Hundreds of bikers gathered in Sydney, N.S., Wednesday morning to escort a 10-year-old boy who has been the victim of bullying to school.
The leather-clad bikers drove Grade 4 student Xander Rose to school and walked with him in a line to the front door of Harbourside Elementary.
Mike Basso organized the rally to support the boy after his mother reached out to a U.S. children’s advocacy group called Defenders Of The Children.
“I don’t know if the smile is off his face yet,” he said. “He was ecstatic. For the first time in a long while Xander wanted to go to school.”
Basso organizes the Cape Breton Bike Rally and he said about 150 bikers showed up, including many from the local Bay Boys Motorcycle Club, and that residents of the Whitney Pier neighbourhood gathered to watch the rally of support for Xander.
“The streets were lined with people who pulled over, clapping hands, tooting horns … it was emotional,” he said. “I was walking towards the front of the school with a lump in my throat.”
Basso said the 10-year-old was being bullied because of his race and size and that local school and community officials had failed to help him.
“He is a mixture of aboriginal and African-Canadian and is 5’2 and 150 pounds,” he said. “He was being bullied every day. It got so bad that kids on his school bus ripped his clothes off and another student threatened they would kill him.”
Basso said the boy’s mother contacted the school, the local school board, and other parents without success.
Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board spokeswoman Michelle MacLeod said she could not speak about what steps the school took to stop the boy from being bullied because of confidentiality.
However, she said any report of bullying is taken seriously by the school administration.
“We work towards creating a safe and inclusive teaching environment for all of our students,” MacLeod said. “That’s our primary goal. We want students and parents to recognize the signs of bullying and be comfortable reaching out to staff.”
Darren Googoo, chairman of the Cape Breton Victoria School board, said Wednesday that three students, including a 13-year-old girl who killed herself on Father’s Day, have lost their lives this year. The board is drafting a letter to the provincial Education Department with the idea of starting a dialogue on the issue.
Basso said more needs to be done to end bullying in schools and cyberbullying.
“We lost three children in the past month,” he said. “On the weekend we lost a 13-year-old girl who was the victim of cyberbullying. Maybe she had the cure for cancer in her head. Maybe she could have been the next prime minister.
“We need to make sure these kids have support. We shouldn’t be burying kids at this age.”