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Gay slur in school yearbook still haunts bullied man, 42 years later Add to ...

Update: North  Vancouver School District agreed to apologize personally to Robin Tomlin on Thursday afternoon.

In the 1970 yearbook of Argyle Secondary School, you’ll see the usual black and white photos of awkward teenagers, and accompanying captions - some funny, some sentimental, and one wildly inappropriate.

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On page 108 of the North Vancouver high-school yearbook, the word “fag” appears beside the photo of Robin Tomlin.

The word was not scrawled on the page by an ignorant bully, but printed as an official descriptor of the teen boy.

Forty-two years later, Tomlin is dying - he’s suffering from terminal liver disease - and wants a face-to-face apology from the school.

"I feel like, emotionally, they've been beating me with a stick for 42 years," he told The North Shore news.

After years of pleading, the school agreed to swap the page out of the old yearbooks with a revised version - but is refusing an official apology.

"It scared the friggin hell out of me," Tomlin told NSN when he first saw his yearbook photo. "Homosexuals were beat up and killed back then."

When his 25-year-old daughter was flipping through the yearbook several years ago, the wound was reopened: The word upset her, and prompted Tomlin to take action against the school.

There are those who argue Tomlin deserves an all-out apology - but some maintain he’s holding a 42-year-old grudge that can’t be resolved.

An apology wouldn’t count, argue some on Twitter - “The system from 40 years ago? How is that anything but a meaningless, hollow gesture?”

The current superindentent wrote to Tomlin, according to NSN, expressing “regret.”

“I cannot take responsibility for the actions or lack of oversight by staff over 40 years ago," wrote superintendent John Lewis, "However, I do wish to express to you that I understand your concerns, and regret that you had such a negative high-school experience. I also regret that the yearbook was published in the manner it was by those involved."

The case certaily highlights the extent of pain that can be caused from homophobic slurs - regardless of intention. (Something the Toronto Blue Jays know all too well).

But we wonder if an apology from the current school board - even if it’s granted - would heal this wound? And wouldn’t it be an empty apology anyway?

Without question this is a horrible, inexcusable act that a high school made 42 years ago - but some argue yearbooks are painful in many ways for many people. Wouldn’t Tomlin do well to move on?

Follow on Twitter: @amberlym

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