A Surrey father says his family has been threatened since sharing a disturbing video showing his son being sworn at and told to kiss the feet of another boy at Fraser Heights Secondary.
“I don’t want to go into the details but the person who made the threat is known to police and investigators,” Paul Pedersen told the Now-Leader on Thursday.
Meantime, Surrey RCMP will neither confirm nor deny rumours in the community that at least one boy has been arrested.
“I can’t confirm yes or no,” said Surrey RCMP Sergeant Chad Greig on Thursday morning. “So could somebody have been arrested? Yes, but we’re not going down that path… it’s into the restorative justice program.”
Several students who have been identified from the video will not return to school for the remainder of the school year as Surrey RCMP and the school district continue their investigations.
Surrey RCMP also say there are “some associations” between this incident and a “confrontation” between two groups of teens in the same area a few days earlier, on May 30. After that incident, an imitation air soft handgun was located where the struggle occurred. Police believe one of the teenagers involved may have tossed the fake gun in the bushes.
‘A massive red flag’
Pedersen said the family has received an outpouring of support from the community since the June 3 incident, in which the father alleges in a post that his son was “brought to the back area of the school near the tennis courts by a trusted friend no less and threatened with weapons to get on his knees and kiss the feet of his attackers and then kicked in the face afterwards” during lunch hour.
Pedersen said he’s been approached by “thousands of people in the Surrey catchment and abroad, all sharing stories of bullying, harassment, violence, in school.”
“This has immediately, with our community and city and everywhere, it’s apparent this is a massive red flag,” Pedersen told the Now-Leader. “We can tell by the temperature of this situation and everyone who’s gotten involved, this issue is at a massive breaking point and people are boiling over in their frustrations and anger.
“I’m hopeful through this tragic situation, dialogues are going to be opened, policies are going to be created, to ensure student safety of kids everywhere because no one can stand the fact of feeling their child is unsafe in their school environment.”
Pedersen said he wants “appropriate justice” for his son, who has not yet returned to school.
“I’m being ever vigilant as a parent,” said Pedersen, adding the teen doesn’t feel safe at school or in the community at large.
“In our specific case, I believe it needs to be thoroughly dealt with on multiple fronts. I believe the appropriate disciplinary actions need to be taken…. I believe sufficient consequences need to be given in order for this to be proper justice for my son.”
Pedersen said the family has agreed that if all parties involved agree to take part in the restorative justice program, they are willing to partake in a roundtable discussion. He’s “not confident” all will agree.
“But not in place of criminal charges,” he said.
While the students identified in the video won’t return to school this year, the Surrey school district spokesman Doug Strachan insists they haven’t been suspended or expelled, as the investigation continues.
The ultimate action is “still to be confirmed,” said Strachan.
Video ‘overwhelmed’ dad
Pedersen, who has taken a leave from work to support his family, said there have been questions about why he posted the video prior to reporting the incident to police.
While Pedersen said his son informed him that something had happened at school on June 3, the boy “did not want to get into the specifics.”
“He appeared relatively safe and uninjured in mine and my wife’s eyes. We respected his privacy,” said Pedersen. “Then, at approximately 10 or 11 o’clock at night, the video that had been released by one of the people in this incident, one of the aggressing parties… made its way through social media to us.
“That’s how I first saw what really happening,” he said. “At that point I was so overwhelmed with anger and stricken with grief, the only thing I could think to do at that time was to post what happened because I was looking for support for how I was feeling.”
Pedersen said the incident was reported to both the school and police the next morning.
The father said he’s seen some negative feedback on social media, and has “notified people through my statements we’re trying to find a peaceful, law-abiding resolution.”
“We’re not looking for vigilante justice. We are only concerned with, first, the safety of our son and our family. And beyond that the safety of all students… This is something no family or individual should have to go through. Especially in a school environment.”