Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com
Parents and students rally Monday night outside Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board headquarters, protesting what they say is a lack of response to rampant bullying in the board's schools
“Snitches get stitches.”
The line sounds like it belongs in the latest Martin Scorcese film. But according to a group of local parents, it’s every day playground talk at some Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board elementary schools.
Frances White wants it to stop, particularly when it comes to her 13-year-old daughter, a student a Pope John Paul II School.
White alleges her daughter, who suffers from Tourette Syndrome, has been bullied all school-year long, a situation that’s gotten bad enough she’s had to pull the youngster from the school. Symptoms of the disease, which causes head movements and involuntary tics, got progressively worse as the school year progressed.
So too did the taunts from her classmates.
“Kids would walk by her, make fun of her, called her names, like Shaky Head. In class they would turn around and (she) would hear them laughing. They’d be pointing at her. She’d go outside at recess, sit against the wall with her coat over her head and kids would come up to her, point at her and call her names,” White said.
Eventually it turned physical.
White says her daughter was pushed and pinched, both incidents resulting in bruising.
“In time it was getting so bad she was coming home in tears. She constantly went to the office and talked to the guidance counsellor. She rang me on the phone crying. She wanted to come home.”
According to White, the guidance counsellor pleaded ignorance, that school officials hadn’t seen anything happen.
White had finally enough and phoned the principal, who she said did not return her call. A similar call was placed to the school board, who in turn phoned the principal of the school, who denied any knowledge of the situation.
She said she was stunned to learn none of the incidents were documented.
“I was so upset,” she said.
On Monday White led a dozen-person suppertime protest outside the board’s Victoria Avenue West offices.
TBCDSB officials were called earlier on Monday for reaction, but were not available for comment.
Mandi O’Connor, a parent whose children have attended Catholic board schools, said it’s frustrating to know there are anti-bullying policies in place that are being ignored.
O’Connor joined Monday’s protest and said the size of the school have led to an abnormal level of complaints.
“The parents are talking and we’re not happy with what’s going on,” O’Connor said.
“As a parent, it’s not that my children that are being bullied at the school, but I got fed up with the comments that I was hearing coming from them in terms of what was going on.”
White said she wants an apology and she wants future bullying cases to be taken seriously. Her daughter has twice contemplated taking her own life and she fears the worst.
White is happy with a solution presented by the school which will see the teen sent by taxi to Bishop E.Q. Jennings School when her Tourette symptoms clear up.