All Robin Tomlin wanted from the North Vancouver School District was an apology — in public.
Tomlin went to school at Argyle Secondary in Lynn Valley 42 years ago, and when he got his yearbook the write-up next to his picture had been changed to just one word: “Fag.”
The school district initially balked at making an apology in public but relented Thursday afternoon.
“They agreed to fly me and my daughter down for an apology with media present,” said Tomlin in an email from where he now lives in Robson, near Castlegar.
He later explained that school district representatives will apologize privately then come out with him to the media.
Victoria Miles, spokeswoman for the school district, emphasized the meeting and apology are private.
“Superintendent [John] Lewis may choose to speak to the media after the meeting, the details of this are still being worked out,” said Miles in an email.
That would be enough for Tomlin.
“If I can get my message out to the kids that there’s hope, yeah,” he said.
Tomlin’s story attracted considerable public attention Thursday and even had the leaders of B.C.’s two main political parties weighing in on the matter.
Premier Christy Clark, whose Liberal government recently rolled out an extensive anti-bullying campaign, said that those responsible for what appeared in the yearbook should also own up for what they did.
“I hope that the perpetrators of this bullying will find it in themselves to step up and offer their own apologies for what they’ve done,” Clark said . ., “Because really, for him to achieve a sense of peace of this and begin to heal, he needs to hear some of the perpetrators of this bullying apologize to him.”
NPD leader Adrian Dix praised Tomlin for having the strength to come forward.
“This is an example of courage by him,” Dix said. “Certainly, he needs to be greatly admired for coming forward.”
Tomlin had a message for the bullies: “You didn’t get away with it. You never will. You’ve got to live with it.
“I know who they are,” he said. “I’m not going to out you. You can out yourself, if you want, or just step forward.”
Tomlin, who needs a liver transplant, is relieved at how things have been resolved.
“It’s like I’ve been carrying this weight around on my shoulders and I’ve finally taken it off,” he said.
The abuse Tomlin suffered while at Argyle resurfaced when his daughter saw what had been written about her father all those years ago.
The school district had agreed to apologize but didn’t want to do so in public.
“I don’t want it to be confidential,” explained Tomlin.
“I want to show the kids today to stand up for themselves even if it takes 42 years,” he said. “Don’t back down. I want to show that school district is a safe place.
“I want to send a clear message to the school district: Wake up. I want a message to the kids: Don’t give up. Stand up for yourself.
“I never wanted any money out of this. I just wanted justice.
“You watch TV and there’s always some kid killing themselves or something because of bullying. It’s everywhere.
“If I can make some kind of a statement that gives at least one kid a chance or hope that there’s a way out, then it’s worth it.”
The abuse Tomlin suffered was so bad he didn’t show up for his graduation.
But the abuse was still on display when he came back to Lynn Valley for his 40th reunion.
With the legal help of another Argyle grad, John Stowe, who was two years behind him at the school, Tomlin started the process of righting the wrongs done to him.
The school district has agreed to change what was written about Tomlin in all their copies of the yearbook and offer the same page to anyone who wants to correct their own copy.