Colliers ponder their next move

Rudy Norman
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Heather Collier of Westport says she's still not sure where her son will be attending school in September.

Torrence Collier became the focus of media reports last month when his family went public over the bullying the 11-year-old was receiving at the hands of other students at St. Peter's Academy in Westport. The Colliers live in Westport, after returning there from Saskatchewan in 2012.

Colliers

At the time, Heather said her son had faced such visceral bullying that his parents were pulling him out of school for the remainder of the school year, and intended to send him to Copper Ridge Academy in Baie Verte this coming September.

"He kept asking us to homeschool him, because he didn't want to go back and face the bullying again," she said.

Collier explained, though, that the Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board we not willing to fund the parent's transportation to Baie Verte from Westport - a 40-plus kilometer drive.

"That application is still being looked at, and I'm told it has to go before the Minister of Education," Collier said last Tuesday in an interview with The Nor'wester. "So we're still waiting to hear back on whether or not it will be approved or not."

The Colliers expressed their disappointment back in June that they may possibly have to take on the expense of bringing their son back and forth to school in another community because he was unable to attend the school in Westport.

Torrence Collier's story made headlines across the country after his family accused a group of students in the school of bullying Torrence and racially profiling him because of his skin colour.

The school had been active in making precautions for Torrence to try and alleviate the bullying. They allowed him to use a separate washroom, and moved some of his classes to another area of school where the bullies were unable to reach him.

The harsh attacks on their son prompted the Colliers to pull Torrence out of school before the school year was complete.

Leading up to the last few days of school last month, though, an opportunity arose for Torrence to visit the school in Stephenville, where the Colliers have family.

"I was talking to someone and they suggested that Torrence might need a positive influence of a school, after he'd been through so much," said Collier. She contacted the school board, and they put the plans in motion for Torrence to become a student at Stephenville Elementary for a few days, while the Colliers were there visiting family.

"He really loved it," explained his mother. "He made a lot of friends, and I think he realized that school can be a fun place and he really enjoyed his time there."

Following their time in Stephenville, the Colliers then visited Harambee Camp in British Columbia. Collier says they were contacted by the camp, which specializes in uniting mix-cultured families, with other families like them.

"It was amazing, and just what Torrence needed," she said. "It was just what we all needed."

The camp provides a healthy, family atmosphere with activities for the children and the parents to partake in.

"There was stuff there for all of us," said Collier. "Torrence learned how to do hip-hop dancing and to play the tribal drums, and we had a great relaxing time and had a chance to meet a lot of wonderful people."

Collier says the camp promotes itself as a family and she says by the end of their time there, they felt like the other people at the camp were just that.

"You definitely walk away and feel like you have a new family," she said. "It's wonderful, and I think it did a world of good for all of us."

The Colliers are currently back in Stephenville visiting family, which is where they went after they arrived home from BC. Heather says Torrence's positive experience at the school there has them considering their future and where they will eventually call home.

"I can say it's definitely a consideration, to move here," she said. "We're really looking at everything, and we want to do what's best for us and the best for Torrence."

Collier says the anxiety associated with returning to Westport for Torrence is perhaps the biggest factor playing on their decision, along with their ability to find a place to live and jobs to sustain themselves.

"There's a lot to consider, so right now we're still going ahead with the application for transportation, and we'll keep waiting on the results of that," she said. "Obviously we have to have a decision made before school starts, but right now we're still not sure."

Organizations: Copper Ridge Academy, Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board

Geographic location: Baie Verte, Westport, Stephenville British Columbia

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