A group of parents concerned about recent fights taking place between North Nova Education Centre students is looking for positive ways to make them stop.
Rachel Francis called a meeting Saturday that included parents, community leaders, education staff and police after viewing fights at the New Glasgow school that were recorded on video.
Francis said the meeting was a way for parents to discuss recent incidents and come up with a solution on how to prevent them in the future. One fight in particular, that was recorded on cellphones by students and left a child injured, was mentioned several times by parents.
“I saw the video of the fight and there was a lot of chatter on Facebook about the amount of fights and how something needs to change,” she said. “So, I made a Facebook status and said we can all talk about this until we are blue in face or do something about it."
Francis and other parents at the meeting said they were “sickened” by the video.
“At what point did we lose our hearts as humans and watch someone be beat up and hurt?” she asked. “When did we lose our empathy for that?”
New Glasgow Regional Police Chief Eric MacNeil said fighting amongst students in schools is not a new thing, but the introduction of social media and cellphones has made it different.
"At what point did we lose our hearts as humans and watch someone be beat up and hurt?" — parent Rachel Francis
“I don't think violence and bullying has increased in the schools, but there is more focus on it. It is more in the forefront,” he said. Police said there were five videos of students fighting over a short period of time and they are investigating one of those incidents.
One of the biggest concerns at the meeting amongst parents was the use of cellphones by students to record the fights. Parents said the images are then put onto social media very quickly so everyone can view them. There were also concerns expressed that some of the fights were only taking place so that students go see how many views they would get for a video.
MacNeil said there is no criminal offence for someone who videos a fight and shares it on social media and he added that it is very difficult for police charge people involved in school fights because usually the victim or other students won’t come forward to press charges because of fear of retaliation.
However, he said, New Glasgow Regional Police are willing to work with the school and accommodate its needs as best as possible to help resolve the situation. Parents questioned if the school could be doing more to curb the use of cellphones and social media.
There were also comments made by parents, police and school staff during the meeting that Nova North Education Centre has a positive school environment and these incidents only represent a small portion of population, but the seriousness of them has made Francis and others want to see change take place.
The two-hour meeting ended with the parents agreeing to work with school staff in different ways to address cellphone usage and social media. Parents also asked about the possibility of having more volunteer supervision at the school and a stronger police presence at lunch hour.
Francis said she will also be looking for guest speakers to come to the school to speak about bullying and violence and she is hopeful there will be a public forum in the future addressing ways parents and the school can work together to improve the situation.
“The focus needs to be a relationship with the school and working with them,” she said after the meeting.