Robert Bateman Secondary School suspended 20 students in October over what two administrators described in emails as a “fight club with boxing gloves.”
The emails were obtained last week by the Abbotsford News through a freedom of information request, but the existence of such a fight club at the school is disputed by the district.
In an email to vice-principal Jeff Ritchie dated Oct. 5, the sender, whose identity is redacted, states that another individual “just came to me to let us know that [redacted] admitted to [redacted] today that [redacted] was part of the fight club.”
Most of the emails are disciplinary summaries or notifications sent out from the school’s principal and vice-principals five days after that email, on Oct. 10.
Fifteen emails of this nature were sent out by Robert Bateman Secondary School vice-principals Jeff Ritchie and Janelle Dick, each stating that a student had been suspended for a ‘fight club.’
Dustin Godfrey/Abbotsford News
Ritchie and vice-principal Janelle Dick sent out a set of 15 similar emails, each stating that a student was suspended from school for five days for “fighting (fight club with boxing gloves),” though the remainder of the details are redacted.
Another 18 nearly identical emails were sent out by the vice-principals, each stating that an individual had been given a suspension and asking for homework to be left at the office for a parent or guardian to pick up.
Of those emails, 17 indicate an out-of-school suspension and one indicates an in-school suspension.
Among the emails included in the request, one states that a pair of students were given a warning on Oct. 5 for “inappropriate comments” made in class. The connection to the “fight club” isn’t clear.
But Abbotsford School District spokesperson Kayla Stuckart said in an Oct. 30 email that there “is no fight club” at the school, and that the principal had “dealt with a matter” earlier that month. She reiterated the statement last week, when The News questioned her about the emails.
“I refer you back to my email dated October 30th, 2018 where I confirm there is no fight club at Robert Bateman,” Stuckart said in an email.
“The students used the ‘Fight Club’ term, and in turn, the phrase was inadvertently used by staff when referring to/dealing with this matter.”
Stuckart did, however, confirm that 20 students were suspended. So if not a fight club, to what did the suspensions pertain?
“A disciplinary matter dealt with by the school principal,” was Stuckart’s only response to that question.
A board of review meeting was held regarding the situation, but details are redacted, other than an indication that a mother, father or other guardian attended the meeting. And no details of a specific incident are found in the redacted documents.
According to the district’s student code of conduct, “Serious breaches of conduct that threaten the safety and welfare of others will be referred directly to a District Board of Review. (Level Three suspension).”
In late October, district parent advisory council chair Sherri Anderson told The News that the parent group had not heard any concerns regarding a fight club at the school, “nor have we heard any rumours of this.”