PUBLIC OUTCRY - From from left

Officials defend actions in wake of school fight

Racially-charged fight took place at Lindsay Thurber High School in Red Deer

  • May. 23, 2017 7:18 p.m.

A protest took place on Tuesday morning at Lindsay Thurber High School after a reportedly racially-charged fight that occurred at the school last week.

The incident, which took place on May 16th, was videoed and has been profiled on social media taking particular aim that some of the students involved were Syrian. The video shows a student using a whip to hit another student.

Eight students were suspended for eight days.

Officials with Red Deer Public Schools, in a statement, said that, “We want to be very clear that all students involved in the situation have been dealt with in the same manner receiving the same consequences for the roles they played in the altercation,” the statement read.

But those comments didn’t calm protesters’ fears and concerns about safety at the school. Following a press conference Tuesday, some school officials met with protesters outside of the school.

At that time, school officials were told that some students were afraid and that some female students said they had been assaulted and groped by ‘migrant’ students. Officials were also told that there is unequal treatment and that some students had also been receiving death threats.

“We are not aware of those allegations – certainly if we were, we would take care of them,” said Stu Henry, superintendent of Red Deer Public Schools. “We are certainly willing to look into anything that the students bring forward.”

Thurber’s principal, Dan Lower, said what isn’t true is that people were dealt with in different ways.

“If you threw a punch, or you hit, or you kicked – you were suspended for that action,” he said.

Each student involved was suspended for an equal period of time.

“Violence is violence – kids need to feel safe and our parents need to know that their kids are safe here as well.”

Henry said the story took on a life of its own via social media over the weekend.

“I think we had an incident that was very much contained at the school level,” he said. “A lot of negative comments over the weekend – we were staggered by some of the negativity.”

Lower said that the initial incident happened at a local skate park with two Grade 9 students and a misunderstanding they had because of a language barrier. “One of the Syrian students thought that something derogatory was said towards another Syrian student.”

Later at the school, another incident broke out which is shown in the video that was ultimately posted.

“Something was posted online with that video stating that Syrian kids were allowed to whip Canadians because it’s within their religious beliefs, and all they received was a phone call home. I really think that’s where this outrage had started – that it wasn’t dealt with equally or the same, and that is incorrect.

“People feel that one group was given preferential treatment over another, and that doesn’t happen (here).”

Meanwhile, Carrie Gilbert, a parent of a student at the school, said she was hearing mixed things since the incident occurred. “It’s very hard on social media to get a clear story of exactly what happened, so I did talk to my daughter’s vice-principal and she assured me that all the kids were suspended as per the regulations, and the kids were safe to come to school and they were very seriously dealing with all of the kids that were involved in the fight and the school would be safe and open.”

Stephen Garvey, leader of the Calgary-based National Advancement Party of Canada, said he was at the protest because he was concerned about the accommodation going on in Canada in general for people coming into the country.

“We are concerned that our citizens are coming last. In this case, we are talking about young students who are getting beat up at the school through gangs of kids. There is no room for political correctness when it comes to the well-being of our young kids in this country. We need to start standing up for them and that’s why we are here today.”

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