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York High School students rally around classmate being bullied

Parents and students at York High School are calling for the community to work together to fight bullying after they say a gay student was targeted. 

YORK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Dozens of students joined with parents outside York High School today to rally around a student who has been bullied.

The student is gay. Now police are investigating possible civil rights violations and an assault inside the school that appears to be in retaliation to the bullying.

York police tell NEWS CENTER they do expect formal assault charges to be filed against a York High student and they now have two officers looking into possible civil rights violations stemming from the alleged bullying.

Students lined the street outside York High School for an early morning rally in support of their classmate 14-year-old Garrett McCann. He says most students at the school have been supportive, but he’s been subjected to bullying by a handful of them.

“It's just not fun to be made fun of or whatever, doesn't matter who you are,” McCann said.

His parents say it’s been frustrating getting school officials to take their son’s claims seriously. They say school officials told them he didn’t go through the proper channels to report them.

“Makes you very angry, you're somewhat helpless. Nobody wants to see their kid get picked or any kid get picked on," said Timothy McCann.

WATCH: York students stand up to bullies

School principal Karl Francis says he can’t discuss specific incidents or the students involved. But he says he wants students and parents to know the proper procedures were taken, including calling in York police.

“I did hear York High School did not do enough and I know for a fact I feel extremely comfortable with the steps that we took,” he said.

Francis also said he cannot discuss an alleged assault in retaliation for the bullying involving McCann’s brother. While police investigations into all the incidents continue, students, parents and school officials say the rally did send a strong message that bullying won’t be tolerated.

“They were upset and angry and transitioned into a sense of unity, into how do we move this forward as a school,” said Francis.

“I'm so proud of the students and his friends just rallying around him and supporting him. I never thought it would come to anything like this”, said McCann's mother.

The principal says there was a lot of talking and listening going on Monday. He said the students want to be involved in providing additional clarity to the school’s bullying policy and present changes to the school board, something he is in favor of.

Francis emailed the following statement to NEWS CENTER:

"Violence is never an acceptable solution to conflict. All students should feel safe at York High School and we hold that as a priority. There is a very difficult balance a school administrator must take between the communication of details and the rights of students' and families' to privacy. I can not and will not speak to specific details. What I can offer, is that the information currently circulating through the school community is not an accurate representation of a tragic event.

"We have dedicated the day to listen to students and look forward to working alongside them to ensure that all students feel welcome, safe and supported at York High School. This morning's rally signified a statement of unity and respect for all York students."

Students told NEWS CENTER they are not just rallying against the bullying of this one student, but of any student facing bullying. The York students also say they are standing in support of LGBTQ acceptance.

Through the years the people she went to school with have reached out and apologized for how she was treated back in high school, but she maintains she has never heard from any school officials.

One former York High School student says this situation is all too familiar to her because it was exactly the same for her, decades ago. Kera Ireland says she actually dropped out of high school her senior year and was robbed of things like graduating with her friends and going to prom, all because nobody at the school was willing to help stop her from being bullied.

WATCH: Former York HS student says she was bullied, applauds protests

"It was a lot of mixed emotions part of me was so joyful and so excited so inspired by these teenagers that were out there today. Supporting a fellow student. Standing up for what they believed was right and that making fun of people annoying people is not acceptable. But the one thing is is that the school never apologized for taking away from me something that would have meant a lot. That is the most hurtful thing. Being a member of the community school system from second grade, they didn't care about me"

Kera did mention that through the years the people she went to school with have reached out and apologized for how she was treated back in high school, but she maintains she has never heard from any school officials.