Syrian refugee family files lawsuit against CBE over daughter's suicide

·2 min read
Amal Alshteiwi, 9, died by suicide after months of bullying, her mother says. (Submitted - image credit)
Amal Alshteiwi, 9, died by suicide after months of bullying, her mother says. (Submitted - image credit)

The family of Amal Alshteiwi has launched a lawsuit against the Calgary Board of Education, asking for $457,000 in damages and costs following the tragic death of their daughter in 2019.

The family came to Calgary from a refugee camp in Jordan after fleeing war in Syria in 2013.

The parents and six children settled in northeast Calgary but their nine-year-old daughter, Amal started to struggle after moving schools.

Her mother, Nasra Abdulrahman, says Amal was bullied every day, usually coming home in tears and was suffering badly as a result.

She says Amal was taunted relentlessly about everything from her appearance to her academic performance, her accent and even her hijab.

The mother says nobody did anything to stop it or even acknowledge it was happening.

Nasra Abdulrahman and Aref Alshteiwi say processes in place at their daughter Amal's school failed her.
Nasra Abdulrahman and Aref Alshteiwi say processes in place at their daughter Amal's school failed her. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Amal told her mother that other kids told her to kill herself because she was so ugly. Her brother, who was at the same school, also experienced and witnessed bullying.

Other children at the school and in Amal's class say she was bullied all the time and that they witnessed some of the incidents.

Amal eventually moved to a new school and was scared about the bullying following her there.

She took her own life at home just a few days later on March 6, 2019.

Lawsuit against CBE

The CBE said an investigation after Amal's death found no evidence of bullying.

The lawsuit, filed last month, says the teacher involved, the school and the school board were negligent and didn't take action to address the bullying or protect their daughter.

The parents struggle with English and say they tried to communicate with the school, including visiting with an interpreter and through phone calls, but had little success.

They wanted more academic support and for the bullying to stop.

The lawsuit says things were so bad at the time that the Alshteiwi children reported being happier in the refugee camp in Jordan than in Calgary.

The lawsuit says the CBE failed in its duty to create a safe environment and prevent bullying and failed to investigate.

The suit is seeking a total of $457,000 in damages, fees and expenses, including grief counselling.

The Calgary Board of Education declined to comment on the lawsuit out of respect for the family.

Where to get help:

  • The Calgary Distress Centre has a 24-hour crisis line: 403-266-HELP (4357)

  • The AHS Mental Health Help Line is also available 24 hours: 1-877-303-2642

  • Call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at: 1-833-456-4566