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Families of bullied teens won't back down

Charges of assault and uttering threats laid against Squamish teen



A three-year string of bullying incidents involving a number of Grade 9 students in Squamish has led to the arrest and upcoming court appearance for a 14-year-old student at Don Ross Secondary School.

"On the 28th a 14-year-old was arrested and released on conditions. He has a court appearance on Oct. 27 and the allegations are assault and uttering threats," said Cpl. Dave Ritchie of the Squamish RCMP.

"I know from my school days many years ago that bullying and that takes place, I think it takes place pretty early in schools and the police and the school board are doing their best to stay on top of it. That is the sad part about bullying, that it is often not reported so it is pretty engrained and has done a lot of harm to people."

Squamish RCMP was first called to investigate on Sept. 24 when 14-year-old Austin Aldridge was allegedly forced to fight another student while surrounded by a group of teens who repeatedly pushed him back into his opponent when he tried to exit the situation. Aldridge suffered a broken hand and concussion in the scrap. He was also given a three-day suspension from school.

The students who allegedly organized the fight received detentions, including the ringleader who faces the allegations of assault.

According to Aldridge's mother Zoe, school authorities were alerted to the planned fight the week before it happened. Austin was simply told not to get involved, which his mother says doesn't address the overarching pressures stemming from the other students. She is frustrated that school authorities didn't do more to prevent the situation from occurring.

"I had this problem at Highlands Elementary with this same group and I even found that there was more response from that little elementary school of helping me out than there is with the high school," she said. "I've been in the school and I've heard them talk to the teachers just like dirt and they just don't do anything. I don't know if they are scared of them or if they are running the school. They need to make a change. Kids can die. Look at Reena Virk. It all falls together."

According to Bianca Peters, another mother in Squamish, a few days after the brawl the student who instigated the fight verbally threatened Austin and her son, who has also been a regular target of harassment. Peters says the bullying has been taking place since Grade 7 at Garibaldi Highlands Elementary School and a number of students are still under physical and emotional attack from the same perpetrator.

Disappointed with the handling of the incidents by school authorities, she took it to the RCMP after finding bruises on her son again last week.