Mutilation blamed on TV show

LAURA CZEKAJ

, Last Updated: 5:34 PM ET

HULL, Que. -- A popular television show is being blamed after 10 elementary school students in Hull committed acts of self-mutilation, including cutting their arms with compasses.

The Saint-Paul students, between the ages of 10 and 13, apparently cut themselves with sharp objects over a three-day period in April after watching a character cut herself on an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation.

On April 28, school staff noticed that seven students had minor cuts to their bodies. The next day, three more students came to school with cuts.

The children said they cut themselves after seeing it done on the show, which aired April 27, said school board president Jocelyn Blondin.

The children reportedly watched the program while they were away from school on a lunch break.

It was not known if all 10 students had watched the show or if some had committed self-mutilation after finding out their friends had done it.

Although school board officials said the wounds were superficial and didn't require medical treatment, school staff immediately notified parents and met with the entire student body.

"They talked with the kids and told them it was dangerous to do that and they could be infected," Blondin said. "After that they got no more (cases)."

The school board plans to send a letter to other school boards in the province warning them about what happened.

Blondin said he also plans to lobby the Quebec government to implement stricter rules on what is considered acceptable TV programming for children.

"We are going to put pressure on the government and the television station to try to be careful (about) what kind of programs they have for kids," Blondin said.

In an interview with French media, an official with the French-language broadcaster of the show defended the program, which offers lessons to its young audience.

"In this case, I can say I was very, very surprised," said Denis Dubois, vice-president of programming at VRAK-TV.

Dubois noted that in the episode the students watched, a girl does mutilate herself, but a friend convinces her to seek help.

"The problem is resolved. The moral is don't mutilate yourself, talk to someone about it," said Dubois.

However, he also said the show doesn't replace parental guidance.

"If a child has a problem in a more fragile moment of their life, that person could be more affected by a show," he said.


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