Teenager Amanda Todd's suicide has brought the issue of bullying back into the media spotlight, and it has prompted one Kamloops mother to go public with her son's story.
The mom, who The Daily News is not naming for security reasons, said in an email Friday that Todd's story made her feel bullying needs to be talked about.
"My son is going through his own mental anguish, has for a few years now and he is only 10 years old. He attends a 'good' school in upper Sahali, in an affluent neighbourhood, where the problem is largely downplayed, ignored or deflected because it 'just doesn't happen here,'" she wrote.
The boy is often verbally abused by classmates, he's been told he's a loser, he's been called a fag. He's been bullied in classrooms and in chatrooms, she said.
"We have spent many restless nights tucking him in sobbing, listening to him cry in the middle of the night with nightmares. I have told the school about it and have been met with their strict policy on bullying, which is a whole lot of talking with no results," said the mother.
"His teachers have reported that he is a kind, gentle person and while they have seen the bullying take place in the classroom, there is little that has been done. We have tried working with the school and get political answers — have for years."
Attempts to work with the bully's family have failed as they ignore her and deflect the actions back to her son, she said.
Todd's death angered and devastated another Kamloops mother.
Krystal Armstrong, whose youngest daughter Hayleigh was threatened by a fellow student four years ago, said it's time for parents and kids to stand up against bullies.
"You're devastated to think a 14-year-old ends their life. And it makes me angry. How many of these kids need to kill themselves?" she said.
"We can't be bystanders anymore."
Armstrong said she was lucky her daughter tells her everything. So when Hayleigh, then seven, said another student was threatening to beat her up and she didn't want to go to school any more, Armstrong knew something serious was going on.
"I did the proper channels. I told the teacher. She dealt with it in her way, it didn't stop. I went to the principal, it continued. I went to the parents, it stopped," she said.
"I really don't want to believe the teachers don't want to help. They don't know how to help."
But not all parents believe their kids are bullies or are willing to do something about it. Armstrong heard of a boy at her daughter's school "going through hell" right now.
"We need to change the laws. If I'm an adult and I beat up someone, I'm going to get charged. When these kids do these adult crimes, maybe they need to be punished as adults," she said.
"They say 60 per cent of kids who are bullies have a criminal record by 24."
Karl de Bruijn, Kamloops-Thompson school district assistant superintendent, said there are many anti-bullying programs and presentations that go through the schools.
But it still persists, and there are limits as to what can be done from the school's side, he said.
"We don't teach bullying at school. We do everything we can when confronted with it or it's reported," he said.
"What needs to be done is to build up resilience in children, we run into bullying at all aspects of our lives."
With bullying extending into social media like Facebook and Twitter, it goes far beyond the school grounds, so families have to be on board, too, he said.
"We're doing what we can but this is not something the school can do alone," said de Bruijn. "Social media has enhanced the bullies' abilities to spread out."
The district has anti-bullying policies. If a bully is identified, he or she can face consequences including suspension or being moved to another school.
But the district can't take away their Internet access and cellphone.
"There are limits to our authority and our ability to punish."
De Bruijn said he's investing a couple of thousand dollars in teacher training aimed at stopping bullying this year.
If bullying expands into assault or stalking or other criminal areas, police should be called, he said.
"They have greater authority than we do. But they'll note they are hampered because kids are youth."
NorKam secondary vice-principal Dave MacDonald said Todd's suicide was discussed in some classes.
In one English class, discussion revolved around The Power of Words, a video that examines how words impact people's thoughts and actions.
"The message was, words have power and we have to use words to make the world a better place. It's sometimes harder to stand up when you're part of a group," said MacDonald.
The high school acts immediately on bullying that's brought to administration's attention, he said. But kids have to speak up.
"If we know about it, we'll act on it. But if we don't know about it, there's nothing we can do."
NorKam also promotes anti-bullying day and sells pink T-shirts for the event. The school's leadership class is going to do something in the wake of Todd's death.
Parents, the community and even the police also need to be involved with bullying, he said.
Armstrong said she doesn't want Todd to be media flavour of the week and then forgotten.
"Bullying needs to be constantly addressed," she said. "It's great to bring awareness, but we need it to be year-round."
After her daughter's experience, she had Anti-Bullying Week proclaimed at city hall and created a Facebook page, Kamloops Parents Against Bullying.
"It's our problem as a society."