Sandra Barker Schmidt says her daughter hears the N-word all the time.
The family lives near Balgonie, Sask., where Sandra’s 13-year-old son, Kaleab, experienced racist bullying that led to his suicide on April 30, 2018.
On Monday, a coroner’s inquest began into his death, which shed light on the failures of the community including local social workers, teachers at Greenall High School, RCMP and Mobile Crisis.
“Last week she told me there was a Snapchat group called, well it started with an ‘N’, Sandra said. “There need to be consequences in schools. We’re all the same, we all bleed red.”
In 2011, the family adopted Kaleab and his two sisters from Ethiopia. The coroner’s jury heard Tuesday about the abuse and poverty that the children dealt with before their adoption.
While the Government of Saskatchewan’s “Action Plan to Address Bullying and Cyberbullying, November 2013”, identifies name-calling and slurs as bullying, it does not say anything about racism specifically.
When asked if Greenall enforces its “zero tolerance policy” for bullying, Sandra responded “Not at all, no, no.”
In September 2019, Sandra posted on Facebook pleading with Balgonie-area parents to speak to their children about the importance of respect and acceptance.
“I was told again today from Kidist that kids say the N-word all the time around either White City, Balgonie.” Sandra shared on Facebook “I tell her stay away from them. Her reply was ‘I wouldn’t have any friends then.’”
Sandra said her daughter, Kidist, said she’s at the point where she “hates her skin colour because she hates the way the N-word makes her feel.”
She said these comments echo those that came from Kaleab before his suicide.
Kidist reached out on Facebook, one year after her brother’s death, to say that anyone who wanted to wear black in memory of Kaleab was welcome to do so, as well as attend a memorial in Balgonie. Sandra said even this gesture from her daughter was met with racism.
Sandra and her husband Dean said their family lives with this tragedy, because everyone who dealt with their son allowed him to fall through the cracks.
“There’s so much fault everywhere,” Sandra said. “The school, social services, Mobile Crisis, the police, doctors.”