10/04/2012 02:38 EDT | Updated 12/04/2012 05:12 EST

Yearbook slur 42 years ago prompts apology

A B.C. man has received a letter of apology from the North Vancouver School District for a homophobic slur printed in his high school yearbook more than four decades ago.

“I am writing to formally provide you with a sincere apology on behalf of the entire North Vancouver School District,” says a letter sent to Robin Tomlin on Oct. 4 and signed by John Lewis, the district’s superintendent of schools.

Tomlin says he's been haunted for years after his high school yearbook committee printed the word "fag" next to his picture in the 1970 Argyle Secondary School yearbook.

Tomlin isn't gay, but he says the slur stuck and he was badly bullied in school. He says he was even too afraid to go to his school prom for fear of being beaten up and eventually moved out of the area to start a new life.

"Well it made me feel like the whole school thought that," he said.

Tomlin says he tried to put the incident behind him, but a few years ago his adult daughter discovered the slur while flipping through his high school yearbook.

He tried for several years to have the school district print a replacement page for the copies in its library, but it was not until he enlisted the help of a lawyer that the school district complied and sent him an email saying they regretted the incident.

But now he says he is dying of terminal liver disease and is pressing for what he considers a sincere apology.

"I want a face-to-face apology. They could write anything they want in an email and send it to me. It doesn't mean as much."

District offers private meeting

Tomlin may get his wish. In his letter, Lewis offers to arrange a private meeting with Tomlin “to provide an apology in person.”

But before that happens, some details still need to be worked out.

Tomlin also wants the school district to pay his travel expenses from his home in the Kootenays.

However, school district spokesperson Victoria Miles says the district can't afford to do that.

"We don't have the financial whereabouts to fund that type of request," said Miles.

Tomlin says he'll pay for the trip himself if he has to, but wonders why it has been so difficult to right something that was clearly wrong.

"I have no idea. They are probably scared I am going to sue them. But I don't want any money out of them. I just want them to apologize. I will sign all the papers they want after they apologize."