In a girl’s washroom in a British Columbia high school in December 2018, two students faced off.
Both clutched the cell phones which had served to escalate a war between two rival factions of teenage girls in the months leading up to this chance meeting.
But at the end of the confrontation, it was another unlikely object that a provincial court judge would declare a weapon: a boiling hot bowl of ramen noodles that one of the girls — a 14-year-old Grade 9 student named SH — hurled into the chest of the 15-year-old victim.
The details are spelled out in a youth court judgment that provides a vivid window into teen violence, the insidious power of social media to stoke and fuel resentments, and the efforts of high school administrators to address behaviour they’re largely powerless to police.
And in trying to apply the law to the complex facts underlying a teenaged feud, Judge Judith Doulis was also asked to consider whether the accused had acted in self-defence as she claimed, as a zombie-like automaton, powerless to control or remember her actions.
SH was convicted of assault and assault with a weapon last week in a B.C. provincial court for an attack that left the victim — MVT — in need of skin grafts after suffering second and third-degree burns.
Beset by ‘bro fights’
The names of the students, the high school, the teachers and even the community where the incident occurred have been removed from the court decision in an effort to protect the identity of SH.
According to Doulis’ decision, in the months leading up to the incident, the school had been “beset by a spate of ‘bro fights’ or consensual ‘friendly fights’ which were popular on YouTube at the time.
Administrators thought ‘bro fights’ were dangerous and had suspended students — male and female — for engaging in them. At the same time, Doulis says cyberbullying was also a problem.
“Using various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat, the offending students published comments intended to denigrate, intimidate or humiliate their nemesis,” the judge writes.
“Unfortunately, the school administrators had limited jurisdiction to deal with the communications if they occurred off … premises.”
She ‘wanted to kick MVT’s ass’
Animosity between SH’s group and the faction including MVT dated back two years. It had recently expanded to include the younger sisters of both girls, whose “friendship soured over a boy.”
Members of SH’s group accused MVT through social media posts of having lip injections and being fat. They wrote “Nobody likes you MVT.”
And MVT wrote posts to SH’s younger sister, referencing a ‘bro fight’ and saying: “Come at me next.”
Both factions accused each other of bullying. MVT’s parents, both teachers at the school, advised MVT to steer clear of SH and her group.
Things came to a head after a school-wide assembly held to confront the problem of bro-fighting once and for all. SH’s friends sent her messages saying other girls were laughing at her and accusing her of hiding.
SH flew into the vice-principal’s office to say she wanted to “kick MVT’s ass.”
The vice-principal told SH to calm down and return to class. Instead, she got a cup of noodles from her locker, filled it with boiling water and went to the girls’ washroom, where she set the noodles on the counter to cool and began texting her friends.
That’s when MVT had to go to the bathroom.
‘Your ugly face’
SH started laughing as MVT walked through the door. MVT asked her what was so funny.
“SH replied. ‘Your ugly face,'” the judge wrote.
SH pulled out her phone. MVT did the same.
Both started recording each other. SH posted a video of their encounter to Snap Chat, which was seen by a friend. The friend asked if she was needed and rushed out of class to join them in the bathroom. She witnessed what happened next as MVT and SH traded insults and profanities. The video was also played in court.
“You say I get lip injection, butt injections, you make fun of my family, for no reason,” MVT said.
“Who said? Who said?” SH said.
“I have screen shots,” MVT replied.
The back and forth escalated, as SH continued to text. She then picked up her cup of noodles, and threw it toward MVT and her camera.
Covered in noodles, MVT rushed at SH and the two girls fell to the floor.
SH claimed she was “just getting triggered and triggered and triggered.” She also said she remembered grabbing the noodles, but “blacked out” and had no memory of throwing them.
An offensive blow
In assessing the facts of the case, Doulis had to consider whether a bowl of hot ramen noodles could even count as a weapon.
As it turns out, any object can constitute a weapon if someone uses it to “kill, injure, attack, threaten or intimidate someone else.”
The judge rejected SH’s claim that she acted involuntarily. The teenager provided no evidence to support the idea that some disorder had left her an automaton.
Doulis found that SH did perceive MVT as a threat, given the culture of bullying among female students at the school and their past history. But the judge said she believed SH had thrown the noodles “as an offensive not a defensive strike.”
“She was angry and frustrated at MVT’s harangue,” the judge said.
SH has yet to be sentenced.