Christie Blatchford: No one knows how to fight the hysteria of this kind of asymmetric warfare

It is that most modern of stories, with only a couple of lessons, each profoundly depressing.

The first is this: She who gets to social media first wins.

The other is this: When they come for you, whether it is with allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment or even worse, racism, or worst of all, because there’s a hierarchy in racism too, anti-black racism, you are done like dinner.

Facts no longer matter.

Indeed, there are no facts any longer, only feelings.

The March 27 incident at Glenview Senior Public School in Toronto was between two Grade 7 students who don’t much like one another. This sort of thing happens every day in most schools. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you: Kids go at one another.

It’s not even exactly clear what happened, whether or not the boy (or “the white boy” as he is always identified on social media) threw or did not throw a binder at the girl (“that black child”) or she threw a binder at him.

Shortly after the story hit social media, there was a threat to burn Glenview down

But he made faces at the girl while she was giving her presentation and at one point, he punched her in the face. The teacher may have been standing at the back of the room to take in the presentations, and may not have seen the boy making faces.

The girl was left with a bloodshot, swollen eye and a nosebleed.

Only then did the gentle, beloved, long-time Glenview principal, Mario Sirois, learn of two earlier incidents between the two kids — one, last November, of mutual name-calling and one, in December, where the boy allegedly told the girl he didn’t like her “n—– hair.”

The boy flatly denies ever using the N word.

When the earlier incidents happened, staff believed they had successfully mediated a peace between the two (and in fairness to them, there was peace for almost three months). But Sirois and vice-principal Maryam Hasan weren’t told in a contemporaneous way of the allegedly racist remark; they should have been.

This is one of the “gaps” in protocol later identified by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB).

The only other gap was that when the girl, understandably upset and howling, was brought to the office, they did what most anyone would do when confronted with a child with a banged-up face — they put on cold compresses to reduce swelling and, perhaps, calm her down.

Then, more than an hour later, they called the girl’s mother.

This, in the mother’s first post to Instagram about a month later, was interpreted as follows: they “put ice on her face first before they called as they knew how I would react to the incident so they tried to cover it up.”

Ah yes, the old ice-as-cover-up trick.

The mom also posted a picture of her daughter, with swollen eye, and used her first name on Instagram.

On Twitter, a hashtag in the little girl’s name began.

It was soon filled with talk of “oppressive practices” at the TDSB and praise for “our baby sister as she’s forced to brave anti-black TDSB, Glenview and continued violence from her abuser.”

A new Twitter account, in support of the girl, was also set up.

On it, surreptitiously taken pictures of Sirois and Hasan — at a meeting they had with the girl’s mom and various unidentified supporters — were taken.

Hasan was identified as “Vice-Principal-Misognyoiristic.” Sirois’s photo bore the title: “Principal — most likely to think he’s massa — Mario Sirois.”

A centrally assigned principal who was brought in to help, a black man named Courtney Lewis, was described as “Courtney Coonin’ Lewis.”

School staff lists, with email and phone numbers, were published.

The girl’s mother, last weekend, appeared on a radio show on 1010 Newstalk (full disclosure, I work there part-time). This week, the Toronto Star followed up with a news story on the front page of its local section.

At the time of the March incident, the boy was suspended for five days, a punishment about as harsh as it gets, absent a student bringing a knife or gun to school and threatening someone with it.

For privacy reasons, the board didn’t disclose to the girl’s mother what precisely the punishment was, only that there had been one.

Shortly after the story hit social media, there was a threat to burn Glenview down, and an online threat to “f— up” the boy.

There are 800 students at Glenview; imagine trying to schedule every minute to keep two students apart

Sirois sent home a letter to parents, acknowledging the gaps in procedures and apologizing, and admitting anti-black racism exists in the school. It didn’t matter: He and Hasan were put on “home assignment” last Monday.

Neither returned calls seeking comment.

TDSB director John Malloy made a clear statement that the board “does not tolerate anti-black racism or discrimination of any kind.” All 37,000 board employees were reminded of their duty to report and address incidents of racism. And the board has appointed a third-party investigator to attempt to sort out what happened.

None of it mattered: The online ranting continued.

At Glenview itself, even as they felt betrayed and portrayed as racist, staff worked out a detailed safety plan for the girl: She and the boy would use different entrances to come and go from the school; there would be a teaching assistant in the girl’s classes (on social media, this was described as “surveillance” and “more of a prison plan”). The two would never pass one another in the halls or be on the same floor. There are 800 students at Glenview; imagine trying to schedule every minute to keep two students apart.

When the mother, her lawyer and supporters met staff again last week, they had three demands: The boy must be expelled; Sirois must be fired, and some money, please, for pain and hurt.

They have come for Mario Sirois, Glenview and the TDSB. No one knows how to fight the hysteria of this kind of asymmetric warfare. Multiple sources confirm it’s a virtual certainty that Sirois, despite his long and successful tenure at Glenview, will be moved to another school, and that the TDSB will offer the mother money.

It is good, I suppose, they aren’t literally asking for blood, because how would the board meet that demand, and you know it would want to try.

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