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Bikers plan ride in support of a bullied Sydney boy

Jun 20, 2017, 10:20:12

The boy is Xander Rose, a Grade 4 student at Harbourside Elementary. His mother, Katie Laybolt, says he had been picked on because of his size but nothing like this year.

The 10-year-old, who is a full-status aboriginal and the great-grandson of poet Rita Joe, has been subject to racial slurs, profanity-laced insults and threats of violence. One boy told him he was going to get a gun to kill him.

“It’s just been endless and nobody wanted to hear the extent of it,” Laybolt said.

Laybolt saids she has been in contact with the school, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the First Nations school board rep, the school board rep for Whitney Pier, police, the Children’s Aid Society of Cape Breton-Victoria, the MLA in her area, and the parents of the students involved.

“I’ve literally talked to everybody,” she said.

“He thinks the whole school hates him. He was assigned a project for Grade 4, it’s a writing project, and it asks about his best memories this year at Harbourside. My son looked at me as asked, ‘Are they kidding?’”

Out of desperation, Laybolt reached out to a non-profit children’s advocacy group called Defenders of Children. Based in the U.S., the group started in 2008 as a way to help kids who have been abused deal with testifying against their abusers in court. They drive the child to court and sit in the courtroom so the youth can focus on them instead of their abuser. It has expanded to include victims of bullying and there are chapters around the world.

The Defenders of Children responded to Laybolt’s message quickly. Since the closest chapter is in Fredericton, they put a message on Facebook calling for local bikers do a ride.

That’s when Sandra Rugby, a member of the Veterans bike club, got involved.

“My son was bullied at the same school and I thought this is not fair,” she said.

She contacted Mike Basso, an organizer of the Cape Breton Bike Rally. Once they decided on the time and date, they started promoting it.

Basso said he’s getting interest from bikers and non-bikers and hopes to see 500 riders show up.

“It’s time to put up what we call a wall of leather and steel,” he said.

“We’re here for the kids. They need to know there’s somebody out there rooting for them. They need to know they can come to us.

“School should be a safe zone. No one should be afraid to go anywhere.”

Howard Mugridge, vice-president of the Bay Boys motorcycle club, agrees.

“There’s too many kids hurting themselves because of bullying,” he said. “If there is an opportunity to bring awareness about bullying to the people, we’re definitely there.”

Mugridge hopes parents will be encouraged to educate their kids about the effects of bullying on the victim and why you should tell someone if you are being bullied.

Riley Morrison, a biker who rides independently, relates to Rose’s story. He was bullied in school for his size and other things.

He said having someone to talk to is important.

It just helps to have someone to talk to, who’s not your parents. You can’t always talk to your parents or your family.”

This is why the 20-year-old, who works at the Capri Club in security and is a volunteer firefighter, reached out to Laybolt offering to be a friend her son could turn to.

Everyone involved in the ride is hoping that Rose will have his confidence boosted and learn he has support. They also want to send the message that bullying won’t be tolerated.

“It’s gotten out of control,” said Basso.