B.C. student 'traumatized' after Luka Magnotta Netflix series allegedly shown to class
SURREY, B.C. -- A school district in Metro Vancouver is investigating a complaint that a high school teacher showed students a graphic and disturbing true crime documentary on an infamous Canadian killer.
The Surrey school district confirmed it recieved an anonmyous letter from a parent alleging their child came home from Elgin Park Secondary "crying and upset to the point of being hysterical and vomiting" on the last school day before Christmas break.
The parent, who did not want to identify themself or their child, said the student's class was shown "Don't Fuck with Cats," a new Netflix documentary about Luka Magnotta.
The three-part series, which is rated for mature audiences only, focuses on amateur online sleuths who worked to identify a man who was killing kittens in YouTube videos back in 2012. Images of dead kittens are shown early in the first episode.
The sleuths, who often use profanities and make reference to porn sites, identify Canadian Luka Magnotta as the culprit through their extensive, crowd-sourced work. The second episode includes images of another YouTube video where Magnotta blindfolded, bound and murdered a Chinese engineering student in Montreal. The killer then left grisly clues, mailing body parts across Canada and triggering an international manhunt; it’s unclear how much of the series students may have watched.
The written complaint sent to the Surrey Schools Supt. Dr. Jordan Tinney, and obtained by CTV News, reads in part: “No doubt many adults would be disgusted and horrified if they witnessed something so awful and so violent. But for children, the damage is incalculable.”
“We are aware of the parent's concerns and we've received the letter,” said district spokesperson Ritinder Matthews. “The principal is investigating the matter.”
Matthews says the district only received the letter dated Dec. 23 on Monday afternoon and that Elgin Park’s principal was notified Tuesday morning. She said there are still many unanswered questions, including whether students did, in fact, watch the series, whether parents were notified the film would be screened, and if students had the ability to opt out of viewing it.
When CTV News asked which class and grade would have watched the film, Matthews said that out of respect for the complainant’s wish their child not be identified, they would not disclose that information due to the small class size.
'What is the educational value of this?'
The complainant says their child was not just physically ill after seeing the film, but "traumatized in the classroom…Those acts cannot be unseen or unknown.”
Child psychologist Alyson Jones told CTV News it’s natural to be traumatized by that kind of graphic content, but that it’s not necessarily inappropriate for high school students as long as there’s a reason for watching and it's followed by a discussion.
“It's not that I think teenagers can't handle content, they certainly can, but there has to be something surrounding that content that gives it purpose and meaning," she said.
“What is the educational value of this? Secondly, they should have a choice whether they want to or not. Thirdly, there should be support in place for people that feel upset or uncomfortable with what they've seen."
Matthews wouldn’t say whether counselling services were available to students who may have seen more than they expected or intended.
"We don’t want to avoid difficult topics, we need to have conversations about these hard things and it doesn't teach our children to be safe if we don't teach them about things,” said Jones. “But sometimes this content can just be so disturbing that it can actually cause people to draw back further and disconnect even more."
A notorious Canadian killer
How Luka Magnotta went from posting videos of suffocating kittens and torturing cats to the infamous “one killer, one ice pick” online murder video is a mystery, but the sleuths in the Netflix documentary describe a narcissistic network of postings from Magnotta, who manufactured a fictitious fan base and claimed to work as a model and gay porn actor. He also made bizarre comments, including emphatically insisting he wasn’t dating notorious serial killer Karla Homolka.
The case intensified during the spring of 2012.
On May 22 of that year, surveillance video showed Jun Lin going into Magnotta’s Montreal apartment building one evening. He never re-emerged, but Magnotta was seen coming and going from the apartment in the following days. Magnotta left for Paris as a janitor found a dismembered torso in a trashed suitcase, around the same time a human foot was mailed to the Conservative Party with a note hinting he’d kill again. A hand was also found in a package destined for the Liberal Party.
By May 30, Montreal police had named Magnotta as the prime suspect and Interpol added him on their watch lists. The next week, Magnotta was arrested at an internet café in Berlin as Vancouver schools received packages containing a hand and foot; no students witnessed the contents.
Lin’s family came to Canada from China for the trial in 2013, ultimately witnessing the verdict in 2014 after 66 witnesses and reams of online and physical evidence were presented. Magnotta admitted to the killing but pleaded not guilty to all charges, including defiling Lin’s corpse, harassing politicians and publishing and mailing obscene material.
He was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
The extensive trial and sentencing aren’t covered in the “Don’t Fuck with Cats” documentary series, but there is enough disturbing material on-screen and referenced off-screen that experts say it’s important to talk with young people watching it.
"This is a difficult world and there's a lot of distressing content out there and we can't hide it form our children and our young people, but we also need to balance it with a lot of positives, too,” said Jones, noting if students did see too much at school, it’s important to learn from the incident.
"We teach our children to be polite and if they're compliant and good students, then sometimes they won't speak up."