story appeared in the North Shore News (North and West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) in October 2012, he received an official apology. Mr. Tomlin has a daughter. About the people who put the word “Fag” by his photo in the annual, he said, “They know what they did. I know who they are. Leave it at that. If they want to live with themselves, let them. That’s their world, not mine.”

For Further Information: James Weldon, “UPDATED: After 42 years, a victim of bullying gets closure.” North Shore News (North and West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada). 23 October 2012

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