2 min

Using his death?

Mother wants BC teachers fired

JAMES CHAMBERLAIN. Suspended for writing a letter. Credit: Xtra files

A British Columbia teacher has been suspended for suggesting that a dead young boy was gay.

Shortly after Surrey high school student Hamed Nastoh (called a “faggot” by classmates) killed himself by jumping off a bridge, James Chamberlain wrote a letter to the editor of a small newspaper called the Peace Arch News. It spoke of hearing about a student who committed suicide, a student who was “struggling to come to terms with his gender identity within a hostile secondary school atmosphere and non-supportive family environment.”

That angered the Nastoh family.

Mother Nasima Nastoh claims that Chamberlain and another teacher “defamed” her son’s reputation by suggesting he was gay.

That other teacher, Margie Willers, got into trouble after being quoted in another local paper saying Hamed was “definitely different” from other students. Willers received a three week suspension.

Chamberlain received a seven-week suspension from his job at George Vanier Elementary.

And the Surrey school board is mum on what it calls an internal staff matter.

Chamberlain has been a thorn in the side to many: he filed a suit against the Surrey board’s banning of gay children’s books, and later won a grievance against an employer for removing a child from his class when the parents objected to having a gay teacher.

Meanwhile, Nasima Nastoh wants the two teachers fired.

She says her son’s death was used by progressives to hype gay-straight alliances in schools. “They wanted to promote this because of Hamed. They can promote it, I’ve nothing against them, even if they teach it in schools,” says Nastoh. “I don’t personally have anything against them because they are human beings. I respect them, they should respect me.”

The family is not anti-gay, his mother insists. If Hamed was actually gay she wouldn’t have had a problem with it, she says. But he wasn’t, and she does.

Her husband is a different matter. Father Karim told The National Post that being gay “is against our religion – against everything we believe in.”

“The main reason I’m complaining is because it caused us further grief,” Nasima Nastoh says.

Hamed wrote he was straight in his suicide note.

But it’s true that Hamed’s suicide became part of the gay-straight alliance debate in schools (where Hamed became a “poster boy” for the cause, Nastoh says derisively). The death came just before a spring BC Teachers’ Federation vote on the issue.

Nastoh is also unhappy with the way her family was co-opted by local Christian right groups.

“There are other people that want to take advantage of this event. They are against them [gays], not us,” says Nastoh. “The wanted to light up a fire under this. The people against gays and lesbians.

“People are calling us, people are saying, ‘Did you see the paper, that Hamed was gay?’ I don’t know why they are doing this.”

It was these reverberations – especially within the Muslim community -that hurt the family the most, she says.