School investigating cyber-bullying incident

Jasper Elementary School (JES) is investigating a cyber-bullying incident after emotions boiled over off school property leading to criminal charges against a parent.

According to the RCMP, a man was arrested and charged with assault and uttering a threat after he allegedly approached one of the students he thought was responsible for bullying his daughter on March 4. The victim was not injured.

The accused told the Fitzhugh he went to the arena and put his arm around the alleged bully and walked him into another room where he verbally scolded the child. He maintains that he was never alone with the alleged bully.

Following the incident, RCMP were called to the arena where they arrested him without incident. Police contacted JES to advise the school about the online bullying and that an adult male had also been arrested.

“RCMP continue to work with the school as well as the community outreach team to address the online bullying that was identified,” the police wrote in a press release.

“As this matter is now before the courts, no further information will be made available.”

Screen shots of conversations between several students on Instagram were provided to the Fitzhugh, however the newspaper has decided not to publish the conversations or identify any of the students or parents involved to protect the identity of the students.

Grande Yellowhead Public School Division confirmed it was investigating the allegations and said it was working with students and parents to address the issue.

“It’s the division’s policy not to comment on any specific incidents or situations involving minors, especially if there is an RCMP investigation ongoing,” said Nikki Gilks, communications manger for the school division.

“When a school or the division hears about allegations of bullying we take that very seriously and we always investigate and work with the parties involved to make sure it’s resolved.”

When the allegations surfaced last week, Gilks said RCMP Sgt. Rick Bidaisee met with students to discuss the criminal code and cyber bullying.

She said the school has also scheduled several workshops and presentations about bullying over the next few weeks and has been reviewing its code of conduct with students.

She could not confirm whether any disciplinary action has been taken by the school, but an email sent to the father from the school board contained six actions the school board will be undertaking to address the issue, including blocking the use of Instagram at the school for one month.

The board has also promised to bring in extra family school liaison supports for students and will hold a presentation about the ethical use of social media.

According to a Facebook post from the father, at least one family has personally apologized while another student involved in the incident wrote a letter of apology to his daughter.

Jodi Campbell, principal for JES, and Betsy DeClerq, Jasper’s school board trustee, did not respond to an interview request.

Both principals at Jasper Junior/Senior High School (JJSHS) and École Desrochers told the Fitzhugh that they were not aware of any cyber-bullying taking place at their respective schools.

“I can’t remember any issues around cyber-bullying coming to my office this year but that certainly doesn’t mean it is not taking place,” wrote Mark Crozier, principal at JJSHS.

“Cyber-bullying takes place anywhere phones operate or wifi is broadcast. Unlike traditional schoolyard bullying, these postings are happening in homes, in bedrooms and basements, businesses, and in any unsupervised spaces. Schools and parents need to work together on these issues to help create a culture of respect.”

Christine Nadon, legislative manager for the municipality, reminded the public that Community Outreach Services provides confidential, non-judgmental support for all ages. The office is located at 627 Patricia Street and is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Alternatively, the office can be reached at 780-852-2100