WARNING: The following story contains explicit language and graphic details. Reader discretion advised.
Alaina Carriero spends most afternoons on her back porch reading.
The 15-year-old should be in school on any given weekday, but Carriero’s mother has allowed her to remain at home for the last month-and-a-half.
“I don’t want her to ever feel unsafe,” said Melissa Carriero.
On April 4, around 3 p.m., York Regional Police say a teenage girl was assaulted by a group of girls in the parking lot of the Dalton Road Plaza, just down the street from Sutton District High School, in Sutton, Ont., about 86 kilometres north of Toronto.
WATCH: Attack on Sutton District High School student captured on video
Alaina says she was swarmed by a group of girls, who rained down punches and kicks.
A friend captured the alleged attack on iPhone video.
“A girl shoved me to the ground and as soon as I was on the ground, I didn’t have a chance to get up. All three of them are on me,” Alaina said. “At one point, the girl who pushed me sat on me and then two of them kicked me.”
Alaina points to the left side of her head where there is now a bald spot hidden beneath her long braids.
“They pulled out a patch of my hair. I have a bald patch now and I still have a little bump on the side of my head,” she said. “At one point, I was on the ground for maybe two, three minutes. There was a point when she was stepping on my head repetitively.”
Three teenage girls from Georgina have been charged with one count of assault each, and will appear in court in June.
But Alaina said the incident was not just physical in nature.
“They were like taunting me and like the fact that they had to bring race into it… She called me a f-ing n-word.”
A spokesperson for the York Region District School Board would not comment on the incident and referred Global News to the board’s website and a video and statement by the director of education just posted on Friday.
The topic: Anti-black racism.
“We know there are concerns that students in our communities are experiencing anti-black racism and, sadly, we’re seeing some of this hate in our schools as well,” Louise Sirisko said in a statement. “I wish that I was able to erase all forms of violence and hate from our society. I don’t have such power.”
But Melissa sees it differently.
“I think that the school needs to educate people more on acceptance,” Melissa said. “This town is changing. There is a bigger demographic of people living here now and this issue won’t go away. They need to address it right at the source which is at the high school.”
The statement by the board’s director of education also notes “we will not tolerate any form of hate or racism.”
Previous instances of racism
Alaina says this is not the first time she has experienced racism at school, which included an incident involving another student waving a Confederate flag. The flag is a controversial symbol in the United States, and there has been renewed criticism of it as a symbol of white power.
“He just put a flag on his truck and started driving around back and forth in the lot with this Confederate flag,” she said. “He came to school when I was there on the outside and was waving the flag in his truck. I talked to the school about it obviously,” she said.
Alaina and her mother moved to Sutton six years ago from Toronto.
“When we first moved up here, she was targeted by one individual who then went on to bully her incessantly for the duration of her time at school and then brought racism into it,” Melissa said.
“I didn’t think in this day and age that that would be so prevalent, this kind of racism, but when you live it, and you see it, you feel it — it’s just really sad.”
And it happens often, the mother and daughter note.
“I notice a lot of dirty looks coming our way. I can feel the racism here in Sutton — it’s pretty sad,” said Melissa. “It’s a rude look or a rude glare, not holding the door for us, making us wait until the very end before they take our order; it’s just little nuances like that that I have felt that I know my daughter has also felt.”
She says there are good people in Sutton too, but feels disheartened by a number of experiences the pair has endured.
2014 attack at same high school
In May 2014, Alaina’s high school made headlines when a fight was caught on video and uploaded to YouTube, appearing to show two teens punching each other outside as racial slurs are shouted by onlookers.
“Pound that n***a,” can be heard in the video.
Four youths and one adult were charged with assault.
Global News met with the family of the victim at the time.
His father, Charles Makuto said, “You wouldn’t expect that to happen here. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
And Sutton District High School’s former principal Dawn Laliberte said, “I would say there’s a very small pocket that we have to educate. Is there a racist culture? I believe there’s not.”
Just one year prior, the school had to ban students from wearing clothing adorned with the Confederate flag.
Alaina says these incidents, including her own attack, all point to a problem with racism at Sutton District High School.
“They like to treat us not like regular people. They look at us different,” said Alaina about her teachers, “and I’ve never had any of my friends experience this.”
On Friday, York Region District School Board’s director of education announced an online reporting system will be available on all school sites and the board’s website, similar to its bullying reporting tool, but this one is “specific for incidents of hate or discrimination.”
There will also be a PA Day in the 2019-2020 academic school year dedicated to training staff on how to address hate, with a “focus on anti-black racism.”
The Carrieros sit together on the couch in their living room and discuss Melissa’s day at work, and the novel Alaina is reading about vampires.
Then the conversation shifts to Alaina’s physical and emotional recovery.
“The bald patch is really bad, I hope it grows back,” she said.
The family has no plans to leave Sutton but hopes this message gets out.
“Put the hate aside. Just be good to people and treat other people with respect and kindness as my daughter would to them.”
— With files from Andrew Russell