Montreal

Mothers outraged as boys arrested for sharing explicit photos are allowed to return to school

One mother says her daughter won't be returning to Séminaire des Pères Maristes, a private Quebec City high school, after six of her schoolmates allegedly circulated explicit photos of her.

Warning: This story contains language that some may find offensive

The mothers of three Quebec City teenagers say they are angry that boys accused of sharing explicit photos of their daughters will be allowed back into their school, Séminaire des Pères Maristes. (Cimon Leblanc/Radio-Canada)

Six boys who were suspended from their private high school in Quebec City and arrested for allegedly sharing explicit photos of their female classmates will be allowed back into the school in the fall, a decision the girls' mothers are condemning.

The boys were arrested in May. They were between 12 and 13 at the time.

A police investigation is ongoing. No charges have been laid against them.

Both the alleged victims and the boys attend the Séminaire des Pères maristes. The school got wind of the allegations after two of the girls' parents complained to the administration.

The boys were suspended for six days and then were allowed to return, but took their classes in a building adjacent to the school, with a different schedule and no possible contact with the alleged victims.

Last month, school principal François Sylvain sent parents an email saying the boys would be allowed back into the school in September but will have limited contact with the girls.

The mothers of the three alleged victims say the school hasn't handled the situation properly.

One mother, who is not being identified in order to protect her daughter's identity, said it appears the alleged victims came forward for nothing.

"How am I going to be sure this is over? That she won't be cornered and be told certain things and be afraid?" she told Radio-Canada.

Her 13-year-old sent a nude photo from her cellphone after being asked repeatedly to do so, the mother said. The photo was circulated to other students, and the girl was called a slut, a bitch and other names, according to the mother.

Girls paid a price, mother says

Two other mothers say their daughters went through similar experiences. Once their daughters sent one photo, they were constantly asked to send others, they said.

They, too, are not being identified to protect the identities of their daughters. All the mothers say they are speaking out so that the same thing doesn't happen to others.

One of the girls wound up in the pediatric psychology unit at a local hospital.

"Speaking out was the right thing to do, but after, the price to pay was incredible," said one mother.

In May, the school's administration said publicly that the boys were suspended indefinitely.

But Radio-Canada obtained an email that shows the school had a plan complete with specific dates — they were to be suspended for six days, then attend classes in a separate building for six days, then gradually return to the main school building starting May 7.

Upon learning of that plan, one mother sent the school a lawyer's letter demanding the boys not attend classes on school grounds.

Sylvain said the school responded to that letter, stating it had confidence in its plan. But the date the boys were to be allowed back into the school was pushed back by about two weeks.

School principal François Sylvain says if the boys are found guilty and that one of the conditions is that they must be separated from the girls, the school will comply. (Radio-Canada)

Sylvain said the letter had nothing to do with the change — he said time had to be taken in order to make sure the school's measures were in line with conditions set out by police.

The boys never resumed taking classes in the main school building last school year.

Boys received a prize after arrest

The mothers say they were shocked by another development — the boys received a prize during a gala three weeks after they were arrested. The alleged victims were in the crowd.

"I was outraged," one mother said, equating the school's actions to laughing in the girls' faces.

Sylvain admitted the event may have sent "a strange message," but said the boys succeeded during the year and the school can't "sideline" them for the duration of the police investigation.

He said if the boys are charged, found guilty and one of the conditions is that they must be separated from the girls, the school will comply.

But one of the mothers said they have already enrolled their daughter in another school. The two other mothers say they are considering doing the same.

"With the energy we used to protect our child in that school, we weren't able to direct it toward the healing process," one of the mothers said.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval

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