Police in London, Ontario announced
the arrests on Thursday. For those few students at London South Collegiate Institute who hadn't learned of the arrests on social media, they were told about them at a school assembly.
The eight girls face one count each of criminal harassment. The Grade 10 girls have been released from custody on Promises to Appear and are required to appear in court at a future date. The teens have also been suspended from school.
Under section 264 of the Criminal Code, criminal harassment is defined as engaging in conduct that causes a person to reasonably fear for their safety. The prohibited conduct can be carried out by communicating with the person, directly or indirectly and includes threatening conduct.
Ruby Sweeney, a friend of the victim, told CBC
her friend was called derogatory names that had sexual overtones, and was bullied about her looks and the fact she wore too much makeup. After the bullying began, the teen girl began cutting herself and was bullied about that.
Friends of the alleged bullied girl brought the bullying to the attention of school authorities and the London Police Service. They did this by means of a portal on the school's website
called "South Cares." The portal allows people to anonymously report what they perceive to be acts of bullying. Students who report these incidents are able to identify themselves if they wish.
The first step the school took after learning of the incidents was to see that the victim was fully protected and safe.
Bill Tucker, of the Thames Valley District School Board, told Global TV
he was happy the procedures put in place worked. He said, "It involved community members being upstanders, in other words not being bystanders, being upstanders and reporting bullying behaviour. Bullying is not tolerated. There are consequences. I am responsible for the safety of all students."
News of the arrests spread on the same day as vigils
were held across Canada and in other countries for Amanda Todd. Amanda, 15, killed herself last week after two years of being tormented. She had been blackmailed and bullied after she flashed her breasts on a webcam to someone she met online. She was also beaten in front of the school she transferred to in an attempt to escape the bullying.
A mother of a student at the London school told CTV News
, "I'm just thankful that we have eight girls that are being charged and we don't have another suicide on our hands."
The investigation is continuing and police say more charges may be laid.