The Yukon Party says the Education minister needs to outline a plan in response to the findings in a recent health and safety inspection report.
As reported by the News, the Yukon Workers’ Safety and Compensation Board’s inspection report issued Aug. 26 shows the Education department is failing to meet legislation that requires health and safety committee programs in 18 of the territory’s 36 schools.
The report concludes with nine orders and eight corrective actions directed at deputy minister Nicole Morgan.
In an Aug. 30 release, Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers of the Yukon Party said the findings are concerning.
“Of particular concern is that no safety meetings have been held for three years in two schools where the school communities have recently criticized the minister for the lack of support from the department of Education: Hidden Valley Elementary School in Whitehorse and Tantalus Elementary School in Carmacks,” he said.
The release cites a May 9 letter addressed to Education Minister Jeanie McLean from Chief Nicole Tom of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN). The letter follows up on two meetings held in February and April with McLean and staff.
The letter highlights the First Nation’s “serious concerns regarding the state of education and safety of LSCFN children and youth” at the school. It outlines some of the reports the First Nation has received about children being left unsupervised, inappropriate sexual comments from staff toward students and cases of bullying and discrimination against students with disabilities.
“During our meetings, LSCFN shared our awareness of numerous concerns regarding [the school] that students, parents and others have shared with us, and urged you to take immediate action in the interest of the health and safety of the children,” the letter states.
The letter indicates some students had chosen to stay home instead of attending school because they do not feel safe there.
“We have waited patiently for almost three months for [the Yukon government] to communicate what steps you will take,” reads the letter.
The release also points to resources being “stretched thin” at Hidden Valley Elementary School in response to the ongoing investigations into sexual interference involving a former educational assistant.
“The Minister of Education is again ducking responsibility for the department,” Cathers said.
“It is unacceptable to see the minister responsible for the [Workers’ Safety and Compensation Board] publicly commenting on the results of an inspection and his expectations for a response. [Richard Mostyn] should know better than to blur the impartiality of such independent matters with political comments from the minister.”
The Yukon NDP leader said by phone Aug. 30 the inspection report is part of a systemic issue in the bigger picture.
White said the department needs to be held accountable — schools are not to blame — and this isn’t the only government department undergoing health and safety reviews.
“Educators and schools aren’t being supported by the department of Education,” Kate White said.
“If you’re a school community and you’re scrambling to just try to survive the day to day, this is one more thing that you just don’t have the capacity for.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org