Many have read or heard about the Chronicle Herald article published this weekend that made unsubstantiated accusations about Chebucto Heights Elementary School.
I was deeply offended to see the school represented so inaccurately. I know how hard teachers, administrators and support staff at Chebucto Heights have been working to support each student enrolled in the school. I also know the community is tremendously supportive of the school in countless ways.
I have spoken directly to Sarah Dennis, the owner of the Chronicle Herald. I told her that the accusations, the language and the tone of the article were both harmful and hurtful to students, staff and the community of Chebucto Heights – and to our entire school system. They’re also not true.
Our schools, our partners and our community have been working tirelessly to provide support to more than 1500 students and families who currently require English as Additional Language support. Of that 1500, approximately 450 students are new to Canada since September, 2015. The influx in the number of new students to our system is not without its challenges. We also recognize that the growing diversity in our schools and communities continues to deeply enrich the learning experience for us all.
The Halifax Regional School Board has a long history of welcoming students from all over the world. Some families come by choice, some families have the decision made for them. Regardless, when children enrol in our schools they become our students and, like all of our students, they have a right to a safe and supportive environment to learn, grow and succeed.
Our staff work extremely hard every day to support each of the 48,000 students in our 136 schools. As educators, we teach students more than reading, writing and mathematics. We also teach them to be respectful, accepting and contributing members of society.
Parents and guardians who are in contact with their child’s school on a regular basis know this. That doesn’t mean that challenges don’t arise from time to time, but open and honest communication between home and school is critical. Issues that are solved at the school level almost always lead to a positive outcome for everyone.
As a parent, I know that nothing is more important than the well-being of your child. As a school system, every child matters to us. As a society, we all have an ongoing responsibility to understand and work toward eliminating all forms of discrimination. We look to our community partners, including those in the media, to help support our efforts.
How can we do this? We can start by not stereotyping – a school, a group of people or a community.
Together, we can do this. The future of our children depends on it.