Robin Tomlin is dying of liver cancer but wants some closure on one of the most painful episodes of his life.
As a student at Argyle Secondary School in North Vancouver 42 years ago, he received his yearbook and when he opened it to the page with his picture on it, there was one word printed under his name: ‘Fag.’
‘I feel like, emotionally, they’ve been beating me with a stick for 42 years,’ he tells the North Shore News.
Tomlin, who is not gay, has gone public about the long ago incident because he wants an official apology from the school and wants it to delete the anti-gay slur from any remaining copies of the yearbook they may still have on hand.
He 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 his cancer diagnosis, the fight is even more urgent.
‘I want to show the young people today that you can’t let them get away with it,’ he tells the Toronto Star.
In 2004, the school told Tomlin that the statutory limitation period had long since expired. But now that a lawyer who went to the same school has taken on the case pro bono, the school has offered to replace the page in school and district copies.
As the case has gained publicity, Tomlin received an email from current Superintendent John Lewis who wrote: ‘I wish to clearly convey on behalf of myself, the Board of Education and my staff that we are sorry that the Argyle yearbook was published as it was in 1970.’
Lewis added: ‘I cannot take responsibility for actions or lack of oversight by staff over 40 years ago. I regret that you had such a negative high school experience.’
Tomlin suffered his bullying in silence. He never told his parents about the yearbook or the beatings that caused him to often arrive late to school and to skip his graduation ceremony.
He said the emailed apology is not enough.
‘I want a face-to-face apology, not an email,’ Tomlin says. ‘That’s the only way I think it would be a genuine apology. I don’t want a million bucks. I don’t think this is too much to ask.’