OAK BAY, B.C. – A Vancouver Island high school has suspended its junior boys’ basketball team for a serious case of cyberbullying and says the action was meant to prevent future harm against students.
The principal of Oak Bay Secondary ended its junior boys’ basketball team’s season Friday following the mid-January incident that involved the online posting of a “highly inappropriate” photo.
The picture, depicting a team member posing with another player, spawned a series of negative comments on social media against one student, said Supt. Piet Langstraat.
The Victoria-area school meted out the suspension as discipline, although its administration determined with police that the incident did not meet the threshold for a criminal investigation.
“The nature of the photograph certainly was disturbing, but the police have not seen it as a criminal matter,” said Langstraat, of the Greater Victoria School District.
“It is a difficult lesson for these young men, but I believe it’s an important lesson for them and an important statement for our school district and community.”
School staff discovered the bullying about a week ago, prompting an investigation, Langstraat said.
The majority of the 16-member basketball team of Grade 9 and 10 students was found to have known about the bullying or participated in it, he said.
WATCH: Oak Bay High School suspends basketball team following allegations of cyberbullying
Counselling was being offered to the victim and to other team members because “there are also issues for the ones doing the bullying,” Langstraat said.
“It very much is dealing with individuals,” he said. “So it’s looking at that circumstance. What was the motivation behind the action? And working with each individual student to come to understand that.”
The team had about three weeks left in the season and featured talented players who would likely have done well in the playoffs, Langstraat said.
Some parents of the suspended players questioned the school about the curtailed season, but most supported the decision, he said.
The school contacted the Oak Bay Police Department, which opened a file as a routine matter, but a further investigation will not be done, Const. Rick Anthony said.
He said officers agreed the disciplinary action was best for everyone involved.
“What they do at their level is very, very well thought out and carefully considered,” he said. “If this is what they’ve decided to do, then we totally respect that.”
The department can still get involved if more serious allegations or new facts emerge, Anthony said. He was not aware of any complaints made to police.
A case of extreme cyberbullying against British Columbia teen Amanda Todd in 2012 elevated the issue among educators and the public. The 15-year-old took her own life after an explicit photo of her was repeatedly shared online.
Last fall, B.C.’s independent children’s representative and the province’s privacy commissioner submitted a joint report to the legislature urging the government to develop a comprehensive strategy to tackle malicious online behaviour.
They found the province’s current approach is a patchwork system consisting mainly of a school-based strategy and concluded that the program is small and has no means of assessing its impact.