Re­ac­tions to Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions mixed

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN

While the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board seems pleased with rec­om­men­da­tions made by Dr. Stan Kutcher on Wed­nes­day re­gard­ing youth men­tal health and ed­u­ca­tion, some par­ents think they don’t go far enough.

The Hal­i­fax-based ex­pert in ado­les­cent men­tal health was brought to Cape Bre­ton by the pro­vin­cial de­part­ments of ed­u­ca­tion and health and well­ness in June to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion af­ter three mid­dle school stu­dents died by sui­cide.

This was in­sti­gated by the CBRVSB, which made a writ­ten re­quest to the province to help with the sit­u­a­tion.

“We were very im­pressed by him and very im­pressed by his rec­om­men­da­tions,” said Beth MacIsaac, su­per­in­ten­dent of the CBRVSB.

“They were to the point and ad­dressed some of the con­cerns we had. The rec­om­men­da­tions lead to a greater col­lab­o­ra­tion between health and ed­u­ca­tion and also in­volve the com­mu­nity, par­ents and stu­dents. So they are very valu­able,” she con­tin­ued.

How­ever, Amanda MacDon­ald, a con­cerned mother who started an anti-bul­ly­ing pe­ti­tion

that led to a sit-down meet­ing with Kutcher, said she thinks the rec­om­men­da­tions are good but they don’t go far enough.

“They’re giv­ing the school board money to get two more guid­ance coun­sel­lors and one more so­cial worker. There are roughly 56 schools in the CBRVSB so that doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Chris Royal, fa­ther of 13-yearold Madison Wil­son, who took her life in June, agrees with MacDon­ald and thinks each school needs its own guid­ance coun­sel­lor. He also pointed out that the CBRVSB was slated to lose two guid­ance coun­sel­lors this school year so the money to hire two more isn’t go­ing to in­crease the over­all num­ber.

How­ever, his main con­cern is the fact the province is cur­rently only im­ple­ment­ing three of the seven rec­om­men­da­tions, not all of them.

“I be­lieve all of them have to be im­ple­mented im­me­di­ately and it’s just a star in my eyes and many oth­ers at this point,” he said via writ­ten state­ment.

“It’s a very big start but we all know it’s not enough … we need it now. Not five, eight, 10 months from now.”

MacDon­ald is also con­cerned the rec­om­men­da­tions don’t ad­dress the men­tal health is­sues Kutcher him­self pointed out.

“The rec­om­men­da­tions are not even ad­dress­ing the men­tal health issue that Dr. Kutcher talks so much about … those be­ing the men­tal health prob­lems with the lack of ac­ces­si­bil­ity to ser­vices and long wait times.”

The mother of one schoolaged child is pleased to see the rec­om­men­da­tion that changes be made to the pro­vin­cial School Code of Con­duct Pol­icy in re­gards to what type of in­ter­ven­tions can be used with re­la­tion to stu­dent con­flict, bul­ly­ing and cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

“The con­duct pol­icy change I agree with and is some­thing I men­tioned to Kutcher. But over­all, this isn’t enough. It’s a Band-Aid for a much larger prob­lem,” she said.

MacIsaac ex­plained what this pro­posed pol­icy change means to the school boards.

“My un­der­stand­ing is that there are a lot of in­ter­ven­tions that are out there, but what is re­ally im­por­tant is that with the in­ter­ven­tions that you are ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment­ing, there is ev­i­dence out there that shows they are go­ing to work in th­ese sit­u­a­tions,” she said.

Kutcher also rec­om­mends hav­ing a “sin­gle struc­ture for ad­dress­ing all school men­tal health-re­lated poli­cies, plans, over­sight and eval­u­a­tion” which is some­thing MacIsaac says the school board has al­ready started work­ing on.

“We’ve al­ready moved to­ward that. We’ve es­tab­lished a com­mit­tee, with rep­re­sen­ta­tion from health, with rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the school board, so it’s a very close align­ment of the men­tal health ser­vices with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,” she ex­plained.

“There also have been con­tin­u­ous meet­ings with health (since Kutcher’s visit) to de­cide on how we will ac­tu­ally begin im­ple­men­ta­tion in the fall of ini­tia­tives we will be bring­ing in.”

At this point, MacIsaac is un­able to give de­tails re­gard­ing th­ese ini­tia­tives.

Cur­rently, the province is mov­ing for­ward in im­ple­ment­ing three of the seven rec­om­men­da­tions.

MacIsaac said as far as the school board is con­cerned, they are com­mit­ted to do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion for stu­dents in the CBRVSB and they look for­ward to work­ing closely with com­mu­nity mem­bers and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“There were very tragic cir­cum­stances dur­ing last year’s school year and no one can change those cir­cum­stances. But we have a com­mit­ment to move for­ward for the bet­ter­ment of the stu­dents in our sys­tem,” she stressed.

Over­all, Royal hopes Kutcher’s rec­om­men­da­tions are em­braced and suc­ceed in solv­ing the prob­lems in Cape Bre­ton.

“We need this for our younger gen­er­a­tion to come to show them that we care,” he said.



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