Officials are on alert for concerning behaviour from students in School District 48 schools after the suicide of Amanda Todd last week.
The Port Coquitlam teen took her life last Wednesday (Oct. 10) after posting a video online about how bullying had become too much for her to handle.
Todd’s video and story have garnered international headlines, and brought the issue of bullying and cyber-bullying to the forefront. It has led to a B.C. RCMP investigation into any potential contributing factors to her death.
It also has local school officials, educators and community workers on the lookout for any students exhibiting at-risk behaviour, which is part of ongoing efforts in the district to keep schools safe.
“We want to be able to create a safety net for all of our students as a response to a tragedy like this,” said district principal for student support services Marilyn Caldwell.
Caldwell said educators and community partners have been monitoring students over the weekend and so far it appears they are doing well in the wake of the tragedy.
“Now we are in the second wave of seeing how our kids are doing this week, anticipating that more of them are exposed to this information,” she said. “We have to be prepared when something happens for how they will react and how we can protect them.
“Hopefully it is not something we deal with a lot but it is something we want to be prepared for.”
Superintendent Lisa McCullough said it is important for the community to know efforts to keep schools safe, like suicide prevention and anti-bullying efforts, are ongoing.
“It is always ongoing and I think the main message we want people to hear is a terrible incident like this doesn’t cause us to do business differently… that is why all our systems and programs are in place already,” she said.
Meanwhile, the school district is following the provincial direction and mandate of the ERASE Bullying Strategy and the upcoming implementation day, which will focus on bullying.
Every school year, the Ministry of Education mandates that all teachers and educators in the province must spend a day focusing on a specific topic and this year it is bullying. On Nov. 2, all teachers and educators in the school district will attend the keynote speaker and sessions on bullying at Don Ross Secondary School in Squamish.
ERASE (expect respect and a safe education) is a 10-point strategy for addressing the issue and several of its recommendations were already underway when the province instituted it.
A year and a half ago, the district brought in an outside consultant to review all its policies and procedures around student safety and bullying, school board chair Rick Price said.
Price said the results of the review were positive and a number of recommendations have been undertaken. That includes a website, psst.com, which gives students an outlet to anonymously report bullying.
“It is an ongoing process,” he added. “I know our staff is hyper alert in the current context of the Amanda Todd tragedy… they always are, they are constantly monitoring students and trying to step in and do reactive work and preventative work.”
McCullough said the strategy to promote safe schools, which includes addressing bullying, is multi-layered and includes different programs. She said review mirrors closely what the province is doing with ERASE.
“When I arrived at the school district about a year ago, I was very excited to see the works that had already been done here,” she added.