A Whitehorse woman is making a public apology for her 2021 posting of false statements about a male student at F.H. Collins Secondary School allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing other students.
The apology is a term of the settlement of a defamation suit the student launched against Emily Blanchard, a graduate of the same school.
Her post prompted threats and episodes of bullying against the male student.
Instead of publishing the student initials used in Blanchard’s apology, which was released this week, the Star is referring to him as X.X. for the purposes of this story.
“I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for wrongly accusing and posting false information about X.X., a student at FH Collins School, on social media,” Blanchard’s apology reads.
“On May 6, 2021, I made a social media post about a male student sexually assaulting and harassing other students.
“When I wrote that post, I had no evidence of the truth of the comments I made about X.X. and the information in those comments has not been verified.
“I should never have made the post, it was untrue and I retract
“It was never my intention to cause harm to X.X., but I now realize that my post caused damage to a person I have never met and do not know,” Blanchard added.
“I accept my mistake and promise to never again make a public post about a youth in such a way,” she wrote.
“It was never my intention to cause harm to X.X.’s reputation or to incite violence towards him, but I understand now that my social media post, which untruthfully said that he sexually assaulted others at FH Collins School, caused him to be bullied and threatened on social media and damaged his reputation. I sincerely regret my actions.
“When people made violent comments, I refused to participate in those comments and I made an edit in my post to state my belief that violence is not a solution,” Blanchard noted in her apology.
“My edit did not undo the damage that had been done to X.X.
“I, once again, retract the statements I made about X.X. in my Facebook post on May 6, 2021 as they were allegations based on gossip with no proof, and I should never have made those statements.
“As far as I am actually aware, X.X. has not done any of the things described in my post on May 6, 2021. I apologize for the harm that those statements have done
Blanchard’s 2021 posting provoked a simmering debate on school safety within the F.H. Collins Seconday School community. It also resulted in a letter being issued by the Department of Education early in May of that year.
Penned by Ryan Sikkes, the assistant deputy minister of Schools and Student Services, it read:
“RE: Facebook post reporting allegations of sexualized assault.
“We were recently made aware of a Facebook post, which included allegations of sexualized assault, and threats to persons and property.
“The health and safety of our students and staff is our first priority, and we take reports like these very seriously.
“The Department of Education condemns all forms of sexualized violence and works with authorities to ensure that all reported incidents are investigated and followed up through the school and all appropriate authorities and agencies,” the letter advised.
“As soon as we learned of the post on Facebook, the RCMP and school administration were contacted immediately.
“The Schools and Student Services Branch is currently working with our school staff, and will continue to follow the direction provided by local authorities and support agencies.
“Specific allegations or information shared with the school are being addressed and any additional information will be investigated and followed up on,” Sikkes wrote.
“We want to reassure you that we are working directly with students to provide immediate support.
“All students, parents, teachers and school staff have a right to be safe, and to feel safe, in their school community,” he added.
“Sexualized violence is a serious matter and we understand the broad implications of such violence in our communities.”