Schools Act needs to be toughened up
It is disturbing. Last week at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown, a 13-year-old student was ganged up on by her peers.
According to reports, she was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked and punched by two or three other girls while a crowd of students watched — some of them recording the moments on their cellphones and later posting the video to Facebook.
The young girl is bruised and sore, and while her physical injuries will heal, she may never recover from the emotional trauma. Imagine being subjected to that sort of gang-style abuse? Only for the intervention of a neighbour, this child might have suffered irreparable physical harm. Blows to the head could have led the concussion, or worse.
What happened in Blaketown is hard to understand. What would provoke a handful of teenagers to take abuse to that extreme?
Sadly, this is not the only case of extreme bullying that has occurred in the province in recent weeks. In Corner Brook, one student hit another one in the head with a brick. As a society, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough.” It appears we have moved to the point where the next generation has no regard or respect for the emotional or physical well-being of their peers. And, perhaps, society as a whole is responsible for that. We have moved from a “spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality, to one in which the protection of the rights of the individual supersede common sense.
At the school level, for instance, over the years, we have watered down the authority of teachers and school administrators to the point where most of them are powerless when it comes to taking tough measures to discipline unruly students The most they can do is order suspension from school for a day or so. Guess what? That’s not exactly punishment for students who constantly break the rules. In fact, in many cases, it may exactly the end game they were hoping for.
We need a complete re-assessment of the way we deal with students in the school system.
Education minister Clyde Jackman says he was horrified by what happened in Blaketown. We believe he is sincere in his reaction. So what do we do from here? Firstly, we suggest the girls who were involved in the attack on their peer at Blaketown need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Even if the school has limited options under the Schools Act, the Canadian criminal justice system has clear repercussions for those who commit assault.
While that system should take care of anyone deemed guilty in the Blaketown incident, we have to consider, as a society, a review of the Schools Act.
The aim should be providing deterrents to ensure incidents like this do not happen; and if they do, the students who perpetrate such crimes are severely punished.
While, we hope, the majority of young people know the importance of respecting each other and other people’s property, the severity of what happened in Blaketown shows us that, obviously, there is an element among our current youth that that does not worry about repercussions, because they seem to think there are none.
We need to send the message, and quickly, whether that be through a revamping of the Schools Act or other means, that there will be punishment, it will be severe, and those who cause physical harm will pay the price.
While the incident at Blaketown is something that never should have happened in the first place, at the very least it has prompted discussion and made us realize that the current means of crime and punishment in our school system needs changing.
It’s time to start the discussion. — Barbara Dean-Simmons is an associate managing editor with TC
Media, and editor of The Packet in Clarenville.