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Father launches $5.5M lawsuit over private school bullying

$5.5M bullying lawsuit

A Toronto father alleges in a lawsuit filed against Havergal College that the prestigious girls private school expelled his seven-year-old daughter because he complained that she was bullied, while the school claims his own inappropriate behaviour is the cause of her expulsion.

The legal saga began with bullying allegations involving two former friends at the all-girls school that runs from kindergarten to Grade 12, but has escalated into a $5.5-million suit filed by the aggrieved father, Andrew Rogerson.

Rogerson's statement of claim, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Oct. 18, alleges his daughter suffered "verbal and physical bullying" at the hands of another girl, referred to as "L", and adds that not only were his concerns dismissed, but the school decided to expel his daughter and not her alleged bully.

In a statement of defence filed Oct. 30, Havergal alleges Rogerson breached the school's code of conduct by stigmatizing the other student and disparaging her family and the institution's staff.

Rogerson is also asking for a court injunction to have his daughter's expulsion, set to take place Dec. 20, revoked so that his daughter can stay at the school, which he said she loves, despite her bullying problem.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and there are no allegations of criminal wrongdoing.

Questions about how private schools handle bullying allegations have been thrust into the spotlight since allegations of sex assault at another Toronto private school arose last year. A former student at St. Michael's College School earlier this month filed a $1.65-million lawsuit against the institution alleging it failed to keep him safe.

Rogerson's statement of claim suggests Havergal failed to take action to protect his daughter, a Grade 2 student at Havergal, which she's attended since junior kindergarten.

The bullying by another girl began in October 2018 and took a toll on his daughter's mental health, he said in the documents.

"She began to act out towards her parents and teachers, to strike her parents, and to report incidents of being hit by L to various staff members at Havergal," Rogerson said in the claim.

Rogerson and his wife said they tried to deal with the school through in-person discussions, as well as over the phone and through email.

"No real solution was ever presented, and the bullying continued," Rogerson's claim said.

Havergal, meanwhile, denies those allegations in its statement of defence. The school said Rogerson called the other student a "bully" in a parent-teacher interview on Oct. 25, 2018.

The teacher told the Rogersons that she "had not observed any inappropriate behaviour" by the other girl, who is referred to as "student A" in the statement of defence.

The teacher "understood that the two girls had been friends in (senior kindergarten) and appeared to enjoy each other's strong personalities," according to the statement of defence.

The school said the teacher tried to separate the pair whenever possible afterward, but that was difficult because Rogerson's daughter continued to hang out with the other student.



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