In support of St. Francis
"All children deserve to learn and grow in peaceful schools and communities. Ensuring our young people have the opportunity to be successful in school — and ultimately, in life — requires safe and caring schools where teachers, students, parents and the broader community work together to respect and support each other.”
The above statement can be found in the Department of Education's Safe and Caring Schools Policy, and, in a nutshell, it's what every responsible parent expects — and deserves — when they entrust their children to the school system.
Thankfully, there’s been a concerted effort in this province to live up to that statement in recent years, largely because there has been increased debate and public awareness surrounding issues such as bullying. The adoption of this policy in 2006, and a subsequent revision in 2013, marked a giant step forward in efforts to ensure schools are a safe place to teach and learn.
Has the policy delivered on what it was intended to do? That’s entirely debatable, though one thing is clear: in order for it to work, it requires ongoing leadership and commitment at every level — government, school board, school administrators and teachers, and especially at home, from the parents.
And it requires open and frank discussion, similar to the debate and, yes, controversy created by an article in the Feb. 17 edition of The Compass, headlined “Bullying problem in Harbour Grace.”
The Compass decided to pursue the article after hearing from several parents, expressing concern about what they claimed was a troubling bullying problem at St. Francis, a newly reconfigured kindergarten to Grade 8 school. We reached out on a broader level through social media and other means for greater input from the school community, and heard from even more parents who expressed a similar sentiment.
They shared stories that raised eyebrows, and we felt they were worth reporting. We also set out to tell the whole story, knowing full well how sensitive and emotional issues like bullying has become. Unfortunately, we fell short in our efforts to present a complete picture of the situation, and for that, we offer our regrets.
Are there incidents of bullying at St. Francis? Absolutely, just like at every other school in our province and beyond. Is the situation out of control? No. Are a small minority of students responsible for the problem? Yes. Are members of the staff doing everything in their power to combat the problem? Based on the feedback we heard last week, we believe that to be the case.
We have since been told that great strides have been made at the school in recent years, and that the adjustment period that accompanies any reconfiguration has been relatively smooth.
It was not our intent to cast St. Francis in a negative light or, as one teacher stated, “rip the heart and soul” out of the school. We appreciate and understand that educators have a very difficult task in trying to deal with issues such as bullying, and not even a fancy new policy is going to completely erase those challenges.
Balancing the needs of a broad cross-section of students, most of whom come to school each day eager to learn and be part of their school community, is a challenge very few of us could handle. We’re confident that most educators are up to the task, and they have our full support.