Newfoundland and Labrador's minister of education says he was appalled to learn that two students beat a girl in a ditch outside a school in Blaketown, while dozens of others cheered while they watched and recorded it.
"When I heard this, I was totally shocked and disturbed," Clyde Jackman told CBC News Tuesday, in response to Friday's attack that led to charges of assault causing bodily harm against two teenage girls.
A third girl has been charged with breaching a bond brought against her by the assaulted girl's mother, who alleges that the bullying has not only continued for more than a year, but that one of the incidents actually played out in the principal's office at Crescent Collegiate.
Jackman said the incident raises questions about the role of parents, and urged parents to take action against children who take part or condone bullying behaviour.
But Ruby Hoskins, the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils, said it's up to the schools and government to take a harder line on incidents such as this one.
"We need to get more aggressive and provide more clear, defined guidelines, and policies in place to address the issues of bullying because what example are we setting for our kids?" asked Hoskins.
"Just talking to our kids, I don't think, it's going to have the intended impact that we are expecting it to."
Blaketown neighbour 'appalled'
Meanwhile, a Blaketown resident who witnessed the melee on Friday just outside the school parking lot, said he was at first curious and then appalled by the scene.
The man, who lives near the school, said he was drawn to the scene on Friday because of the size of the crowd that gathered near a ditch just past the school parking lot.
The man, who declined an on-camera interview, said he decided to take a closer look because of the commotion and lights that he saw.
He said about 80 students stood by as two girls assaulted another girl, with most of the students laughing, taunting and holding up cellphones.
At least one of those videos was posted to Facebook, giving the incident a notoriety that has extended far beyond the Trinity Bay community's borders.
History of conflict
Two girls, 13 and 15, have been charged with assault causing bodily harm, and will have a court date in December. They have also been suspended from school for five days.
The third girl — described by the assaulted girl's mother as the "ringleader" in the incident — has had a history of bullying behaviour, the woman said.
"I even went to court on my own to put a bond on one of the students to leave [my daughter] alone," the mother told CBC News.
The mother, who said her daughter was traumatized by the attack, said the bullying has been going on for more than a year, and that she had complained to the school's administrators in the past.
In fact, she said one of the incidents involving one of the girls played out in the principal's office.
"She said, 'if you weren't here in this office right now, I would beat the face off you right here right now,' in front of the principal and vice-principal," she said.
When asked whether the girls are afraid of the principal, the mother said, "Not a bit."
The girls facing assault charges have been suspended for five days.
The mother said the principal called her on Friday night.
"She said she looked at the video and she said she had to turn her head away, she said, and cry. She couldn't keep looking at it," she said.
School board official calls incident 'unfortunate'
Bruce Vey, the director of education for the Eastern School District, the school board which governs Crescent Collegiate, told CBC on Tuesday that the videotaped beating was "unfortunate."
Vey said that in addition to the RCMP's investigation of the incident, officials with the board are conducting their own internal probe into what happened.