Amid lingering tensions between local families, a review of the school handling of the Rehtaeh Parsons case has begun with the appointment by the Nova Scotia government of two Ontario experts.
The two, psychologist Debra Pepler and educator Penny Milton, will conduct an independent assessment of the allegations that the 17-year-old Ms. Parsons killed herself after being sexually assaulted, and then bullied by schoolmates.
Dr. Pepler, a York University professor, and Ms. Milton, a former CEO of the Canadian Education Association, have until June 14 to investigate but will file an interim report May 10.
The appointment by Marilyn More, minister responsible for the status of women, came as Ms. Parsons’ family has been in an uproar over posters defending her alleged assailants that have appeared on their neighbourhood’s utility poles.
“I saw it myself. It was pretty upsetting to see them make it to our neighbourhood. I didn’t like that they had come to our area and do such a thing,” said Jason Barnes, the boyfriend of Ms. Parson’s mother, Leah.
On her Facebook tribute page to her daughter, Leah Parsons lashed out at those who put up the posters.
“This is our street, we are mourning our daughter, my children live in this neighbourhood. If you wanted to speak the truth ... why didnt you speak when Rehtaeh was alive ... You have no compassion ... but we knew that already,” she wrote.
Printed on pink or yellow sheets, the posters argue that there are two sides to every story. “Speak the Truth … Stay Strong, Support the Boys!” say the posters, which have since been removed.
Ms. Parsons died two weeks ago. Her family says she was raped November, 2011, when she was 15, by four boys at a friend’s home in the Halifax suburb of Eastern Passage.
Ms. Parsons was distressed because a cellphone photo of the assault was circulated and the authorities failed to stop the harassment and prosecute the four boys, the family alleges.
Police have since reopened their investigation, saying someone stepped forward with new information.
The hacker group Anonymous has said it found the identities of the four boys and incriminating online statements by one of them.
Since the story became public, supporters of the boys have spoken up, holding a protest and arguing their case online.
RCMP Corporal Scott MacRae said Thursday that the posters didn’t break any laws, but police have received a number of complaints from residents about the flyers.
He also said a Facebook page created in support of the four boys was recently taken down by its administrator after the Mounties raised concerns that the identities of the boys could be made public and interfere with an ongoing police investigation into the matter.
“We’re not there to police the Internet, per se, or to stop people from expressing their opinions as long as it’s done in an open, frank and truthful discussion,” Cpl. MacRae said.
“When it’s done in a potentially harmful way or not based on all the facts, a certain segment of the population may act based on that information alone and that’s dangerous.”
With files from Canadian Press