Coquitlam RCMP are investigating the death of a teenaged girl who posted a heartbreaking video online detailing her nightmare of bullying. Darlene Heidemann reports.
A video that describes a Port Coquitlam teen's experiences with bullying is being shared around the world after she took her own life Wednesday evening.
The video was posted to YouTube about a month ago by Amanda Todd, a Grade 10 student at CABE Secondary in Coquitlam.
"Hi! I've decided to tell you about my never-ending story," she says in the black-and-white video, which shows her holding flash cards with words printed in black marker.
The cards, each one held up for a few moments in front of the camera, go on to explain that while in Grade 7 Amanda met a person online who asked her to "flash" him. The picture was passed to her classmates and allegedly resulted in bullying, both online and in the real world, even after she changed schools.
"Every day I think why am I still here," Amanda says toward the end of the video.
Her death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media sites, where the video she made prior to her death is being passed on by teens around the world.
Coquitlam RCMP confirmed police were called to a Port Coquitlam home at about 6 p.m. Wednesday to investigate the "sudden death of a teenager."
Her family requested privacy.
Those who knew Amanda spoke Thursday of a funny prankster who appeared - at least on the outside - to be a confident young woman.
"She could be very funny," said Alexa Ishikawa, a teammate on the Vancouver All Stars cheer team. "One afternoon she convinced me that her father was Bill Gates."
Ishikawa said her friend's shocking death will make her reach out more at school.
"If there's someone alone in my class, I'll go over and say 'Hi,' instead of just sitting with my friends.
"Doing the right thing is better than doing the easy thing."
Jaya Panwar coached Amanda for two years, until she had to change schools and couldn't arrange to make it for cheer practice.
"I absolutely adored her. She was really a sweetheart," said Panwar.
"She was a strong, spirited girl.
"I'm asking myself what can everyone do to make sure this doesn't happen again.
"I think everyone has asked themselves, 'What could we have done?' "
Coquitlam School District spokeswoman Cheryl Quinton said staff were aware of the video and "supports were put in place," both at the school and in the community. The district will look at the incident, as per protocol, to better understand what happened, she added.
Counsellors were on hand in Coquitlam, as well as Maple Ridge, where Amanda also attended school for a few months until bullying apparently forced her to change schools again.
Maple Ridge School District spokeswoman Irena Pochop confirmed police had been involved in the situation.
Amanda's death also provoked online tributes on several social media sites as people posted her video along with the horrible news of her death.
"Why is it that no one ever listens or cares until it's too late?" a friend posted on a Facebook memorial page. "If only our generation could listen better. I wish I had known you better, rest in peace Amanda."
For Nasima Nastoh, whose son Hamed committed suicide in 2000 after severe bullying at his Surrey high school, Amanda's death represents a call for better anti-bullying education.
"I feel devastated, so sad, and angry too. She had her whole life ahead of her," she told The Province.
Nastoh often speaks to teens about her son, finding some solace in talking to others about bullying.
"We have to work together to stop this," she said.
Cyberbullying expert Julia Hengstler is pushing the government to include "digital citizenship" training in the school curriculum.
"Many kids don't understand the permanence of online images," the Vancouver Island University professor said, adding we're living in a time of "cultural lag."
"Technology is moving faster than the social controls. We need to remind kids that civil rules still apply online."
Premier Christy Clark also posted her response in an online video statement.
"No one deserves to be bullied, no one earns it, no one asks for it. It isn't a right of passage," she said, after passing on condolences to Amanda's family and friends.
"Bullying has to stop. Every child, everyone, needs to be able to feel safe at school. And when we send our kids to school, we need to know that they're going to come home safe."
The B.C. Coroners Service will probe Amanda's death within a new child death panel, and will certainly look at the apparent role of cyber-bullying in this case, a spokesperson said.
Barb McLintock said the involvement of the "child death" unit means this case will receive a inquest-like focus leading to a "multi-page" report and could even be reviewed by a new panel of "interdisciplinary experts," on child and youth issues.
Investigators will look at questions around bullying and cyber-bulling in connection to teen suicides, McLintock said, and could report on whether there is rising danger around teens and social media behaviour.
"A lot of this appeared, just from the way the girl told her own story, to be cyberbullying," McLintock said. "There will be a great deal of focus on all the issues, and also, was there anything else going on in this girl's life?"
McLintock said it is possible this death could lead to recommendations from the B.C. Coroners Service, which in collaboration with other agencies, could have broad impacts.
Click here to read more stories from The Province.