Two Mission students have been arrested following an alleged assault on a transgender girl at École Heritage Park Middle School on Monday, Jan. 11.
Charges have been sent to Crown Counsel for the two Grade 8 girls, who were arrested and released this morning, according to Cpl. Jason Raaflaub of the Mission RCMP. One girl has had one assault charge recommended, while one count of assault and one count of uttering threats has been recommended for the other.
The victim’s mother – who the Record is keeping anonymous to protect the family from any harassment – received a text message from her daughter shortly after the attack.
“She was just in tears,” the mother said. “She said, ‘I need you, I was beaten up.’”
After the child was picked up from the school, the family had to relive the event when they looked online. Students had filmed the attack and posted the video to social media.
Watching the two students punching and kicking her daughter on the ground while other students laugh and jeer in the background was “heartbreaking,” the mother said.
“Kick her in the head!” one onlooker yells in the video. Another laughs and said he’d cut off their head for $5. Only one student can be heard in defense of the victim in the background.
The victim identifies as transgender, and the mother believes this is the reason for the attack. The family went to the Mission RCMP detachment the following Tuesday to report the assault.
The mother said the bullying has been happening since the beginning of the school year, and is being committing by one group of approximately four students from the same social circle. She said one of the girls has a long history of abusing her child and had recently transferred to the school.
She said they frequently call her child homophobic slurs.
“We get phone calls and texts from her asking to come home from school because she was being picked on,” the mother said. “It’s not the kind of thing you expect you kid to have to go through.”
The family had complained to the school district prior to the assault, and were assured that everything was being done in order to prevent further bullying, according to the mother.
She said certain students have been moved away from her child in the classroom, and one student had already been previously suspended for the bullying.
The investigation is “far from done,” said Raaflaub, as officers are still interviewing witnesses, adding the two girls will have their first court appearance in late March.
He said investigators are in contact with Superintendent Angus Wilson and the school principal, and they could potentially be looking at the incident as a hate crime.
“There is some indication that may be a contributing factor,” Raaflaub said, who said minors can be charged the same way as adults under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but are reviewed different parameters.
“If that angle was a motivating factor … we’re definitely going to be forwarding that to Crown Counsel.”
Wilson, for his part, did say it appeared to be a hate crime.
“It was a totally heinous attack, and profound consequences are happening to these perpetrators,” he said. “Extreme violence, especially ganged-up violence and hate crime could quite potentially lead to an expulsion from the school.”
The school district is in the process of reviewing their procedures, staffing, supervisors, along with events and instructions around anti-bullying, cyber-bullying, and mental-health supports, according to Wilson.
He said he wanted to clarify his comments made to another media outlet as to how the incident relates to COVID-19. Principals have noticed an upswing in violence and bullying outside of the classroom since the pandemic began, Wilson said.
“[I did not mean] that it was the cause of this fight, it absolutely was not,” he said.
He said there may be consequences for students who filmed the attack and did nothing, although he did add there were students not seen in the video who did try to intervene.
Safer School Together and the Ministry of Education are working to get the video taken off the web, according to Wilson.
If anyone wishes to come forward with more information about the assault, they should call the Mission RCMP detachment’s non-emergency line: 604-826-7161.
More to come.