SHERBROOKE – On the first day back to school after the Christmas break, students at St. Mary's Education Centre / St. Mary's Academy were involved in the second knife-related incident of the school year. In October, students were also witness to threats made with a knife on a school bus. That incident resulted in charges laid against a 16-year-old male who can't be identified due to his age.
An email was sent to parents and guardians on January 3 from St. Mary's Principle Jack MacDonald stating: “There was an incident involving a knife brought to school by one of our students today. The student exposed the knife in a threatening manner toward another student and the incident was witnessed by several other students.
“School administration acted immediately once we became aware of the situation and the RCMP and the parents/guardians of all students directly involved were contacted. This incident is under investigation by both the school administration and the RCMP. School administration is dealing with the incident as a disciplinary issue in accordance with the Provincial School Code of Conduct Policy.
“We appeal to students to refrain from taking weapons to school and to parents/guardians to help ensure that weapons are not brought to school. We also ask parents/guardians to please speak with your children about the seriousness and consequences of possessing weapons. The safety of students and staff is of utmost importance and we will continue to ensure that our students and staff are in a safe and secure learning environment.”
Kaytland Smith, speaking for the school's PTA, released a statement about the incident via email, “SMECA PTA is aware and deeply concerned about the issue. We are communicating with administration and SRSB, and are currently putting together a list of recommendations that we hope will reduce the likelihood of a similar incident in the future.”
Coordinator of Communications for the SRSB, Deanna Gillis, answered questions about the incident in an email interview on Tuesday, January16.
"The incident occurred at lunch time outside the classrooms in the upstairs lobby area," said Gillis. "The student exposed the knife in a threatening manner toward another student and the incident was witnessed by several other students."
Gillis reiterated the points made in the initial email sent to school families on January 3 and added that, “We are not at liberty to speak to specific disciplinary action of any students at any time due to our confidentiality and privacy obligations.”
Gillis outlined initiatives the school has undertaken to address this issue, including:
- Student assemblies and homeroom reviews of the Provincial School Code of Conduct Policy and Procedures, including unacceptable behaviours and possible consequences. Further publishing of this information in the School Handbook.
- Specific reminders to students regarding the possession of weapons throughout the school year, specifically during hunting season.
- Assemblies and presentations to all students specifically dealing with mental health and bullying.
- Strong student-teacher relationships and ongoing dialogue regarding safety concerns.
- Strong partnerships with the Health Authority, RCMP, School Psychology, SchoolsPlus, school-based Guidance and Administration to provide preventative and intervention services to students.
- Leadership opportunities for high school students to support younger students in pro-social behaviour and healthy relationships.
- Professional learning for staff on instruction focused on social emotional learning for grades P-6 students, focusing on improving social interactions and regulating emotions and behaviour.
- Alternative programming for students who are at risk.
- Communication and consultation with School Advisory Council.
The investigation into the incident is ongoing.