Violent brawl, knife incident outside N.B. high school prompt RCMP investigation | #students | #parents

Warning: This story contains disturbing details

Alarmed parents are calling on school officials to do more to protect their kids after a series of violent fights outside Oromocto High School on Tuesday afternoon.

The incident occurred across the street from the school at noon hour, RCMP say. 

It involved multiple students, one of whom pulled out a knife and slashed another student, and was apparently watched and filmed by dozens of cheering onlookers.

In an email to parents Tuesday, principal Kevin Inch said the incident “involved a knife,” which “resulted in minor injuries to two students.”

Inch assured parents that the school “took the appropriate measures” and that “student safety is not at risk.”

But parents said they are feeling anything but reassured. 

They said incidents such as Tuesday’s melee have been regular occurrences since the start of the school year, and the level of violence is escalating. They want the school to do something about it.

“Mr. Inch referred to the student as having ‘minor injuries’. This is incorrect,” parent Elizabeth Lees told CBC News.

“There were four fights that day, only one with a knife. There were fights the week before, the week before that and the week before that.”

Parent Katrina Houghton voiced the same concerns. 

Houghton said she has seen videos of Oromocto High School students being beaten up because of their hairstyle, students who’ve had teeth knocked out and, in the videos of Tuesday’s incident, having their head stomped on.

She contacted the school at the beginning of the year when the first fights happened, she said.

She was assured that there is an RCMP officer stationed at the school and that the school was “really safe.”

“But they haven’t stopped, the fights continued,” Houghton said. “And here we are in November and now they’re pulling knives.”

Oromocto High School principal Kevin Inch, seen here in a file photo, sent a message to parents Tuesday, in which he sought to allay concerns about reports on social media of a stabbing at the school. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC News file photo)

Series of videos apparently filmed at the scene

Videos of Tuesday’s incident, which have been circulated among Oromocto High School students and parents, appear to show dozens of students gathered outside the school, cheering and filming as several female and male students attack other female students in a series of brawls.

In one of the fights, a girl who is being beaten in the face pulls out what appears to be a knife and stabs her attacker in the leg.

In a later scene, a student approaches the girl, who is now lying face down on the ground, and stomps on her head.

In yet another scene, two students face each other while a third student approaches them and appears to instruct them.

Then another student jumps in and strikes one of the students in the head, and the three of them begin to fight while onlookers shout and jeer.

Some of the videos go on for almost three minutes. At no time does there appear to be any intervention from school staff, RCMP officers or any other adults.

One teen girl arrested late Wednesday

In an interview Wednesday, RCMP Sgt. Jean-François Martel said RCMP officers did go to the scene, but the fight had broken up by the time they arrived.

Three teenage girls had “minor injuries” and were assessed by medical staff at the scene and sent home, he said.

Martel said the incident, and a series of videos of it, are under investigation and charges are expected. 

Later Wednesday afternoon, RCMP issued a news release saying a teenage girl has been arrested in connection with the incident, and the investigation is continuing.

The girl was released and is scheduled to appear in Fredericton provincial court at a later date.

Martel said an RCMP officer is stationed at the high school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, and that that officer was aware of the incident and did respond. 

District communications director Jennifer Read said officials were meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the incident, intervention and consequences, which could include suspensions. (CBC)

‘This was a serious incident,’ district says

Anglophone West School District officials were meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss the incident, intervention and consequences, which could include suspensions, communications director Jennifer Read said in an email.

“The school administration is still working through the details of the incident,” Read said. “The director of schools is involved as a representative of ASD-W.  Any suspension that exceeds five days requires her approval, as per the Education Act.”

Read also addressed Inch’s message to parents, which some have taken issue with.

She noted the message was intended to “provide parents with accurate details … and to allay concerns about what was being described on social media as a ‘stabbing’ at the school.”

Inch’s mention of “minor injuries” was in reference to the knife injuries and was not intended to portray the incident itself as “minor,” she said.

“The school is taking this matter seriously and acknowledges that it has impacted families and students,” she said. “The school and the district both acknowledge that this was a serious incident.”

They have suffered enough through COVID-19 . . . they really do not need to fear for their safety.– Elizabeth Lees, parent of Oromocto High School student

Asked about other incidents of fighting and filming of fights at the school, Read stressed that this is not unique to Oromocto High School.

“Violence on social media is … unfortunately happening in the school setting and beyond,” Read said, adding that if students know of an altercation that is about to occur, they should tell a principal, teacher, counsellor or a staff member they feel they can trust. 

But Lees said she thinks more direct action is needed immediately, before someone is seriously injured.

Students are being bullied, harassed and terrorized, and “nothing is being done” about it, she said.

“They have suffered enough through COVID-19 … they really do not need to fear for their safety,” Lees said. 

“If the school or [district] cannot provide a safe learning environment or lunch hour, give parents the option to online learn where they can keep their children safe.”

Mental health services and support 

CHIMO 450-4537 or 1-800-667-5005

Provides 24/7 phone support for help with emotional stress.

Mental Health & Addictions Services & Mobile Crisis Unit 453-2132 

Services to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 or Text 686868

Provides 24/7 phone and text support.

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