Criminal charges will not be laid against a Smithers Secondary School student who allegedly shot at his classmates with a pellet gun.
A male suspect in a Dodge van shot at three teenagers as they walked through the Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot on Highway 16 last Tuesday.
Not long after, the teenagers were targeted again outside the nearby A&W Restaurant, where one of the group was hit in the knee with a pellet but not seriously injured.
The targeted students reported the incidents to the school, whose principal contacted police later that day.
The shooter was allegedly one of four people, including three high school students, in the van.
Smithers RCMP arrested a teenager who allegedly used an Airsoft pistol in the attack, but later decided not to pursue charges.
Staff Sergeant Rob Mitchell said although criminal charges were considered, police obtained victim consent to put the student through the restorative justice process.
That involves bringing together the suspects and victims for a meeting to discuss the incident.
“The victims are allowed to discuss how the incident has affected them,” said Sgt. Mitchell.
“Family members are usually present as well, so they can express their concerns.
“Ultimately it is hoped that the suspects would agree to never participate in this sort of incident again and there is usually a commitment, they are expected to commit to that.”
Sgt. Mitchell said the restorative justice process was a quick and effective resolution that considered the suspect’s young age.
Bulkley Valley School District superintendent Chris van der Mark said the school had employed its harshest penalty against the three students who were allegedly in the vehicle.
All three have been suspended indefinitely, with the date of their return to school to be determined by senior SSS and board office staff.
van der Mark said it was the first time the school has referred a suspension to the board in four years.
“What that speaks of is that we don’t see incidents like this involving the safety of students,” he said.
“At the end of the day the school has determined, in their opinion, the incident jeopardized the safety of others, so that’s the measuring stick.”
van der Mark said expulsion was not an option at SSS but the school could enforce conditions on the students’ return to school.
He said it was too early to say if the students would be subject to any counselling or remediation measures.
“We try really hard to keep students in school, it’s not in anybody’s interest to have kids expelled, that’s why it’s pretty hard to do,” he said.
“At the end of the day we want students to be aware of how their actions impact themselves and, of course, those around them and that we have a responsibility as a community to interact appropriately and pro-socially.”
Details of the incident emerged today, on Pink Shirt Day, which is a Canada-wide anti-bullying initiative.
van der Mark said the school board would need more information to determine whether it was a targeted act of bullying.
“I don’t want to dismiss that it could be and I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that could be.”