Members named to Kamloops-Thompson school district’s task force on student safety

Task force created in the wake of complaints from parents

Kamloops This Week

Members have been named to the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s task force on student safety.

In February, Supt. Alison Sidow announced the creation of the task force — officially called the Superintendent’s Task Force on Student Safety — in the wake of complaints from parents of two students who claim the district failed to protect their children from sexual harassment and intimidation.

One of the parents who lodged a complaint alleged her elementary-aged daughter was assaulted by male students and claimed administration at her daughter’s school failed to call the police or the Ministry of Family and Child Development when informed of the incident. The parent also alleged a critical incident report was not filed.

In announcing the creation of the task force, Sidow said that, based on discussions with parents and students involved in the complaints and a review of the district’s policies, she came to the conclusion the policies and protocols need to be improved. Sidow said she also found “that there are cultural drivers at work that may inhibit our ability to respond effectively to sexual violence against women and girls.”

Sidow said the task force will examine policies, protocols and practices to ensure they address actions required when dealing with perpetrators and consider the needs of victims. In addition, Sidow said the district is seeking the advice of experts in the field of violence risk threat assessment through the Safer Schools Together organization.

The task force will be chaired by Michelle Marginet, who has three decades of experience in health, safety and workplace management specializing in the public sector. She helped develop the district’s policies for health, safety, bullying, harassment and intimidation and chaired the district’s Superintendent’s Task Force on Safety and Security in 2013, following the mass killings at Sandy Hoo elementary in Newtown, Conn.

Also on the task force are trustee Joan Cowden, social worker Dionne Mohammed, school district Aboriginal education worker Vicki Hanson, clinical counsellor Barb Gladdish from the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre, Ministry of Children and Families team leader Jacqueline Judd, school district family consultant Tom Beveridge, school district director of student support services Trish Smillie, RCMP school resource officer Const. Sofie Winkels and Sa-Hali secondary principal Sean Lamoureux.

In her Feb. 19 report to the board of education announcing the creation of the task force, Sidow wrote: “The recent reports of violence against girls has shaken the district and our community. These reports have raised many questions about the prevalence of violence against women and girls in our community and the district’s ability to manage these behaviours when they emerge in our schools. It is incumbent upon us as leaders in our community to act vigorously and to lead our communities towards greater health.”

The task force is expected to survey and interview students, parents and staff, examine best practices from other school districts or communities and conduct an in-depth review of current district policies, procedures and protocols.

The task force will report to Sidow, who will present a report to trustees by June 30.

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