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Family sues Hamilton, Ont. school board after 5-year-old girl loses part of finger in alleged bullying incident

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The mother of a five-year-old girl is suing her daughter’s school board after she was allegedly bullied so badly she was left with a partially amputated finger from an incident in the washroom.

Sjanita-Marie Harrison said Tuesday she is taking the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) to court over a number of alleged failings on the school’s part to protect her daughter.

“I’m upset. It’s been a long six months. I want my self back, I want my daughter’s finger back,” Harrison said at a news conference in Hamilton.

Harrison said her then four-year-old daughter, Autymn-Rose, was in a washroom at Prince of Wales Elementary School in November 2022 when a student slammed the door on her hand and partially severed her right ring finger.

She said as a result of the incident, her daughter’s finger was crushed and she was placed in an ambulance unaccompanied by school personnel.

Harrison’s lawsuit against the HWDSB alleges that the board, at a systemic level, did not act in a reasonable manner to prevent the incident and said the negligence regarding bullying and student safety left her daughter physically disfigured and emotionally damaged.

Autymn-Rose Harrison, 5, is seen in this undated image. (Supplied)

Harrison is calling on the school board to provide immediate health support and compensation for harm experienced and the termination of staff and executive members who she alleges “failed to uphold student safety and accountability with respect to the incident in question.”

“I’d like to be able to take her to play basketball and do the things that she used to be able to do. I’d like her to go back to school. She hasn’t been back in school since,” Harrison said.

A spokesperson for the HWDSB called the incident “terrible” and told CTV News Toronto that the board was sorry for the incident.

“We want to express our compassion to the family and to the student for the injury that was sustained and we're taking in their feedback,” Shawn McKillop said.

Autymn-Rose Harrison's mother, Sjanita-Marie, speaks at a news conference on Mar. 28, 2023.

“We have been in contact with the mother and we continue to have conversations with her. No one wants to go through an injury like this at a school, but when it happens, we are prepared.”

McKillop addressed the allegations that Harrison’s daughter was forced to travel in an ambulance to hospital alone, and said there are procedures in place for incidents like this that staff members follow “the best we can.”

“I want parents to know when their children are in our care we are doing everything we can do support that child.”

A very shy Autymn-Rose, who turned five-years-old on Tuesday, was at the news conference and briefly addressed the reporters in attendance by saying, “Thank you for helping me, love you guys.”

Harrison said she has since relocated her family following the incident due to the emotional toll it’s taken on them.

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