Boy to apologize for bullying
Victim says he’s willing to forgive
Jim Ellsworth cried watching the viral video of his son tormenting a 14-year-old Glace Bay boy with cerebral palsy and he says he’s still sickened by what he witnessed.
“Absolutely devastated,” said Ellsworth. “I’m not defending the actions of my son in any way shape or form. He made a huge mistake and he’s going to wear it and suffer the consequences.”
His 14-year-old boy fell short on Tuesday. The evidence was plain to see in a video posted on Facebook Thursday, showing the abuse fellow 14-year-old Brett Corbett endured at the hands of Glace Bay High School students. His son is close to the action, encouraging Corbett to lie face first in a torrent of shallow water, laughing as a teenage girl steps on his back to get over the stream to avoid getting wet. A new video of the incident emerged Friday showing a handful of students swearing at Corbett and ordering him to lie down in the water.
Ellsworth’s son tosses what looks to be a rock or a cellphone in Corbett’s direction, which lands in the fast-moving water.
“I cried watching that, absolutely I did,” said Ellsworth. “His stepmother hasn’t stopped crying since watching the video on Thursday. That’s not the boy we know.”
But Ellsworth is promising that his son, who along with two other students, has been suspended from school over his involvement in the incident, will learn his lesson.
He said the boy has enrolled in a youth mentorship program run by the school’s guidance counsellor and will begin volunteering at the Glace Bay Elementary School breakfast program starting Tuesday.
The teenager is going to write an apology letter to the boy and hand-deliver it to the family.
Corbett says he would gladly welcome it. He says he’s been bombarded by support from students at the school and wider community.
“Yes, I would really like to see him and get that letter,” said Corbett. “Life is too short to hold grudges. I don’t think he’s a bad person. Everyone was taking part so he decided to join in.
“But I’m kind of glad I got threatened because maybe there will be a bit of a change. I don’t want people to be bullied.”
The Chronicle Herald spoke to Corbett while Glace Bay High School principal Donnie Holland and vice-principal Tanya Jamieson were visiting his home. Corbett said they had arrived to offer support but accused him of lying about the school’s refusal to help him. The Herald published a story Thursday on the bullying incident in which he said he complained to school staff twice about being bullied but was ignored.
The Herald asked to speak to Holland and Jamieson while they were at Corbett’s home but both declined.
Education Minister Zach Churchill called the situation unacceptable and said he’s deeply concerned.
Currently the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education is conducting an investigation into the incident to ensure the school’s anti-bullying policies are followed and enforced. He said schools must take victims of bullying seriously and appropriate support must be made available. But he stopped short of saying the department would conduct its own investigation.
The video has sparked a firestorm of criticism directed at the students involved in the incident and the school’s administration.
Christine Balan, a Halifaxbased counselling therapist, says she understands why there’s been a community backlash in response to the incident. But she also says it’s important that the situation be met with care and that the students accused of bullying are not subjected to bullying behaviour by angry residents
“It’s about modelling how we want them to act,” said Balan. “The root of bullying is shame and you want to stop that cycle but being clear that it’s not tolerated and not acceptable.”
Balan said victims of bullying need to be supported but not so far as instilling in them a victim mentality.
“They need to be heard and validated because they often don’t have that. So, it’s about building empowerment, helping them to develop skills to stop the bullying behaviour themselves.”
Glace Bay High School is in turmoil this week after an incident that saw a 14-year-old student with cerebral palsy bullied by other students.