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Rally in support of bullied boy held in Glace Bay


‘No one deserves to be treated this way’

GLACE BAY, N.S. — Fourteen-year-old Brett Corbett is grateful and amazed at all the support he’s received since video of him being used as a human bridge by fellow Glace Bay High students went viral.

Between 75 and 100 people participated in an anti-bullying rally on Reserve Street, next to the Glace Bay High School sign, Tuesday morning, a week after the incident. Students, parents and concerned community members were there showing support for Corbett, who has cerebral palsy, and sharing the message bullying in schools needs to stop.

“It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t walk on a kid, whether he is disabled or not,” Corbett said as tears welled up in his eyes.

“When I returned to school, I hope (things) change. And there’s not a lot of kids getting bullied and when they do, I want other kids to stick up for them.”

Corbett’s story quickly became national news. Even the Washington Post interviewed the family and the Cape Breton Post has received letters about the incident from people in Ottawa and Colorado who don’t know the family.

The Cape Breton Regional-Victoria Centre for Education said they received many calls about the situation but couldn’t say how many. The Cape Breton Post knows of at least one person in Toronto who called the Centre for Education and school to complain.

There is a downside to the popularity. Corbett’s mother, Terri MacEachern, said people have been sharing her home address and phone number online and she’s received letters, phone calls and visits about the situation. Not all have been positive. MacEachern said she has also seen hurtful messages online because she asked adults to stop threatening the aggressors in the video.

“People have said I care more about the bullies than my own son,” she said, with emotion in her voice.

Corbett is still being targeted by people who bully. His mother said he has been withdrawn since the incident and won’t go play his gaming console because of threats.

“I haven’t even been able to go on Xbox because I’ve been getting hate mail,” Corbett said, as he broke down into tears. “It’s one of my favourite things to do and I can’t even go on.”

MacEachern said Corbett’s online tormentors are angry with him for going public about the incident and accuse him of doing it “on purpose to get attention.”

Horns blew as motorists passed the crowd holding signs calling for an end to bullying and for administration at Glace Bay High to take a stand against aggressors in the school.

Debbie Thompson, 62, from Glace Bay, doesn’t know Corbett or his family but wanted to attend because it “hit home.” A close family member of hers was bullied all through school and she remembers what it was like for them.

“When I saw the video of them walking on (Corbett) it tore the heart out of me. I haven’t stopped thinking about how it is still going on,” she said. “It will never stop.”

Sherwood Park Education Centre student Emma Whiffen, 13, was at the rally with her mother, Arlene Whiffen. Emma asked her mother if she could skip school to attend because she wanted to support Corbett even though she had never met him.

Arlene said Emma called it “the school of life” and she agreed it was “more important Emma be here than at school.”

When asked what Emma thought of the video, she said it “hurt” her, but she wasn’t surprised by how terrible the students were treating Corbett, who has been a victim of bullying since elementary school.

“That’s kind of a sad commentary right there that she’s not surprised by (the actions of some students) on the video,” added Arlene.

Champion boxer Ryan Rozicki was also there, walking with Corbett who smiled as they talked. Rozicki reached out to the family to offer his support in the effort to stop bullying.

“When I first saw the video I was sick,” said the Canadian cruiserweight title holder from Sydney Forks.

“I am just trying to change some of the negativity there is on the island. Something’s got to change.”

Related: Bullying incident at Glace Bay High School under police investigation

MacEachern and Corbett agree things have to change, including how people treat the students who were bullying Corbett.

“They are kids at the end of the day, you don’t make threats to kids. (The adults threatening the students involved) are doing no better than what they did to him,” said MacEachern.

As of Tuesday morning, three students involved in the incident had apologized to Corbett and MacEachern said her son was quick to forgive them. She is doing the same.

“How can you hate on a kid? Hate is an ugly black spot that will grow on your heart. Hate is an ugly emotion. We need to stop hate.”

MacEachern said no one from the school or Cape Breton Regional-Victoria Centre for Education had reached out to see if her son needed any support services. She also said she isn’t ruling out filing a complaint against some Centre for Education staff.


Statement from the Cape Breton Regional-Victoria Centre for Education:

“First, in no way do we condone bullying behaviour. This incident is tremendously harmful to both the individual involved and the school community as a whole.

We are disappointed and saddened by the behaviour that led to the incident on the video.

The negative actions of a few are not a reflection of what our Centre for Education, our schools, or staff and the vast majority of students at Glace Bay High School are all about. We are a strong community, bound by pride in our schools and compassion and care for one another. And we want to assure our parents and community that we have, and will continue to, work with the students, staff and parents to address this behaviour.

In addition to specifically addressing individuals involved, Glace Bay High School’s principal, vice-principals and other members of Administration are leading a restorative practice process to work collaboratively with the school community. A restorative practice approach involves students, staff, parents, School Advisory Council and members of the school community, in a process that acknowledges the harm done and gives a voice to all in planning our way forward within a respectful, safe and secure learning environment.

We all need to do better.”


nicole.sullivan@cbpost.com

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