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Violence in schools a growing concern: NLFSC

Parents wait outside Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John’s Wednesday to pick up their children. The school went into secure mode after an incident in which several students were hit with bear spray.
Parents wait outside Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John’s Wednesday to pick up their children. The school went into secure mode after an incident in which several students were hit with bear spray. - Glen Whiffen

The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils (NLFSC) says the bear spray incident at Prince Of Wales Collegiate (PWC) high school in St. John’s on Wednesday points to a bigger issue of violence and behaviour issues in schools across the province.
During recess time Wednesday morning a number of students gathered outside PWC expecting to see a fight ended up being hit with bear spray after one person who was supposed to be part of the fight fired a stream spray at another person, hitting others nearby and affecting even more when the orange substance was carried in the wind.
“The issue of violence in schools is certainly not isolated to this one school,” Ruby Hoskins, past president of NLFSC said in a news release.
“The poor behaviour of some students and the impact it is having on students, teachers, administrators and the quality of learning has been a concern of NLFSC and our members for a long time. Violence in schools, which includes bullying, is one of the main issues discussed at our general and biennial meetings. It's an issue that rather than decreasing seems to be increasing.”
The NLFSC is the provincial umbrella group for parents, teachers, high school students and community supporters who are committed to enhancing the quality of school programs and improving the levels of student achievement in schools. NLFSC provides school councils and parent groups with a voice on educational issues and encourages parental involvement at all levels of education.
Hoskins said school councils are concerned about the effect school violence is having on students and the time and the workload it places on teachers and administrators.
“Classroom instruction in Newfoundland and Labrador is disrupted every day because of behavioural issues,” she said. “Behaviour problems distract other students from learning and require teachers to spend precious instructional time on discipline and behaviour management. And in many situations teachers are bullied, threatened and attacked as well.”
NLFSC says teachers shouldn’t be left to manage discipline by themselves. Teachers and administrators need support and resources to address the behaviour issues, and teachers and parents need to work together.
“Parents can play a strong role in promoting schools’ use of security measures and violence-prevention strategies,” Hoskins said.
“Parents can powerfully impact the safety of their children’s schools by being advocates for school safety and ensuring that they, and their children, contribute to the wellness of the school community. 
“It is critical that parents talk with their children and set expectations for behaviour both at home and school. Parents also need to support, not blame teachers and administrators when addressing negative behaviour.”
NLFSC says it commends the staff at PWC for their actions in moving quickly to address the incident at their school.
“We applaud them for taking immediate and appropriate action,” Hoskins said. “We also extend our support to the parents and students involved. It is important that we all work together to take a stand against violence in the schools.”
Several ambulances rushed to the school on Wednesday to treat the students impacted by the spray, along with a police presence. The RNC’s criminal investigation division is investigating the incident. 
As of Thursday afternoon, no charges have been laid and the investigation is continuing.
glen.whiffen@thetelegram.com

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