Students at Crescent Collegiate in Blaketown said there's a complicated story behind a fight last Friday that left one teenager injured and three others facing charges
The victim's mother said her daughter has been the target of bullying for the past year. But students at the school say there's more than one side to the tale.
"The young girl who was put into the ditch was actually telling one of the other girls that she was going to end up like her sister, who's pregnant," said student Jasmine Critch.
RCMP said two girls, aged 15 and 13, assaulted another 13-year-old girl near the school on Friday. Police said the two teens pushed the third in a ditch and repeatedly punched her. Another 15-year-old has been charged with breaking conditions of an order to stay away from the girl who was beat up.
"The victim kept on saying things and saying things about people, and I guess it just blowed up that much that it turned into a fight," said student Tori Keefe.
"And a lot of people think that it's just like two people who ganged up on one person, but I think there was a lot of past stuff that was brought upon that," added Marissa Keating.
Despite the accusations of bullying from both sides, student Terri Lynn Hoskins said the conflict should never have come to blows.
"Some people are saying that, you know, she deserved it, [but] no one deserves that," said Hoskins.
Several students suspended
The three girls facing charges, along with another student, have been given five-day suspensions from school.
Both the RCMP and the Eastern School District have said they are investigating what happened. But school board officials have not commented on allegations by the victim's mother, who claims the school did not do enough to protect her daughter from bullying.
Board officials have also insisted that the entire community must be involved in efforts to stamp it out.
Premier condemns violence
At the launch of the Kids Eat Smart Club breakfast program at Macdonald Drive Junior High on Wednesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale condemned the violence.
"It's very difficult to be on the receiving end of bullying," said Dunderdale.
The premier added that the children doing the bullying also need help.
"If other children who are doing the bullying have issues, then we have to make sure we have the kind of supports and interventions that they require between the home and the school to stop that kind of behaviour," said Dunderdale.
Provincial legislation lacking, according to MHA
Meanwhile, an NDP MHA said Tuesday that Newfoundland and Labrador lags behind most jurisdictions in North America in addressing school violence and bullying.
The provincial government introduced its Safe and Caring Schools initiative in 2006, but St. John's North MHA Dale Kirby said that's not enough.
"Currently, there's no mention whatsoever in the Schools Act of bullying. So as far as the act is concerned bullying doesn't exist."
Kirby said he tried to add bullying to the Schools Act in the legislature this past spring, but he said the government watered down his private member's resolution.
Education Minister Clyde Jackman has been working on his own anti-bullying protocol, and said he hopes to announce a series of public consultations to discuss it in the next few weeks.
Kirby says that announcement is long overdue.
"This needs to be done yesterday," he said.
"It's not enough to sit back and say, 'I'm outraged.' And to try to fob this off to blame it on families and children."