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Hate-crime investigator digs deeper into bullying brawl

From Friday's Globe and Mail

A hate-crime investigator continues to probe the fight that led to the suspension of a 15-year-old Korean student at a high school in Keswick, Ont.

The youth began his first day at a special centre for suspended students Thursday, still unsure whether the boy he says racially abused and then punched him will face charges.

A spokeswoman for York Regional Police said no further charges have been laid, but police continue to conduct interviews.

“There is a hate crime investigator assigned to look into whether it is a hate crime or hate motivated in some way,” Sergeant Laurie Perks said Thursday.

The 15-year-old was suspended for 20 days and will not be able to attend regular classes at Keswick High School. He is also charged with assault causing bodily harm, and will have to attend a local police station next week to be processed and fingerprinted, his father said.

The charge stems from a fight in gym class on April 21. The 15-year-old, who came with his parents to Canada from Korea in 2004, says he got into a dispute with a white classmate. The white student addressed him with a racial slur, calling him “a fucking Chinese,” and when confronted he refused to apologize.

The white student threw the first punch, hitting the 15-year-old in the mouth. The 15-year-old, a black belt in tae kwon do, threw a left-handed jab that broke the white student's nose. The 15-year-old was the only one charged, which led to an outcry from the students at his school.

More than 400 walked out of class Monday morning to protest, carrying signs and wearing black clothing as a sign of solidarity.

The 15-year-old's mother said it doesn't seem fair that only her son would be charged when he acted in self-defence. She said the racial slur, which was echoed a day later by an older cousin of the boy whose nose was broken, is deeply concerning to her and her husband.

She spoke to the school's vice-principal about creating a special anti-racism curriculum, but was told that it wasn't necessary because it's taught in geography classes. She disagrees, citing the 2007 incidents of Asian fisherman being assaulted and harassed in the Lake Simcoe area close to Keswick.

“This isn't just kids fighting. The core of this is racism. That's why I keep saying to the vice-principal, ‘What are you doing to educate these children?' ” she said.

But she feels the school's administration is dismissing her concerns. She suggested a public apology by her son's attacker would be a good start, but hasn't heard whether it will happen.

“We're just Asian parents going to the school asking something in broken English,” she said.

The boy's father said he hopes the media attention doesn't place too much pressure on everyone involved. He doesn't want this incident preceding his son into every classroom, colouring every teacher's perception of his character. But he said he can't concede without a fight.

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