A 15 year old grade 10 student who was small for his age had been bullied for several months by an older student who was a popular athlete in the school. The two boys were unknown to each other. The bullying, which began with the older student ridiculing and taunting the younger student, eventually developed into him jostling and bumping hard against the younger student whenever he came across him in the halls.
The younger student did his best to avoid the older student and was reluctant to tell anyone because he did not want to be known as a sneak; he also thought it would only make matters worse. He became withdrawn at home, developed frequent headaches, and wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. Eventually, his parent persuaded him to tell them what was going on, and although he pleaded with them not to contact the school they decided they had to. Before they had an opportunity to do so, the following incident occurred.
The older student approached the younger student in an aggressive manner. When he was very close, the younger student punched him in the face, splitting his lip. The older student in turn began punching back. As a result of throwing the first punch and splitting the other student’s lip, the younger student was suspended from school and eventually charged with criminal assault.
Based on your knowledge of education law, what do you think is likely to be the outcome of this case? Given the circumstances, do you think the principal was right to suspend the younger student? If not, what advice would you offer the parents of the student?