Parents and other concerned community members are questioning why more information was not shared after an education assistant at a Whitehorse school was convicted of sexually abusing a student.
The former educational assistant was found to have coerced and inappropriately touched a student during the 2019/2020 year at Hidden Valley Elementary School.
“The impacts of child abuse are influenced by how the adults respond,” said Annette King, Child and Youth Advocate, in a statement. “Parents need information and guidance on how to talk to their children. They need assurance that the school will address the issues and keep their children safe.”
The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate has announced a “systemic review of school safety and supports at Hidden Valley Elementary School after the conviction and sentencing of an Educational Assistant formerly employed with the school.”
The office, which operates independently from the government but has the power to review services and programs, urged the department to communicate better with parents and families around the issue.
It also noted that the privacy of the individual student needs to be protected and recommended a social worker and clinical counsellor should be hired to provide support and knowledge around sexual health and sexual assault.
Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers echoed the Child and Youth Advocate in calling for better communication around the situation.
In his letter addressed to Education Minister Jeanie McLean, Cathers cited an email from a group of concerned parents on July 29. The email claims that the department has not offered support to families or staff at the school, despite two weeks having passed since the individual was convicted and local media writing about the lawsuit.
“Parents of students at Hidden Valley School are very upset about your government’s failure to inform them that a former EA at Hidden Valley School was convicted of sexual interference with a child at the school while they worked there,” wrote Cathers, in a letter to Education Minister Jeanie McLean.
“There is a real concern that other students might have been victimized during the years the convicted individual worked at the school,” he wrote.
In a response to media, Erin MacDonald, a director in the department, referred parents to the RCMP for support if they have concerns about a child or youth being victimized.
MacDonald declined to comment further due to an ongoing lawsuit.
The father of the child at Hidden Valley has launched a lawsuit, naming both the perpetrator and the Yukon government.
Identifying details from the suit are not being published to protect the privacy of the family.
Contact Haley Ritchie at firstname.lastname@example.org