- QNetNews.ca - http://www.qnetnews.ca -

Local school boards reflect on student safety procedures

By Andrew Mendler

A recent teen suicide in Ottawa has caused local school boards to strongly think about the effectiveness of their current school safety programs.

“I wouldn’t say that it has prompted us to redirect our strategy,” said Lynn Wallace Superintendent of School Effectiveness with the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board.

“Certainly anything as sad as what happened causes us to pause and reflect on what we currently have in place and continue to reflect about how we can best serve kids.”

Many people involved say bullying was a major factor in 15-year-old Jamie Hubley’s decision to take his own life.

“We know that bullying happens in schools; I can’t sit here and say that no it doesn’t happen, because it does,” said Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer for the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board.

Both school boards feel that educating their students in order to raise awareness will be key to helping prevent future incidents.

“(Bullying) does happen but what are we doing to try and combat it?” said Donnell.

“The more people who know about anything, that’s when you get that wave happening and more people can just go, hey this is not acceptable, we don’t accept this type of behaviour and it’s time to make a change.”

Online bullying or “cyber-bullying” has become more and more of an issue over the years and many teenagers are being targeted by bully’s at home, away from their school life.

“There is the education and then we rely on parents too,” said Donnell.

“We tell parents to have the computer in a common area in the home and to watch what there kids are doing online.”

Many people throughout the community are also involved in raising awareness and educating students.

“Quite often police officers or community relations officers are in our schools and they talk to kids about (awareness) and about cyber bullying and what to watch out for,” said Donnell.

Every year school boards are implementing new practices and procedures to help make their schools safer for both staff and students.

“Bullying prevention plans, conflict resolution, peer mediation, safe schools teams, restorative practices; many of those things were not in place five years ago,” said Wallace. “So we have been actively working towards those things.”

In order to keep students safe most local schools have started to implement a team-based approach where everybody is considered accountable for their actions.

“We talk about all school adults being role models for children, said Donnell.

“So whether you are a secretary or custodian or an education assistant, or teacher or principal, what you say and do every day makes an impression on those children.”

Both school boards felt that although Hubley’s death was tragic, one incident isn’t going to cause them to revamp their whole student safety process.

“I wouldn’t say it made us change, but certainly you know, stay the course and remain diligent as we have and will continue to do, said Donnell. “Although it’s terribly sad, it has just reinforced that we continue to do the right thing here.”