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Incidents at Jack Hulland Elementary raised in legislature

Education Minister Jeanie McLean says she is concerned and working with administrators.
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Jack Hulland Elementary School (Yukon News file)

Opposition MLAs are raising concerns after a number of recent behavioural incidents at Jack Hulland Elementary School and a principal going on temporary leave.

According to letters tabled in the legislature, parents at the school were notified on Nov. 2 about two incidents that took place at Jack Hulland that day.

At 11:35 a.m. a fire alarm was activated by a student, resulting in the school being evacuated until the fire department arrived and gave the all-clear around 20 minutes later.

A second incident, at 1:15 p.m., involved a different student who “exhibited heightened behaviour which included yelling, swearing, and the breaking of an interior window.”

The student threw objects inside, before leaving the building and banging on outside walls and doors with a tree stump. The note indicates that some students may have also witnessed violence towards a staff member. An announcement was made that a lockdown was taking place, with students asked to return to and remain in their classrooms.

The note sent to parents clarifies that the school was in a “hold and secure” situation rather than a lockdown, meaning that teaching continued but students had to remain in the classroom.

“Staff effectively managed the situation to keep students away from the individuals in accordance with the school’s emergency plan,” reads the note. “We had initial debriefing conversations with some of the students in the classrooms that were most directly impacted before students were dismissed at the end of the day. We will continue having debriefing conservations with those classes again tomorrow or others that may require them because students heard or observed the student in the hallway.”

The notice was signed by acting principal Jeff Cressman and vice-principals Nita Daniels and Pamela Booth. Regular principal Ann Lardner is currently on leave.

On Nov. 3 Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent raised the incidents on the floor of the legislature, referencing additional incidents of “violent acts, bullying, and physical altercations with teachers and EAs” the party has heard about from staff and families.

“It is unacceptable that students should regularly feel unsafe while attending school,” said Kent, adding that he had heard of a separate incident in October when a staff member was punched in the face by a student.

Education Minister Jeanie McLean noted that a recently-implemented communications plan change now informs parents of incidents.

“There are definite concerns about Jack Hulland, and there are concerns in other schools, we are working hard to address them,” she said.

The Grove Street Program, housed at Jack Hulland, offers a supported program for students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties that has a lower staff to student ratio than regular classes.

In June a government review of inclusive and special education found that “in many cases, students’ learning needs are not being met, with devastating consequences for students.” The review recommended another review that examined the seven shared-resource programs in the territory, including Grove Street.

McLean acknowledged that report in her answer, and said the government continues to work on addressing the known shortfalls.

“I acknowledge that there are significant issues with the Grove Street program at Jack Hulland that are related to other issues in the school as well,” said McLean.

“These programs will be reviewed and we must rethink how we are working towards inclusivity and helping children with diverse needs be successful. That’s my goal,” she said.

A school council meeting scheduled for Nov. 3 was postponed following the sitting. Instead, a closed-door “special meeting” for Jack Hulland parents only is planned for the week of Nov. 15.

“Due to the events of this week, we felt the decision was necessary in order to gather information to more effectively serve the school community and represent parents,” reads a notice put out by the Jack Hulland school council.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com