An Airdrie parent with a child who is currently enrolled in an elementary school in the city has come forward with what she says is a lack of action on the part of Rocky View Schools (RVS) when it comes to dealing with aggressive behavioural issues in the classroom.

A., whose full name is not being provided so as to protect her child's identity said that the escalation of aggressive behaviour toward her child by another student started in January of this year. Both children are in the second grade.

"She talked to her teacher and the teacher moved her to another desk. About a week later, [the other child] has an unprovoked outburst. I think at that time, they thought they had tripped over their shoelace and [then] literally charged at my daughter."

According to A., another student had gotten between the two, and that child was hit. The teacher had messaged A., about the incident and there was a discussion with the school principal, but a few weeks later another incident occurred and they evacuated the classroom because of the incident.

After multiple correspondences with both the administration and teacher, A. said it was suggested that both kids should have a mediation discussion. However, she said that during that mediation session, the aggressive student in question had laughed at her child.

"He told her he didn't care. He wasn't going to stop and that it was fun."

While the student finally did apologize, at that point, the concerns had already been forwarded to RVS by A. She said, however, that the district was unresponsive to her worries. Incidents continued especially when substitute teachers were not informed that the two children should not have been put in the same workgroup.

When A. told the school that the student's behaviour wasn't changing, the school offered that beyond suspending the student's recesses and having an assistant in the classroom, the only other option was for A.'s child to switch classes.

In an attempt to try and get a more concrete response, she began to email other RVS representatives, her local MLAs as well as the Ministry of Education. It was also suggested to her that the Airdrie RCMP school resource officers can come into schools to help facilitate a resolution and that a presentation would occur sometime after spring break.

The RCMP responded to Discover Airdrie that for privacy interests and because the questions surrounded elementary school children, they could not comment on the specific case or school. 

"School resource officers work to support schools. Their support is based upon school needs with responses varying depending upon the circumstances," wrote Cpl. James McConnell of the Community Policing Unit.

Cpl. McConnell added that responses may involve education and awareness through meetings and presentations, mediation, and criminal charges from investigations. School resource officers’ first step in supporting schools in addressing behaviour is education and awareness.

According to the RCMP, between January and March (90 days), Airdrie officers attended Airdrie Schools 184 times for patrols, meetings, presentations, lockdown drills and investigations. There are 53 schools in the district.

Cpl. McConnell suggested that parents should maintain an open dialogue with their children, schools, and other parents, in order to work with them and support agencies to address behaviour.

A.'s feels her concerns are being ignored and that there is a lack of resources available to address complex behavioural issues in the classrooms.

"A [representative] from the Minister of Education's office phoned me... she was very nice, but she basically said there is nothing they can do; the province allocates money to the schools, and it's up to the school divisions what they do with it."

According to Tara de Weerd, Director of Communications for Rocky View Schools, the division cannot share details related to students or families to protect their privacy. However, she did say RVS does work closely with parents, teachers, learning support teachers, and school administration when it comes to such issues.

"Depending on the needs of our students, [this] may also include specialists hired by the division as well as outside agency specialists in the development of an individualized student plan. Plans are developed to support the individual student’s needs and the safety and well-being of all students and staff," de Weerd wrote.

However, A., feels that the onus has been put on her child, rather than the student aggressor.

"I've sent a number of emails referencing their own code of conduct - because whether it's the seven-year-old or older children, they're not holding anybody to the code of conduct."

According to RVS's Administrative Procedure 350 Student Code of Conduct, which outlines both acceptable and unacceptable student behaviour: Students are prohibited from engaging in unacceptable behaviour, including:

  • Conduct which endangers others
  • Assault
  • Disruptive behaviour, wilful disobedience or defiance of authority
  • Interfering with the orderly conduct of classes or the school

Violating any one of these rules could result in:

  • Assignment of a student whose behaviour is unacceptable, disruptive or destructive to an alternate supervised location
  • Short-term removal of privileges
  • Detention
  • Alternative interventions such as community conferencing or other forms of restorative justice
  • Suspension
  • Recommendation for expulsion

Another parent by the name of S. had also reached out to Discover Airdrie about her experience with regard to RVS dealing with the same student and her son in Grade One last year. While S., had moved her child to a different class at the beginning of this school year, she noted that the physical aggression exhibited by the student towards her child was very troubling. S. said that at the time, the school had told her that both her child and the student had been engaged in physical confrontations. 

"The solution was that this year they wouldn't be put in the same class... [and] they almost forgot. If I had not advocated two days before the start of the year, to double-check that they weren't put in the same class they would have been," she said.

RVS would not comment on how many full-time teacher assistants are assigned to students in the district or within the specific school or the ratio of students to teaching assistants in the District. Similarly, RVS did not respond to the question about how the district gauges whether presentations by RCMP school resource officers are effective.

"RVS highly values the strong partnership we have with RCMP and the support they provide for our schools. We encourage all parents who have concerns about student behaviour in the classroom to bring them to the school administration. School administration works with the families involved, and as each situation is unique, the school and/or division response will be tailored to the needs of the students involved and our overall school community," de Weerd wrote. 

However, A. is worried that by having to move her daughter to another classroom a precedence has been set, and not a positive one.

"My concern is that she's at such a young age and if you're the one getting picked on, I feel like it's coming across as you are the problem."

RVS concluded that the district encourages all parents who have concerns about student behaviour in the classroom to bring them to the school administration.

"School administration works with the families involved, and as each situation is unique, the school and/or division response will be tailored to the needs of the students involved and our overall school community."

In late March, the province announced that an additional $126 million of funding over three years would be geared toward addressing complexities in the classroom.  

"[This funding] will enable school authorities to hire more educational assistants or increase their hours, provide more training opportunities for staff, and/or hire specialists such as counsellors, psychologists and interpreters."

According to the province, classroom complexity funding is a new grant in the 2023-2024 funding manual and it will be allocated based on student enrolment. This will help reduce paperwork and avoid an increase in administrative burden being placed on school authorities. Funding for the 2023-24 school year will flow to school authorities in September as part of their operational funding.

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