Furious parents demand action after children allegedly chased, punched and attacked by 3 Grade 8 students at Oshawa school

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Published January 26, 2024 at 1:23 pm

Elsie MacGill Public School oshawa ontario bullying
Staff and students say they feel unsafe at Elsie MacGill PS in Oshawa - Photo from Elsie MacGill's official X account

“She was screaming in the bathroom,” one parent wrote on a change.org petition demanding that the Durham District School Board (DDSB) do something about an alleged bullying situation that has reportedly led to students being targeted by three Grade 8 students.

Yesterday (Jan. 25), parents and educators gathered to protest alleged inaction from the board at Elsie MacGill Public School, a new facility in Oshawa’s north end. Earlier in the day, about 20 educators, most of them teachers, refused to work due to safety concerns. 

Parents claim across social media, primarily Facebook and Google, that a trio of grade 8 girls are behaving violently toward both students and staff at the school and that not enough is being done to keep people safe.

Elesia Matthews, the mother of a 13-year-old student at the school, launched a petition yesterday. It currently has about 1,000 signatures. 

“My daughter has been subjected to mental, physical and emotional bullying by three grade 8 students,” she wrote. 

“Despite numerous meetings with the school board and public school officials, no significant changes have been made.” 

Writing that it appears that the principal and vice-principal are “hesitant to take action against these bullies,” Matthews said the students “seem to operate without fear of repercussions.” 

Mary Fowler, president of the ETFO Durham Teachers’ Local, told indurham.com that union members believe that the school board’s own code of conduct and progressive discipline model is not being followed. 

Fowler also said the work refusal was not school-wide. 

“Under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, workers have the right to refuse unsafe work and that’s what people individually chose to follow yesterday.”

Fowler said the educators who walked out are not back in classrooms and are currently working with the board to come up with a resolution. Should a resolution not be reached, the Ministry of Labour will be asked to intervene. 

Fowler said the work refusal came after months of ongoing issues. 

“This is a last resort for people. Teachers and educators are dedicated professionals who don’t typically do work refusals. They’ve been trying to raise these issues with the board for a number of months now and felt that they couldn’t wait for more inaction.”

Comments on the petition contain allegations of violent incidents involving children as young as 10. 

“My 11-year-old was attacked by 3 grade 8’s in a bathroom. She was screaming in the bathroom. Then was chased outside all the way around the portables and then into the unlocked portable, then thrown down the stairs and kicked and punched, and NOT ONE OF THE STAFF WERE AROUND,” one parent wrote. 

Others also alleged that children have been physically harmed by the older students.

“These same girls injured a 10-year-old boy so bad that he lost his tooth, and a teacher is required to bring him home every day for his safety. It’s absolutely ridiculous that nothing is being done between the principal and DDSB,” another parent alleged. 

In a statement emailed to indurham.com, the board said it is aware of the issues at the school and uses a progressive discipline approach. 

According to the Ontario government, progressive discipline is defined as discipline that takes a student’s circumstances into account and aims to improve their behaviour, help them learn from their choices and prevent inappropriate behaviour from reoccurring. 

Examples of progressive discipline include conversing with the student, reviewing expectations, counselling, additional assignments, detention and suspending or expelling a student.

“While we are not able to share information on specific situations for the privacy of those involved, the Durham District School Board is actively addressing concerns that have been raised at Elsie MacGill PS,” a board spokesperson wrote, saying that there was a “staffing matter” at the school on the morning of Jan. 25.

“Despite a disrupted start to the morning schedule today due to a staffing matter, there is no ongoing safety issue at Elsie MacGill PS and the school day continued as normal with a focus on learning and well-being. In all instances of bullying, the DDSB follows a progressive discipline model that prioritizes the safety and well-being of every student. We are taking all concerns very seriously and our efforts are dedicated to creating a positive and caring school environment where every student feels safe, respected, and valued.”

Durham police told indurham.com that officers were called to the school on Jan. 19 to respond to reports of a disturbance, but said police are not involved in any investigations involving the school at this time. 

“No parties were taken into custody, and no charges were laid at any time,” a police spokesperson said, adding that they believe the school conducted its own investigation into the incident. 

Police said they were on hand at the protest on Jan. 25 to ensure public safety. 

Fowler said teachers at the school have described a culture in which inappropriate behaviours have no consequences and that while staff members are not advocating for punitive measures, they believe more must be done to improve the climate of the school. 

“Consequences shold be corrective and lead to a better school climate. This is a reflection of what’s happening in other buildings across the board. While the codes of conduct are good on paper, we hear that teachers don’t feel they’re being adhered to,” she says. 

Fowler says it’s not yet clear when teachers will return to work and that while conversations are reportedly going well, each individual educator will have to decide when they feel safe enough to return. 

“Work refusal is an individual process. They’ve expressed to the board what they need and they’ll decide what they need and if they can go back,” she says. 

“They are asking for consequences for those behaviours and that the code of conduct and progressive discipline is being followed. It shouldn’t have needed to get to this point at Elsie MacGill. We hope this encourages the board to listen when issues are brought forward and they can create positive change as a result of this.” 

In her petition, Matthews says that bullying, if left unaddressed, can have long-term effects on victims. 

She also called for the students accused of bullying to be expelled.

“Bullying in schools is a serious issue that can lead to devastating effects on victims’ mental health and academic performance,” she wrote. 

“We need immediate action from the DDSB. We demand that the students be expelled or be held accountable for their actions.”

– With files from Liam McConnell

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