Coquitlam RCMP has arrested a 13-year-old boy over an alleged assault at Port Coquitlam middle school, but police say inaccurate rumours about the incident are being widely circulated on social media.
Allegations about the incident, which police say took place at Citadel Middle School around 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 10, are detailed in a social media post by the alleged victim’s mother that has been shared nearly 2,500 times.
The girl’s mother alleges her 14-year-old daughter was followed by a group of four boys who taunted and yelled sexualized comments at her until she pushed one of them. The mother claims her daughter was then thrown to the ground and punched in the face by one of the boys until she “blacked out.”
In the post, she says the entire incident was filmed by one of the boys.
The mother further alleges that other parents were present, who did not intervene in the incident. She also claims that the school district refused to suspend or discipline the alleged attackers, other than a sit-down talk with the boys, telling them to stay away from her daughter.
Mounties, however, are urging the public not to rush to judgment.
“There are allegations appearing on social media that directly contradict the video evidence, witness statements, and established facts of this investigation,” said Cpl. Michael McLaughlin in a media release.
“There has been a lot of anger directed to the school and police. We want to assure everyone that our first priority is to continually assess the risk and make sure that everyone involved is safe.
“Now, we ask that you stay patient and avoid judgment until a full and impartial investigation is complete.”
Police say their initial investigation suggests a “verbal confrontation between four youth males and one youth female” which escalated when the girl used “a low level of physical force.”
Police say the 13-year-old male suspect is alleged to have used “an inappropriate level of force that caused an injury to the girl.”
Police said Tuesday that the teen, who hails from Maple Ridge, was arrested the day the assault was reported.
It’s completely understandable that people are reacting emotionally to this file, especially since children are involved, said McLaughlin.
But it’s important that we conduct an impartial investigation. We ask that people do not make judgments based on social media posts.
In an email, School District 43 said it takes the matter “very seriously” and “is addressing the situation.”
“This incident has been referred to the RCMP. The school district is cooperating with the RCMP in order to ensure that the investigation is not impeded or jeopardized,” said the district, adding that it would not comment further.
Citadel Middle School also sent a letter to parents, saying the issue was referred immediately to police and asking people to refrain from speculation based on social media posts.
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West took to social media Tuesday to comment on the incident.
“I learned about this issue on social media like many of you and was deeply upset and disappointed that this happened in our community,” wrote West, adding that he had reached out to the family of the alleged victim.
“Everyone has the right to feel safe in our schools and community,” West added.
“We all have a responsibility to demonstrate respect and inclusion and be good role models for our children. That’s what has made Port Coquitlam a diverse and welcoming community.”
Police say the boy, who has no history with police, is accused of assault causing bodily harm and uttering threats.
He has been released on a promise to appear in Port Coquitlam provincial court.
Police say the investigation is ongoing, and that “more charges are possible against all parties involved.”