No intent behind kill lists, cops say
There was “no criminal intent” behind the writing of kill lists at Harriett Todd Public School, says Orillia OPP Const. Jim Edwards.
A handwritten list — naming a few students who the writer suggested should be killed — was found at the George Street school Dec. 6.
Edwards confirmed Wednesday three kill letters were found, but no charges will be laid.
“After investigating, the perception is there is not going to be any harm (to) any of the students or the staff or any of the public in relation to the letters,” Edwards told The Packet & Times.
Grade 6 student Dakota Funge, 11, learned he was at the top of one list.
Diane Lefuel, principal of Harriett Todd, told Funge’s mom, Darlene Martin, about the list.
Funge didn’t go to school the following day and began fearing for his life.
Orillia OPP investigated the case “thoroughly,” Edwards said.
“We spoke with the principal of the school as well as the parties involved,” he said.
Neither Edwards nor the school would say how the students involved were dealt with. Steve Blake, superintendent for the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), said the OPP came to the same conclusion as the school.
“...They have found there to be no criminal intent and no perceived threat to students, teachers or the public. That is consistent with the school investigation as well,” he said. “This is a case of young children who made poor decisions and the issue has been addressed appropriately by the principal.”
Orillia OPP will be making a presentation to Harriett Todd students to speak about bullying “just to enforce that it’s not going to be tolerated and the repercussions and consequences of doing it,” Edwards said.
Bullies can be suspended or expelled from school. Harassment charges could also be laid.
“When the child reaches the age of 12, they could be charged with criminal harassment in relation to bullying,” Edwards said. “They would have a criminal charge on their young-offender’s record.”
The OPP will not tolerate bullying, Edwards said.
“Bullying is anything that’s continuous,” he said. “It’s not a one-time type of thing. It’s continuous and it’s ongoing and it’s harassment.”
The mother of a Grade 7 student — who wished to remain anonymous — has been documenting the bullying her son has faced at Harriett Todd since Grade 1.
Her son’s name is not on a kill list, but the mother is still “concerned and scared.”
“I’ve already been expressing my concerns that there was a problem,” she said. “Why don’t (the school staff) see it?”
Over the years, she said her son has been physically and verbally bullied by various students.
He has been choked, tripped, pushed, punched, had his head smashed into the pavement and called names.
“Some of the kids think, ‘Oh, it’s just a joke,’” she said. “It’s not funny. They don’t see the seriousness of their actions.”
The mom has contacted the school, the SCDSB and Orillia OPP over the years.
“It feels like you’re going around in a circle,” she said. “They say they’ll keep an eye on it, they’ll deal with it... but nothing really is done about it.”
Her son feels Harriett Todd is not safe, she said.
The boy has asked his mom to home-school him. Financially, it’s not an option.
“It really hurts you because your child is begging for this and you can’t do it, you keep sending them back,” she said. “You hold your breath until he comes home from school.”
The mom wants to see more done to address bullying.
“The incidents happening need to be kept on file because principals and vice-principals change,” she said.
She is in the process of writing a letter to the SCDSB.
The board has created a four-year safe and caring schools plan, Blake said.
“Our schools take the safety of our students very seriously,” he said. “It’s our No. 1 priority.”
For 2013-14, the board plans to continue supporting school-wide programs that promote positive relationship building. These programs include Link Crew, anti-bullying teams and gay-straight alliances. These groups use tools such as peer mediation, conflict resolution, restorative practices and character education. The board also plans to continue its support of restorative circle sessions as needed.
Blake said any incident reported to the school is investigated thoroughly.
“Consequences are given based on our system of progressive discipline,” Blake said. “They have to be referred to social workers, child-youth workers, a community-liaison officer depending on the nature of the situation.”
If parents don’t feel vice-principals or principals are addressing their concern, they can contact Blake, he said.
He is available at the SCDSB office at 705-734-6363, ext. 11208.