School no bet­ter, or worse, says Coombs

St. Fran­cis school coun­cil chair not aware of in­creased bul­ly­ing in­ci­dents

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

The chair of the St. Fran­cis school coun­cil in Har­bour Grace said he has ac­tively ap­proached the school when he has heard con­cerns of bul­ly­ing from par­ents, and doesn’t be­lieve the sit­u­a­tion is out of con­trol.

The Com­pass pub­lished parental ac­counts of bul­ly­ing at the school in its Feb. 17 print edi­tion, and later on­line. The ar­ti­cle gen­er­ated a con­sid­er­able amount of de­bate and com­ments, both on­line and in the com­mu­nity.

The Com­pass de­cided to pur­sue the story af­ter re­ceiv­ing mul­ti­ple com­plaints from adults who have chil­dren at­tend­ing the school.

Don Coombs, who chairs both St. Fran­cis and Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate school coun­cils, said it’s been a num­ber of months since he has heard any­thing about the is­sue. But he does go to the school when par­ents con­tact him about bul­ly­ing con­cerns.

“The first (re­ported in­ci­dent) was from a pro­fes­sional in­di­vid­ual,” Coombs told The Com­pass Feb, 21. “I wanted to make sure that (prin­ci­pal Gary Bar­rett) was ad­dress­ing it as the ad­min­is­tra­tion. He as­sured me he was.”

Al­though he has not heard from par­ents about bul­ly­ing in re­cent months, Coombs does say it is a prob­lem in any school, St. Fran­cis in­cluded.

“St. Fran­cis is no worse, or no bet­ter, than other schools in the prov­ince with re­spect to bul­ly­ing,” he said.

The few in­ci­dents Coombs is aware of have been ad­dressed, and he said they do not ap­pear to be lin­ger­ing is­sues. Nor does he be­lieve bul­ly­ing to be a wide­spread is­sue in the school.

“I’ve been up to ( the school), be­cause I think it’s the role of school coun­cil to en­sure that it is a safe and car­ing school en­vi­ron­ment for learn­ing, and ev­ery­thing else,” Coombs said, adding he has not seen any­thing to the con­trary.

He ex­plained he does speak to the ad­min­is­tra­tion — at both St. Fran­cis and Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate — at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery school year about bul­ly­ing. It is also some­thing he spoke about this year at the con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts for school chair­per­sons.

“I did bring up at that meet­ing that we en­trust our chil­dren with schools from the time they get out on the road in the morn­ing for the bus un­til they get home, and bul­ly­ing is a par t of i t ,” Coombs said. “We have to be trans­par­ent, and we have to be con­sis­tent about deal­ing with these is­sues.”

He also ad­mits there may be times a par­ent doesn’t be­lieve enough is be­ing done with re­gards to a bul­ly­ing sit­u­a­tion.

“I wouldn’t have any prob­lem go­ing to a prin­ci­pal of a school if my son or daugh­ter was get­ting bul­lied,” Coombs said. “If it wasn’t ad­dressed, I know there are other op­tions, and cer­tainly would take it higher. But go in, sit down with the ad­min­is­tra­tion first and try to have it dealt with.” The Com­pass con­tacted prin­ci­pal Gary Bar­rett, but he de­clined com­ment.

One of the big con­cerns Coombs said he has come across is so­cial me­dia im­pact­ing the way a story is re­layed. He has seen it about pos­si­ble bul­ly­ing is­sues.

“I think, some people get on Face­book and they go over­board with it,” he ex­plained. “In­stead of putting out in­for­ma­tion, it gets blown out of pro­por­tion. But no­body needs to be tak­ing runs at any­body else.” Coombs said he has been to the school on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and knows there are things be­ing done to curb bul­ly­ing and deal with those types of sit­u­a­tions.

“I’ve been as­sured, there’s a struc­ture in place,” he said. “We will be dis­cussing the is­sue this week at the school coun­cil meet­ing.”

The school coun­cil meets Tues­day, Feb. 26, which is also anti-bul­ly­ing day at the school.

“St. Fran­cis is no worse, or no bet­ter, than other schools in the prov­ince with re­spect to bul­ly­ing.” — Don Coombs, chair of the St. Fran­cis school coun­cil

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