Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mea Culpa

This is a great case of reporter correcting a mistake in as big a font they made it in, regardless if the error is their fault or the fault of bad information.

The Charlottetown Guardian reported on the axe weilding incident I posted about earlier. Following the publication of that story, their comments section was filled, including one well written post from a young woman who was on the bus. She told a different version than the one provided by the police.

Now the police are changing their story, and the reporter has to wear it... and she does, while pointing out that the mistake wasn't just hers. The mighty fire axe scandal continues to fill up a news vacuum on PEI.

And watch the police blame the school board... behind political patronage and 100 per cent hindsight, finger pointing may be the third strongest PEIism.

Here is the story:

Police start from scratch in axe probe
The Guardian

City police are “starting from scratch’’ in their investigation of last week’s incident on a P.E.I. school bus in which one student tried to strike another with the emergency fire axe, after some information initially reported publicly has been challenged.

Deputy Chief Richard Collins told The Guardian Monday some of the details originally released by the Eastern School District last week have since been contradicted by parents of children on board the bus at the time — as well as some of the students themselves.

This led to Collins giving the media reports last week on the incident that may not have been exactly as they occurred, he said Monday.

“The information that we were given on Friday was information that was afforded us by a representative of the Eastern School District,’’ Collins said.

“That information was very cryptic, very sparse. But it was information we felt was part of their investigation of this whole incident and what they were doing internally as a school district involving these kids.’’

Since then, parents of one of the students have contacted police with another take on the events that occurred on the Eastern School District bus last Wednesday.
It all started when a 17-year-old male student was hit by styrofoam Nerf darts thrown by some other students.

On Friday, Collins told The Guardian he believed this student felt he was being bullied by two students throwing the darts.

Then one of them stood up to collect their darts.

“He apparently went back and threw that student to the floor of the bus. Another student intervened and allegedly punched him,’’ Collins said in an interview last Friday.

That’s when he went to the front of the bus, grabbed the axe and started toward the back of the bus.

But parents of one of the two implicated as the dart throwers have since come forward, telling police their son was an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire.

“What the parents are saying is — ‘No, what happened is the dart was shot, my son had picked up the dart and was bringing it back to the rear of the bus when for some reason the guy with the axe saw him . . . grabbed him and threw him to the floor,’’ Collins told The Guardian Monday.

“There is an assumption that their son was a bully or one of the bullies that started this whole thing unfolding.’’

It was also initially reported by the Eastern School District that the student with the axe walked toward the back of the bus and lifted the weapon in preparation to hit the boy with the axe’s wooden handle.

Now, a number of eyewitnesses are saying he was actually holding the axe as someone would when going to chop wood.

Collins said police are now going back and revisiting all details before making any decisions on charges.

“I’m not totally happy with the way this unfolded from our perspective. We were afforded very sketchy information on Friday.’’

Police were not formally involved until Friday morning, and were given very little information to go on, Collins said. They were given only the name of one person involved — the student who had the axe.

“We never even had the names of the other students involved in this altercation on the bus. We didn't know about it until well after it happened. I’m not trying to be critical here, but I really think any information that was given by them should have been exact, should have been detailed and should have been substantiated. Because today we find ourselves starting from scratch because we had nothing.’’

When contacted for comment on the issue, Eastern School District superintendent Sandy MacDonald said he is not handling this file.

It’s in the hands of Eastern School District’s director of student services Adrian Smith, who was out of his office Monday. MacDonald was surprised police would be upset by the process followed in this incident.