Calgary school: ‘We don’t condone heroics’

Seventh-grader Briar MacLean pushed a knife-wielding bully away from his victim — and was reprimanded for “playing the hero,” reports the National Post (Canada).  The Calgary, Alberta school “does not condone heroics,” the principal told MacLean’s mother.

Briar, 13, saw the bully poke and prod his victim, then put him in a headlock. He heard a flick and heard classmates “say there was a knife.” Briar shoved the bully into a wall, stopping the fight.

The teacher, who was at the other end of the room, noticed and called the principal. The boy with the knife was suspended. Several periods later, Briar was called to the office and kept there for the rest of the day. The police searched his locker. The vice-principal called Briar’s mother, Leah O’Donnell, to say he’d done the wrong thing by not waiting for the teacher.

“I asked: ‘In the time it would have taken him to go get a teacher, could that kid’s throat have been slit?’ She said yes, but that’s beside the point. That we ‘don’t condone heroics in this school.’ ”

O’Donnell says “she understands the school’s desire to keep students from getting hurt, but fears it is teaching the wrong lesson,” reports the Post. Students should learn to stand up to bullies and help each other, she believes.

Running away, tattling usually just make things worse. . . . Most of the time bullies back down when confronted, she added.

“What are we going to do if there are no heroes in the world? There would be no police, no fire, no armed forces. If a guy gets mugged on the street, everyone is going to run away and be scared or cower in the corner. It’s not right.”

“What are we teaching these children?” asked Briar’s mother in a letter to the Calgary Sun “When did we decide as a society to allow our children to grow up without spines? Without a decent sense of the difference between right and wrong?”

Update: An 11-year-old Maryland boy on a school bus said, “I wish I had a gun to protect everyone at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He was suspended for 10 days. His son “wanted to be the hero,” said Bruce Henkelman.

The boy was questioned by the principal and a sheriff’s deputy, who wanted to search the family home for firearms, Henkelman said. He refused. The suspension later was reduced to one day.

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  1. In our society we can’t have any heroes. That would be elitist.

  2. This could have the wonderful side-effect of teaching kids to have a healthy disrespect for authority. The kid who defended the would-be victim knows now that some adults are too stupid to be trusted. The would-be victim now knows that relying on adults–or others–to protect him is a potentially fatal mistake. Both kids should re-evaluate accordingly.

    As for the parents–they, too, need to think long and hard about the environment where they put their kids. Schools are supposed to act in loco parentis, but if the school you send your child to is actively punishing anyone who tries to keep your child from being killed, then you know that these are not the adults you want exercising authority over your child. These are also not the adults you want to have involved in the moral guidance of your child. The parents may discover the school is worthless at any other sort of guidance as well. They should re-evaluate accordingly.

  3. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    One of the worst beatings I ever got was around age 11 or so when I came home from school and told my Father that one of my friends had been in a fight. He took one look at me and realized I didn’t have any scrapes, stains, or bruises.

    “And what the f*** were you doing?”

    In that instant, I learned a tremendous lesson about personal responsibility. I suppose the beatings were to help me remember it.

    I wonder what lesson this kid is learning.

  4. Tar, feathers.

    • My first reaction was along the tar and feathers line, but if the teacher is so out of it that he or she is not aware of one student attacking another, that total lack of situational awareness should be a bar to being in a classroom.

      And, if the school administration thinks this is an appropriate reaction to their failure to enforce classroom discipline, they are too indelibly stained by the liberal educational meme to be allowed any contact with students.

  5. This is just infuriating.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I agree it is awful, but I tried to think of any rational explanation – it could be that the district is worried about lawsuits – one student getting injured vs. potentially multiple students getting injured. Additionally, if the district is seen as condoning this, they open themselves up to potentially massive liability. You can bet the little creeps that assault other kids do not have parents who carry umbrella insurance policies – so the district and of course, ultimately the taxpayers pay. Sad indictment on the state of society today.

  7. First, “zero tolerance” polices are anything but new. They’ve been around since at least the 1990’s. Kids get suspended for taking butter knives to school, pointing their fingers and saying “bang” or biting their sandwich into something arguably gun-shaped. This is not news to you.

    Very typically schools impose the rule is that if you lay hands on another student, no matter what the circumstances, you get suspended. They hit you first? It doesn’t matter. They were hitting somebody else? It doesn’t matter. You can play the hero if you want, but you will get a suspension. Call it a lesson in civil disobedience.

    Second, why is it important that the child’s mom made up the claim, “Most of the time bullies back down when confronted”? That may be true of some bullies, but it’s certainly not true of all bullies. The psycho kids of the sort who pick fights and pull knives? Back in my day, you could not count on them to back down, and with some any public embarrassment all-but-guaranteed subsequent retaliation, often when your back was turned.

    Third, believe it or not, heroes get shot and stabbed. There are many incidents in which a hero not only was wounded or killed, but in retrospect may have triggered a physical attack that would otherwise have ended at the level of the threat. I can very much understand why a school doesn’t want kids playing hero, even if the local funeral home is offering a 2 for 1 special.

    Personally, I detest most zero tolerance rules. I think they reflect lazy school administration – an unwillingness to exercise discretion or to have to justify treating different incidents differently if there’s a superficial similarity. I also think that punishments doled out are often excessive – something that again results from lazy administrators who don’t want to have to explain why one student got expelled for fighting, when another got a suspension and another got a warning. But that’s the world we live in, and most people seem content with it.

    • You may actually believe that “most people seem content with it,” but that is a spurious claim. Odd that you would write that after balking at the mom’s claim that most bullies back down when confronted.

      • Agreed. We’ve come a long way. It used to be that the people who stood around watching others get harmed or killed were understood to be pitiful, unworthy human beings. Think Kitty Genovese (I’m aware the story was debunked. Concentrate on the tree: the sentiment). Now, it is apparently desired and encouraged to be the kind of person who would watch such a thing and do nothing to help. Cowardice is now a virtue. You could get hurt is now an excuse. Doing the right thing is now to be punished. Such a long way we’ve come.

        • Mark Roulo says:

          “Cowardice is now a virtue.”


          Well, sometimes. The general sentiment seems to be that Mike McQueary did the *wrong* thing in not interfering when he found Jerry Sandusky in the shower with a 10 year old.


          • Yet in both instances, the administration espoused a policy of non-interference that failed to protect its charges, and the outrage has been external to the system. I submit that the administration at Sir John A. Macdonald Junior High is teaching its children to behave as Mike McQueary did.

  8. Claire Boston says:


    If it was your kid with the knife being held to their throat, would you still believe it was wrong for the ‘hero’ to interfere? Personally, I don’t care what the school administration says, I think the kid was a hero. And if it was my kid who interfered and prevented a bully from hurting someone? I’d praise them, pull them out of that useless excuse for a school, and make sure that everyone and his brother knew why. Then I’d find a school that believed in personal responsibility and involvement (yes, I know they’re rare as hen’s teeth) and put him/her there.

    Funny, isn’t it, how schools encourage kids to take action on environmental and political issues, but when someone’s actual life is threatened, they want them to stand aside and not get involved? Maybe that one kid might have gotten hurt. But what if 5 kids all intervened to protect the one being bullied? What if (gasp!) a teacher intervened? Nah, never happen…

    • Claire,
      I’m not sure how you’ve misconstrued my statements, but you’ve totally misunderstood me. Please revisit what I wrote: “I submit that the administration at Sir John A. Macdonald Junior High is teaching its children to behave as Mike McQueary did.”