Assault charge amended to assault with weapon for student at Centre Wellington District High School

Students planning unity march on Friday

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Wellington County OPP have amended the criminal charge against a 14-year-old male student who was involved in a violent incident on Oct. 7 at Centre Wellington District High School, from assault to assault with a weapon.

On Oct. 7 police responded to the school in regard to an assault in progress. At the time, police officials stated they were unaware of any weapon being used.

The assault sent a transgender student to hospital.

However, a Nov. 17 press release from the Wellington OPP states “It was determined that a physical altercation occurred between two students where a weapon was used.”

OPP spokesperson Cheri Rockefeller said she couldn’t answer questions “of an evidentiary nature” such as naming the weapon, or what was happening at the school when officers arrived on scene.

As to what transpired between the original Oct. 7 assault charge and the new weapons charge, Rockefeller said, “officers continued to investigate the incident and as a result of the investigation – the charge was amended in court.”

The accused, a 14-year-old Fergus resident is scheduled to appear in the Ontario Court of Justice – Guelph.

At the time of the incident, some parents and students told the Advertiser there was a culture of hate and intolerance against 2SLGBTQIA+ and BIPOC students at the school.

Indeed, on the school’s website is a message addressing a second incident that allegedly occurred on Oct. 13.

“On Wednesday Oct. 13, 2021, a student at Centre Wellington District High School was verbally and physically assaulted by CWDHS students outside of the school,” the message reads.

It goes on to say that acts of violence and hate are not tolerated anywhere in the Upper Grand District School Board, and that supports are available for students.

The Advertiser heard from a parent at the time who said a group of students threatened a gay student and burned a Pride flag in front of him. A second student intervened and was assaulted by the group as a result.

Rockefeller could not confirm that the incident occurred.

“I am not aware of a call for service on Oct. 13 regarding an assault at CWDHS or the Pride flag being burnt,” she said.

In a public meeting hosted by the school board on Oct. 28, the school’s principal Jennifer Meeker acknowledged that transphobia and homophobia are on the rise at CWDHS.

And in an email this week, Meeker said the Student Action Group has organized a unity march at the school on Friday to demonstrate support for all minority groups.

“Students organized this march in order to empower marginalized groups, to show allyship and to reset the culture at CWDHS. Their slogan Celebrate Diversity and Embrace Unity is letting marginalized students know that they are not alone,” she said.

Meeker said other events are also planned at the school.

  • On Nov. 24, Orlando Bowen, from One Voice One Team, will be part of a school-wide virtual assembly, which will be a call to action for the whole school to build a better, more inclusive community through service; and
  • On Dec. 3, there will be a school-wide virtual assembly with Egale, Draw the Line Against Transphobic Violence, which is a leading organization for 2SLGBTQIA+ people and issues.

“The assembly will focus on helping participants recognize and intervene in these harmful dynamics, and build skills for fostering cultures of consent, gender inclusion, and healthier relationships overall,” she wrote.

Meeker also said that the board is compiling results from a survey after the public meeting.

“We are appreciative of the many offers of support and suggestions that came from the survey that was sent out following the first community meeting, which are helping to inform next steps,” she said.