More than 50 students have been suspended from Toronto High following a cyber-bullying incident that went viral around the school.
The Herald understands the incident involved a game in which students’ names were messaged to other students via Facebook with the intention of eliciting negative comments. The Department of Education confirmed more than 50 students had received short suspensions of up to four days and a small number had been given long suspensions of up to 20 days.
In a newsletter sent to parents on Friday, school principal Mark McConville said students who had made negative, abusive or harassing comments about other students on social media had been suspended, as had students who had ‘liked’ the inappropriate comments.
“Toronto High School does not tolerate any harassment of any students,” he wrote.
“Imagine if it was your child who opened up their Facebook account to find over 50 ‘likes’ about a negative/abusive/harassing post about them.”
Mr McConville said all students involved would receive “additional support and guidance in the appropriate use of technology” and appealed to parents to support the school’s actions.
“We want to keep all students safe and support those students subject to disciplinary procedures in improving their decisions and actions in future.”
A Toronto community Facebook page was alight with comments about the incident on Friday, with many supporting the school’s zero-tolerance approach.
Nicole Charlesworth, whose son Nick was questioned but not punished because he had posted a positive comment about another student, said the incident reinforced the dangers of social media for young people.
“My son’s face was white when he came home, he was really shaken up by it.
“I think the school’s response was appropriate. This sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud straight away.”
However Donna Stanbury, whose daughter Tanaya faces suspension for posting what she described as an ‘in’ joke about a friend, said the punishment was not justified.
Ms Stanbury said Tanaya made sarcastic comments about two friends who were sitting next to her as she did it.
“It was an ‘in’ joke between them,” Ms Stanbury said. “In my opinion, they all should be punished, but suspending everyone is taking it to extremes.
“I would prefer to see the school bring in an anti-bullying expert to talk to all the kids.
“My daughter is very angry about it. She thinks it is unfair.”
Toronto High School has 980 students. The students suspended were from all years. An assembly was called on Thursday morning and all students who had participated in the posts asked to identify themselves.