A young boy’s family is demanding more action from police and school officials following a violent attack they say was motivated by hate.
“They were saying the N-word, they were calling me monkey,” said the 14-year-old student of the attack outside Rosslyn School in north Edmonton, Alta., last week. “That made me afraid to wear my own skin.”
The Grade 8 student, who CBC News is only identifying by the name Pazo, said he was leaving school to catch a bus on April 16 when a group of about seven students chased him and tackled him to the ground.
In a video of the attack circulating online, the teenager is swarmed by other boys who punch and kick him. A person in a white hoodie then puts the boy in a chokehold, dragging him before slamming him to the ground. Someone could be heard calling the student the N-word during the attack.
WARNING: Video contains graphic content:
It is unclear who filmed the incident.
Pazo’s mother, Julienne, who CBC News has also agreed to identify only by her first name, said her son suffered a concussion from the attack and was treated in hospital.
The family is now calling for the students involved to face criminal charges.
“I feel bad,” Julienne told reporters at the schoolyard on Saturday. “Why I came out is because I need justice.”
They are upset with the Edmonton Police Service’s initial response to the incident, after an officer asked the teen if he instigated the fight, Pazo said.
A statement from spokesperson Carolin Maran said Edmonton police are investigating the assault. She said Pazo and a family member went to EPS Northeast Division station on Friday and were told to first go to the nearest medical centre to treat his injuries before calling police to have an officer dispatched.
The complaint line was called on Monday, Maran said, and an officer was dispatched to begin the investigation, which remains ongoing.
“The EPS takes these incidents seriously and recognizes the impact such incidents can have on the entire community,” she said. “The EPS continues to work diligently and closely with all parties involved to address this event.”
Darrel Robertson, superintendent for Edmonton Public Schools, released a statement Friday saying the altercation involved Rosslyn students and people who do not attend the school. He called the attack “deeply disturbing” and of “immense concern” to the division.
Rosslyn School is working with Edmonton police as they investigate, the superintendent’s statement says. The division said it cannot provide any information about who may have been involved or any potential related consequences due to privacy legislation.
The school board’s initial response also drew criticism from Pazo’s family and advocates.
“We don’t want this to be called an altercation,” said Andrew Parker, co-founder of the Black Teachers Association of Alberta, who joined the family in support at the schoolyard on Saturday. “We want this to be called what it is. This is a jumping of a Black boy based on his race.”
On Saturday, Robertson put out another statement saying he had heard concerns from community members and the division had reached out to the family to offer additional support.
“Our schools and our community need to be safe spaces for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour students, staff and families,” he said. “We need to renew our focus on anti-racism education and ending systemic racism.”
Robertson listed the range of consequences the students involved in the attack could face from the school division, including suspension and expulsion.
“The Division recognizes the seriousness of this incident and will hold all students involved accountable.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.