'It Haunts Me:' Principal Recalls Man Crashing into School, Threatening Students

The Canadian Press, February 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

'It Haunts Me:' Principal Recalls Man Crashing into School, Threatening Students


Principal recalls man's attack on school

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SAINTE-ANNE-DE-KENT, N.B. - It's lunchtime at an elementary school in the bucolic village of Sainte-Anne-de-Kent. The children squeal with delight as they play tag and hopscotch on the playground.

But the enchantment of the warm fall day last September is broken when a man driving erratically arrives at the school threatening to kill the principal and students.

The children are quickly corralled into classrooms where they remain under lockdown for 45 terrifying minutes: The youngest play hide and seek under their teacher's desk, older students pray and ask if they are going to die, and a petrified principal in a locked basement fears the worst.

On Thursday, 36-year-old Mathieu Carroll will be sentenced in a Moncton courtroom for ramming his car into the front entrance of École Calixte-F.-Savoie, an incident parents and teachers say shattered the innocence of many children at the rural school in eastern New Brunswick.

He pleaded guilty last month to multiple charges, including uttering death threats and causing more than $5,000 in damages to the school.

Lawyers offered a joint recommendation of a 12-month sentence and other conditions, but educators and parents say many of the young students will be burdened with nightmares, anxiety and stress for years to come.

"With time served, he could be out in a few months. We're all going to be looking over our shoulders," school principal Chantal DesRoches said in an interview. "It haunts me. I have flashbacks every day."

The morning of Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017, started like any other. Parents kissed their children goodbye as they dropped them off at the kindergarten to Grade 8 school on Route 505 about 60 km north of Moncton.

But then a young mother arrived crying and in distress. She asked to speak to her daughter's kindergarten teacher and the principal, and opened up about a rocky home life where she felt unsafe.

The principal called a local women's shelter and the RCMP, and the mother said she would return home and tell her boyfriend she was moving.

But DesRoches, officially in the top job for only a couple of weeks, said she had a gut feeling the situation could quickly escalate.

When the bell rang at lunchtime, she decided to go outside and help supervise the children on the playground.

"I'm usually catching up on work over lunch, but I just had this eerie feeling that something might happen," DesRoches said. "I had to protect the children."

Within minutes, she heard the squeal of tires as Carroll peeled into the school parking lot at full speed, fishtailing his car and uttering threats.

"I started rushing the kids inside and when they weren't coming fast enough I started screaming but they didn't understand," DesRoches said. "They said 'But Madame it's not 1 p.m. yet.'"

She told the teachers that she was locking down the school, and helped the children into classrooms. When she ran to the office to call 911, Carroll was standing before her, having broken a locked metal door to enter the school.

"He was livid. He said, 'You won't kick my fucking daughter out of the school,'" DesRoches said, noting that his girlfriend had given him incorrect information out of fear for her safety. "He said 'I'll fucking kill you and I'll fucking kill the students.'"

The school janitors happened to arrive early that day and a repairman -- having heard her safety concerns that morning -- had returned to the school after lunch to check in.

The men rushed Carroll outside.

"We had angels that day," DesRoches said. …

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