Robin Tomlin finally got his face-to-face apology.
It’s been 42 years since he received his Argyle Secondary School yearbook, opened it to the page with his picture on it, and saw the one word that was printed under his name: ‘Fag.’
Bullied while he was in school, Tomlin was haunted for years by the slur saying that because of the remark printed in the yearbook, ’emotionally, they’ve been beating me with a stick for 42 years.’
On Monday (22 October), Tomlin met with the North Vancouver School District and emerged with what he had long sought: an in-person apology. Superintendent John Lewis apologized for the ‘cruel and offensive’ entry and for the ‘prolonged grief’ it caused the former student.
‘They made a very sincere apology,’ Tomlin said at a press conference held minutes he receiving the apology from district officials. ‘It’s a happy day.’
In addition, a new page in his yearbook will printed and will read that he wants to ‘meet as many people from all over the world as I can and I want to be a cowboy.’
Tomlin, who is not gay, began his quest more than a decade ago after his daughter saw the yearbook for the first time. Shocked, she told him he had to fight to have it corrected. With a liver cancer diagnosis, the fight became even more urgent.
In 2004, the school told Tomlin that the statutory limitation period had long since expired. But after a lawyer who went to the same school took on the case pro bono and the case began to get worldwide publicity, the school began to respond.
Tomlin was shy and skinny and so picked on by classmates that he skipped his own graduation ceremony.
He hopes the publicity surrounding his case will help other bullying victims.
‘I hid it pretty good, but over the years, say the last 10 years, there has been so many stories of bullying coming out, it just kept bringing it back,’ he says. ‘And I just hated to see all these new victims out there, so I hope I can help.’