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 investigation is “far from done,” said Raaflaub, as officers are still interviewing witnesses. He said the girls will have their first court appearance in late March.
The girl’s mother received a text message from her daughter shortly after the attack, requesting to be picked up.
“She said, ‘I need you, I was beaten up’” she said. “She was just in tears.”
They had to relive the event when they looked online. Students had filmed the attack, and posted it online.
Watching the two Grade 8 girls punching and kicking her daughter on the ground while other students laugh and jeer in the background was “heartbreaking,” she said.
“Kick her in the head!” One onlooker yells in the video. Another laughs and said he’ll cut off her head for $5. Only one student can be heard in defense of the girl in the background.
The girl identifies as transgender, and the mother believes this is the reason for the attack. The family came down to the Mission RCMP detachment the following Tuesday to report the assault..
The family said the bullying had been happening for several months, according to Raaflaub. He said that investigators are in contact with Superintendent Angus Wilson and the school principal, and they could be potentially be looking at the incident as a hate crime.
“There is some indication that may be a contributing factor,” Raaflaub said, adding minors can be charged the same way as adults under the Young Offenders Act, just under 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 theses perpetrators,” he said.
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. There has been a upswing in violence and bullying outside of the classroom in the district since the pandemic, 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 attempt to intervene.
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.