GTA Girls escorts
After hearing for months about the bullying her 11-year-old daughter has allegedly endured in the schoolyard, Jill Trahan-Hardy took matters into her own hands.
Dissatisfied with the solutions presented by administrators at Earl Haig Public School, she has become her daughter’s near-constant guardian in the hallways, at recess and during lunch. With the approval of the superintendent, Trahan-Hardy is at her daughter’s classroom door from the moment the bell rings — a fix she calls extreme but necessary.
“It’s ridiculous that I have to do this, ” said Trahan-Hardy, who has been escorting her daughter in school since Monday. “Hopefully this doesn’t have to go on for the rest of the school year, but if it does, I’ll be here.”
As the potentially tragic implications of bullying are repeatedly thrust into the spotlight, this case points to the mounting unrest of parents whose children suffer schoolyard torment and raises questions about the appropriate response.
MORE ON THESTAR.COM:
Trahan-Hardy said she first brought her concerns about bullying to teachers in March. But she began to truly fear for the safety of her daughter, Harley Campos, when her alleged tormenters — two Grade 7 girls — confronted her during the lunch hour early last week.
According to an audio recording of the interaction, the older girls repeatedly threatened to beat up the Grade 5 student for talking behind their backs, and making quips about one of their mothers who had recently passed away — allegations Harley denies.
Trahan-Hardy pulled her daughter out of school, and brought the recording, made with another student’s iPhone, to administrators. But she was unhappy with the day-and-a-half suspension she said the older students received, and upset by the fixes the school offered, such as allowing Harley to stay in the office during lunch, or transfer to another school.
“She is being punished for being bullied, ” Trahan-Hardy said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Trahan-Hardy also reported the incident to police. Const. Wendy Drummond said an investigation was conducted, but no charges laid. The case is now closed.
Citing privacy concerns, school board superintendent Vicky Branco declined to discuss the specifics of the case. But speaking on behalf of school officials, Branco confirmed that, at the moment, a parent is “volunteering in the school for a period of one week.”
“As with any resolution, each is unique and made in the best interests of the student. . . . Should there be any concerns moving forward, we will of course have further conversations with those involved, ” she said in an email.
TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said schools rely of a number of methods to deal with bullying, including “restorative practices, mediation, progressive discipline, and use of social workers.”
Karen Finley-Kelly, co-chair of the school council at Earl Haig, said Trahan-Hardy’s concerns are not shared by most other parents, who view it as a “very safe and supportive community.”
“If (being at school is) what’s going to make her feel better, I guess that’s OK, but I think the school does a pretty good job on its own, ” she said. “I worry that more kids will feel that they will have to do that. I don’t like that idea, and I don’t think it’s necessary.”
David Smith, a bullying prevention expert at the University of Ottawa, said the trouble with this solution is that it risks “further isolating” Harley, a concern Trahan-Hardy said she also shares.