The mother of a Cape Breton teen with cerebral palsy says her son has forgiven a group of students who bullied him last week — telling him to lie in a shallow stream as other students walked over him.
But she said he is still afraid to return to his high school because he doesn’t feel safe.
In an interview Tuesday, Terri McEachern said her son, 14-year-old Brett Corbett, received an apology over the weekend from two of the students involved.
School administrators said Tuesday they wanted to assure parents and the community that they would “work with students, staff and parents to address this behaviour.”
The stream, known as Burr-Bank, is near Glace Bay High School where Corbett is a Grade 9 student.
The incident was recorded and ended up posted on Facebook, causing wide-spread concern and condemnation.
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“To see the video of your kid laying there and kids mocking, ridiculing, it tore my heart out,” said McEachern, who added that she has been dealing with calls from media outlets as far away as Washington, D.C., and Africa since the story about her son broke.
McEachern said the family saw the video, but it didn’t become public until a girl posted it on social media to counter those who said the incident didn’t happen.
She said a boy and a girl who were involved came to her home this past weekend to apologize in person.
“He’s accepting of the apologies, he’s forgiving of them,” she said. “He was OK with then coming here and apologizing so I’m OK with that.”
An emotional McEachern said while it’s been hard to deal with a situation she still can’t believe happened, she has to try to forgive as well.
“I don’t hold hate and resentment in my heart. It hurts, it was wrong, it’s unacceptable, but hate only grows, it’s a dark emotion.”
On Tuesday, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education released a statement promising action.
“This incident is tremendously harmful to both the individual involved and the school community as a whole. We are disappointed and saddened by the behaviour that led to the incident on the video.”
The statement said that in addition to dealing with the individuals involved, the school would conduct a restorative practice process.
“A restorative practice approach involves students, staff, parents, School Advisory Council and members of the school community, in a process that acknowledges the harm done and gives a voice to all in planning our way forward within a respectful, safe and secure learning environment.”
However, McEachern said school officials hadn’t yet contacted her, and she’ll be looking for reassurance that her son will be safe in school.
“An apology and a one day suspension doesn’t change tomorrow how Brett feels about what happened,” she said.
McEachern said she will keep her son at home until Monday to see what develops.
The Canadian Press