Parent of student in JLM knife incident speaks out

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

CAYUGA—The Press previously reported on an incident wherein aJL Mitchener student brought a steak knife to school on the morning of November 16, 2022. A parent with a connection to the incident contacted us at the time with her concerns on how the school handled the incident, alleging they failed to follow their own safety protocols.

We were later contacted by the parent of the student who brought the knife to school, who agreed to share her first name, Nadean, but not her last, and who wished to share her side of the story and defend her child.

Nadean alleges that since the start of the school year her son has been experiencing near-daily bullying from one of his classmates, an issue she says she has brought to the school’s principal, Scott McDonald: “I confronted him numerous times in October and he assured me the situation was being handled and that he knows the student personally and he will be talking to him.”

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She said that while McDonald could not provide her details on how the bullying was being addressed, she believed at the time that he would “deal with this appropriately.”   

“Obviously he hasn’t because my son still comes home telling me stuff. It’s now escalated to being out of school, where my son is taking the dogs for a walk and we have this child walking up to my son, telling him that he has called a bunch of people and he’s going to be getting jumped,” said Nadean. “I’ve told the school this numerous times; I feel like nothing is being done to protect my son.”

She says this lack of action was the driving force behind her son’s decision to put a “dollar store steak knife” in his backpack on the morning of November 16, “in order for him to feel like he could protect himself.”

The first parent to contact The Press was told by a student that Nadean’s son arrived at school and told other students about the knife, showing some of them before the start of class. Once classes began, this source says several students attempted to notify their teachers about the knife, with acting principal Kimberlee Hagan (filling in for McDonald who was off premises at the time) confronting Nadean’s son, confiscating the knife, and sending him home.

The Grand Erie District School Board’s protocol calls for the student to be detained until police are present. The original source believes the OPP were not contacted until later, after the intended victim hid in a bathroom during recess and called a friend, whose mother then contacted the OPP. A comment from the Board provided to The Press stated that all relevant procedures had been followed by the school in the incident, but details on all the steps taken were not provided due to their privacy policy.

Nadean said that not only did the school fail to follow their protocol that morning, but they also failed to address the issue that led to the incident in the first place: “They know they weren’t doing their jobs properly.… That’s why they didn’t think anything of it. They’re in the wrong for not properly addressing this.”

“He’s been getting bullied since he started there in 2019. The previous principals were really good and put a stop to it. This year, it’s gotten out of control. He has been getting name-called, he has been pushed and shoved, physically touched, he’s had his stuff taken from him on the playground and when he asks for it back, they hoof it up on to the school roof, and other stuff like that,” explained Nadean. “It’s impacted him a lot.”

She said her son has asked her concerning questions, such as whether or not he could have a cannister of pepper spray to bring with him while going out of the house to play or walk the dogs: “He’s constantly feeling like he has to watch over his shoulder.… If they would have dealt with it to start with, we wouldn’t have had this situation on November 16.”

She described her son as a “loving boy” who helps out with his two younger siblings and takes an active role in caring for the family’s pets: “He is such a loving little child. Everyone who meets him says he is lovely and a pleasure.”

She said that since the incident took place, the school is “doing what they can,” with safety protocols in effect, but she says those protocols don’t help her son’s situation, calling out the school for protecting “the rest of the students, not so much my son.”

She said her son, who has been in therapy prior to the November 16 incident, has been given several coping techniques to help alleviate the bullying, including ignoring the other child or telling them to stop, but she says those approaches have “made it worse. The other child just keeps going after him until he gets that way.”

Nadean said she herself was a victim of bullying when she attended JL Mitchener school as a student, adding, “It’s going down from generation to generation and it’s not stopping…. Bullying has to stop. If it doesn’t stop, this is why we’ve had children committing suicide, bringing in knives and guns and shooting people…. It’s going to make the child suffer a lot more, especially if that child has disabilities.”

She continued, “Bullying isn’t something a child grows into, they’re taught that. A child sees a parent bullying, then the child is going to do it…. If the parent doesn’t do anything about it, the child will continue doing it.”

As for her hopes going forward, “I just want things to stop…. I would like the school board to do something about concerns right when they’re brought to their attention.”

“I personally think a lot of things were swept under the rug,” she concluded. “I am not reassured of any action being taken against this other child.”