How to let the par­ents know

Sug­gest Har­bour Grace school can bet­ter en­gage par­ents on bul­ly­ing threats

The Compass - - Front page - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

A re­cent in­ci­dent at St. Fran­cis School in Har­bour Grace has left at least a few par­ents con­cerned. Those who spoke with The Com­pass last week said they want the school to do a bet­ter job of en­gag­ing par­ents to let them know about is­sues that are worth dis­cussing with their chil­dren

A re­cent in­ci­dent at St. Fran­cis School in­volv­ing the in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of a cell­phone in a bath­room is just the tip of the ice­berg.

That’s ac­cord­ing to a group of par­ents who feel ad­min­is­tra­tion at the K-8 school in Har­bour Grace could be do­ing a lot more to ed­u­cate and en­gage them about what their kids should be on the look­out for.

Par­ent Lisa Steele heard about a stu­dent re­cently record­ing another stu­dent in­side a bath­room through her child.

“She came home and told me, like they do — they come home and tell you the gos­sip and what hap­pened that day,” Lisa told The Com­pass last week. “Par­ents who had kids in the younger grades found out through the CBC in­ter­view (with the vic­tim’s mother). If that woman didn’t go pub­lic, I highly doubt most peo­ple would have found out. That is some­thing I would like to have known for no other rea­son than to have a dis­cus­sion with my daugh­ter to fore­warn her, when you go to the wash­room, make sure you look up.”

She sub­se­quently learned there’s a fear among some stu­dents about us­ing the wash­room at school and that peo­ple tak­ing pic­tures and videos of other stu­dents around school with­out per­mis­sion is fairly com­mon­place.

“I re­quested a meet­ing, even some sort of in­for­ma­tion sem­i­nar to let us know as par­ents what we can do, what we should be say­ing,” she said. Ac­cord­ing to Steele, she was told a po­lice pre­sen­ta­tion with stu­dents was be­ing looked into, but if there was enough par­ent in­ter­est, the school could look into one specif­i­cally for par­ents.

“We want an open com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the school to say, ‘What can we do? What do we tell our chil­dren? Is the bul­ly­ing pro­gram we have in place work­ing?’”

Krista Aba­jori, another par­ent, feels par­ents de­serve to be in­formed about such events.

“The only times we get a let­ter of any sort or get a voice mes­sage is if (the school is) fundrais­ing,” she said. “Never once have I re­ceived a note or a mes­sage say­ing, ‘ We have a par­ent meet­ing to dis­cuss (an is­sue).’”

Bul­ly­ing is a com­mon prob­lem for schools all over New­found­land and Labrador. Krista and Lisa heard of other in­ci­dents with stu­dents that were trou­bling, with no in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to par­ents. While Steele un­der­stands the need to pro­tect pri­vacy, she be­lieves St. Fran­cis can find a way to talk about cir­cum­stances par­ents need to be aware of for the safety and se­cu­rity of the stu­dents.

“It’s just ex­tremely frus­trat­ing when you go in and you can’t get a meet­ing,” she said. “I can go in there this af­ter­noon one-on-one and talk to the prin­ci­pal. But that’s not what we’re look­ing for. We want to know how the com­mu­nity feels. We want to know how the staff feels. Maybe most par­ents want this pre­sen­ta­tion. We can’t even get a sur­vey to find out if we’d like to at­tend a sem­i­nar from the RCMP.”

New­found­land and Labrador English School District re­sponded to sev­eral ques­tions at the re­quest of The Com­pass. NLESD said schools can com­mu­ni­cate with par­ents about events “which they feel are im­por­tant for fam­i­lies to be aware, par­tic­u­larly if these events may have im­pacted nu­mer­ous stu­dents of the school.” The district noted ad­min­is­tra­tors use pro­fes­sional judg­ment to de­ter­mine how to best com­mu­ni­cate this in­for­ma­tion.

On the is­sue of en­gage­ment on broader is­sues, NLESD pointed to the im­por­tance of the school coun­cil.

“Par­ents and guardians are al­ways en­cour­aged to reach out to the school coun­cil if they have spe­cific ques­tions about their school com­mu­nity. For ex­am­ple, the school coun­cil could be asked to help or­ga­nize a pre­sen­ta­tion around an is­sue that is im­por­tant to par­ents and guardians or the over­all school com­mu­nity. Par­ents and guardians could also re­quest that spe­cific items be dis­cussed at meet­ings, if the re­quest is made through the prin­ci­pal and chair­per­son and the topic is within the man­date of school coun­cils.”

Build­ing a pos­i­tive school cul­ture is es­sen­tial to re­duc­ing bul­ly­ing, ac­cord­ing to NLESD. The district added it is con­stantly re­view­ing anti-bul­ly­ing ed­u­ca­tion. In re­cent times there’s been an added em­pha­sis placed on dig­i­tal ci­ti­zen­ship in re­sponse to so­cial me­dia. New soft­ware, Re­view360, was also in­tro­duced this year to help schools with record­ing data, iden­ti­fy­ing trends in bul­ly­ing and de­vel­op­ing re­sponse plans.

We want an open com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the school to say, ‘What can we do? What do we tell our chil­dren? Is the bul­ly­ing pro­gram we have in place work­ing? — Lisa Steele

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

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