Friday, May 31, 2013
After Briar MacLean stepped up to defend his classmate against a knife-wielding bully, his mother, Leah O’Donnell, was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics.” Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation. Mike Ridewood for National Post
“I was in between two desks and he was poking and prodding the guy,” Briar, 13, said at the kitchen table of his Calgary home Friday.
“He put him in a headlock, and I saw that.”
He added he didn’t see the knife, but “I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife.”
I heard the flick, and I heard them say there was a knife
The rest was just instinct. Briar stepped up to defend his classmate, pushing the knife-wielding bully away.
The teacher took notice, the principal was summoned and Briar went about his day. It wasn’t until fourth period everything went haywire.
“I got called to the office and I wasn’t able to leave until the end of the day,” he said.
That’s when Leah O’Donnell, Briar’s mother, received a call from the vice-principal.
Leah O'Donnell and her son Briar MacLean, 13, in Calgary, Friday, May 31, 2013. Mike Ridewood for National Post
“They phoned me and said, ‘Briar was involved in an incident today,’” she said. “That he decided to ‘play hero’ and jump in.”
Ms. O’Donnell was politely informed the school did not “condone heroics,” she said. Instead, Briar should have found a teacher to handle the situation.
“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”
Instead of getting a pat on the back for his bravery, Briar was made to feel as if he had done something terribly wrong. The police were called, the teen filed a statement and his locker was searched.
Calgary Police Service confirmed there was an incident at Sir John A. Macdonald junior high school Tuesday: a third student intervened in a fight between two others and a knife was involved.
The incident is being investigated and no one has been charged.
Ms. O’Donnell said the bully had since been suspended.
Sitting in their northwest Calgary home as Briar’s younger brother played with Buzz Lightyear action figures, Ms. O’Donnell said this isn’t the first time her child had been in trouble for confronting bullies, either.
She teaches her son to stand up for others, and for himself. His heroics were featured on the front page of Friday’s Calgary Sun. His mother had obtained several copies she stacked on her coffee table.
“We used to get phone calls home from the elementary school saying Briar’s been in a fight, but he was always defending someone,” she said.
“He stuck up for himself with a bully one time and they actually gave him heck for that, too. He had a friend stick up for him in that situation and I’m taking the two of them to Disneyland in two weeks. Because if you stick up for my kid, I’m going to treat you right.”
The mother says she understands the school’s desire to keep students from getting hurt, but fears it is teaching the wrong lesson.
What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world?
Running away, tattling usually just make things worse. Students need to learn how to handle bullies on their own and how to help each other.
“What are they teaching them? That when you go out into the workforce and someone is not being very nice to you, you have to tattle to your boss? You’re not going to get promoted that way,” she said.
Most of the time bullies back down when confronted, she added.
“What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world? There would be no police, no fire, no armed forces. If a guy gets mugged on the street, everyone is going to run away and be scared or cower in the corner. It’s not right.”
The Calgary Board of Education did not respond to a request for comment.