WARNING: Some details in this story may be disturbing to readers. Discretion is advised.
Grade 9 student Janice Xie said she had just met her friends for lunch Thursday, when an older male student came up behind her, and pushed her.
It was the beginning of an allegedly brutal assault that left the 14-year-old girl unconscious by the stairs at Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond, B.C. Xie was hospitalized.
Still in pain, with a swollen eye, she told Global News on Friday, the alleged attacker needs to “smarten up,” because rumours aren’t always true.
“I hope that nothing like this happens to anyone else,” she said, sitting next to her father, Tim Sorenson. “Just because you hear something doesn’t mean it’s real.”
Xie said the older student believed she spread a rumour about feelings between him and another girl. It was confusing, she added, because she hadn’t really spoken to him before and had no idea whom he liked.
After he reportedly pushed her, Xie said he followed her, while her friends tried to hold him back. Eventually, the group sat down to eat by the school’s main stairs.
That’s when he came running, she said.
“My friends were trying to hold him back but they couldn’t hold him back. I tried to defend myself but I got knocked out. I don’t remember what happened after that.”
Xie said she knows she was punched in the side of the head and her friends told her the student kept kicking and punching her after she passed out. When she woke up, she said she was still by the stairwell, surrounded by teachers and first responders.
“I was really scared, I couldn’t breathe, I was hyperventilating,” she said.
“Knowing I passed out and he was still attacking me, and it happened in school — it’s scary thinking about that, and thinking about going back to school.”
Xie said teachers called 911 and did their best to write down what had happened before paramedics took her to the hospital. They did not, however, call Xie’s parents right away, according to her father.
Sorenson said he was working from his home office, when his wife began receiving text messages from Xie’s friends, telling her what happened about an hour after the alleged assault. They also got a call from Xie’s younger sister.
“We got the call, dropped everything, got in the car, and went to the school,” he said. “When I see her laying there on the ground … So many thoughts were going through my head. At that point, I was just infuriated.”
Sorenson said understands the school staff may have been busy in the moment, but he should have received a call sooner.
“How is it that we can fix this?” he asked. “The one person (at the school) that I did talk to, he said that the staff was busy trying to retrieve the boy and also deal with all the other students.”
In an emailed statement, the Richmond School District No. 38 did not address the gap between the alleged attack and contact with Xie’s parents. It confirmed the male student is not attending school at this time and Richmond RCMP are investigating the incident.
“As outlined in the Richmond School District Code of Conduct, the Board of Education recognizes its obligation to all members of the school community to provide a positive climate and a safe, healthy environment,” wrote David Sadler, director of communications and marketing, in the statement.
“To that end, it is expected that all members of the school community will conduct themselves in an ethical and lawful manner that demonstrates respect for self, others, property and the environment.”
Sadler said the district is in regular communication with Xie’s parents, is providing additional counselling to the school community, and will continue to ensure the district’s code of conduct, regulations and guidelines are implemented.
In its own written statement, Richmond RCMP said it cannot provide details on an alleged assault at a local secondary school due to the nature of the investigation, including privacy issues under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“We recognize the potential impact a situation like this can have within the school community,” wrote Cpl. Adriana O’Malley.
“We want to assure the public we are working in conjunction with the Richmond School District to ensure the safety and well-being of those directly involved as well as the overall school community.”
Xie, meanwhile, said her CT scan at the hospital is clear and she will spend several days resting and icing her head and face so the swelling goes down. She’s been cleared to go back to school on Monday, but said she may need more time.
Sorenson said he’s proud of his daughter’s courage and composure throughout the incident.
“I’m just really happy that she is the kind of person she is because she’s not an instigator, and she’s definitely a tough one, that’s for sure,” he told Global News.
“I’m still upset completely about the whole thing, so I really want her to feel safe at school, and I want my other daughter to feel safe at the same school. I hope there can be some way to make it more safe at the school for all the kids.”