Parents are speaking out against a disturbing culture of bullying among elementary and high school students in Linsday, Ont. and they feel helpless to stop it.
One father claims that some kids, 12 to 13 years old, have organized a so-called “fight club” – forcing students to fight each other and posting the videos to social media.
He says it began last fall when a video was posted online that appeared to depict two boys throwing punches at each other. Off-camera, a young voice can be heard swearing at them and egging them on.
“The language in the video is horrible,” said the father of one of the boys. “They call my son a ‘fat f-word’.”
The parent, who CityNews is not identifying to protect his son’s identity, said his son told him there were older boys forcing them to fight. He found out the video was just one of many allegedly orchestrated by the same Grade 8 boys.
“Mainly, it was either the group pressuring other people to fight and filming it or one of them would fight another kid and it would get filmed,” he said.
But students at Central Senior Public School where the boys attend deny to CityNews that any such “fight club” exists.
“Everybody has a phone and everyone likes to record fights,” said one student.
“It’s just people being goons,” said another.
The father brought it to the attention of staff and the school board, but he said backlash came in the form of more bullying and verbal abuse against his son. He said his son eventually developed anxiety and had to transfer schools.
Social media ‘virality’ aggravating concerns
Parents say social media has only intensified patterns of bullying.
One mother, Kristin, said she wasn’t even aware her 16-year-old son had been assaulted until she saw a video on Facebook from earlier in January. It appears to show two young men throwing him into a frigid cold river.
“I was horrified,” she said.
The video shows a large group of mostly high school kids from different schools. There appears to be separate fights happening among them.
Kristin said her son covered up the incident from her because he didn’t want her to worry, but she fears social media is making a bad problem even worse. “Everyone was talking about it and he knew the video was going viral,” said Kristin.
The video is currently being investigated by local police.
The Trillium Lakelands District School Board said these incidents took place off of school property but planning or taking part in them is not tolerated.
They have encouraged students not to “like” or “share” these videos and to report any instances of bullying to the school, noting that there is a “Safe@School” link on the TLDSB websites.
Ontario has also recently introduced new measures to address bullying in schools.
The province wants to explicitly include cyber-bullying in the definition and allow students to share their experiences with bullying via a survey. Teachers will also be trained on anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques.
These initiatives came in response to the October stabbing death of 14-year old Devan Bracci-Selvey outside of his Hamilton school.
Meanwhile, the father has started a Facebook group called “Bully No More” in an effort to raise awareness and bring an end to the alleged violence, that he fears, could have tragic consequences.
“I don’t want to see what happened to the boy in Hamilton happen here or anywhere else again. I just want it to stop.”
For resources on how to talk to your kids about bullying, or if you believe your child is being bullied, Canada’s authority on research and resources for bullying prevention, PREVNET, has more information on their website.