How to let the parents know
Suggest Harbour Grace school can better engage parents on bullying threats
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