LETTER: Re: School District 48 Policy 502

We have a sad situation here in Squamish that sounds and feels a bit like the “no child left behind” disaster that has befallen the  U.S. That is, the situation where children are forced into a specific grade based on their birthdate and pushed along even when they’re struggling. Rather than support a child and give them more time to blossom they are left to struggle and develop a negative sense of self. It seems that this is the case even when a child has documented learning differences and parents or therapists petition for a bit more time.

Mental health concerns are at an all-time high and yet our school board wants to make their current, unhealthy practice policy. They are meeting on June 12 to discuss this and need to hear that this practice is not fair to students and does not deserve to be turned into policy.

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Why is the current practice a problem? Well I think the best way to look at this is to share a story and an analogy.

First the analogy: think of the apples on a tree - they don’t all ripen at the same time. Some need more time, some a little less. Even on one tree, the fruit develops at different times. Birthdate alone is not a determinant of maturity.

And an example: my best friend as a child struggled in school, was hyperactive and quite the clown. When Grade 8 rolled around she didn’t move on but instead, she repeated Grade 7. It must have been hard for her parents and teachers to hold her back but she points to it as the best thing they ever could have done for her. She was relieved of her constant struggles and allowed to blossom into the beautiful, compassionate human being she is today. And it made such and impression that she can rattle off a list of benefits she’s seen in the children she has helped get the time they need to develop.

If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” you likely know that found older children in a sport tend to do better. The same is true with school. In some jurisdictions, this has become a “problem” where parents electively hold their children back but the funny thing is this proves to be advantageous to the students. So why is this practice not acceptable in Squamish? I’d really like to know, but so far my requests to understand have been left unanswered.

We should be endeavouring to develop children who are healthy, have a strong sense of self and know what they’re capable of. When we force them into a position where they’re not ready and keep pushing them along we’re setting them up for failure and continual messages that they’re not good enough.

Children come from myriad backgrounds and develop at different rates; some simply aren’t ready when public policy says they should be. In my work as an educator, I have seen children benefit from a delayed grade school entry and I have met parents who express regret that they themselves weren’t given more time.

I for one cannot fathom how the practice in School District 48 serves the children in our community. I invite you to join me in voicing your opinion before the June 12 School District 48 Board of Trustees meeting.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my concerns,

Lauren Baldwin



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