Updated Friday, 3:45 p.m. EST
The Vancouver school that for 42 years did not apologize to Robin Tomlin for printing the slur "fag" next to his 1970 yearbook photo has attempted to make amends. But is Robin satisfied with the Superintendent of the North Vancouver School District's apology?
“I am writing to formally provide you with a sincere apology on behalf of the entire North Vancouver School District,” says Superintendent John Lewis in a letter sent to Robin shortly after we reported the story Thursday.
"I want a face-to-face apology," Robin responded to the letter. "They could write anything they want in an email and send it to me. It doesn't mean as much."
The Vancouver Argyle alumnus has asked for help in travel expenses from the school district but was refused. He'll attempt to fund the trip himself. After all, it's not about money.
"I don't want any money out of them. I just want them to apologize. I will sign all the papers they want after they apologize."
As he wages a battle against terminal liver disease, Robin Tomlin just wants closure. But the Vancouver high school where Robin was subject to bullying four decades ago refuses to give him even that.
Next to Robin's photo in the 1970 Argyle Secondary yearbook appeared a simple but stinging caption: "fag." Robin himself submitted his own entry which was replaced by the anti-gay slur and somehow approved by school administrators.
For 40 years the "fag" version of the 1970 yearbook appeared in displays and in the school library. A mock-up of the bullying even haunted Robin at his 40-year reunion where pictures from the yearbook—including his photo along with the "fag" caption—were plastered to the walls of the event.
The Province takes it from here:
The lawyer, John Stowe, wrote a letter to the school district demanding that the entry be removed. In September, after some back and forth, Tomlin received an offer: The district would reprint the page with a revised entry of Tomlin's choice, insert it into any copies of the annual it possessed and even provide a copy to the North Vancouver museum and archives. It would also provide Tomlin with 20 copies of the changed page for his own use.
That was a step in the right direction, but to Tomlin, the comments that accompanied the offer suggested the institution was denying its culpability.
"I cannot take responsibility for the actions or lack of oversight by staff over 40 years ago," wrote Superintendent John Lewis, in an attached letter. "However, I do wish to express to you that I understand your concerns, and regret that you had such a negative high-school experience. I also regret that the yearbook was published in the manner it was by those involved."
The superintendent also noted that the school district had since put in place a number of policies and programs aimed at eliminating bullying and homophobia. There was a release attached stating that, in return for those actions, Tomlin would not take legal action and would stay silent about the exchange.
The little bit of action on Argyle's part is too little, too late.
"They won't say, 'Sorry.' All they say is 'regret,'" said Robin. "I want an apology."
(Source and image: The Province)