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Safeguarding Students

Safeguarding Students 

When asked to explain what I do for a living, I often reply: "I safeguard students." It is the first thought that runs through my mind on my way to work, and it is the last thought I have on the way home. When we have sports teams traveling on the Coquihalla in the heart of winter, I toss and turn at night while thinking about their wellbeing. I think that Mr. Ozechowsky and Mr. Gareau share the same ongoing sense of responsibility, as they are often the designated Trip Safety Officers, charged with making some very important decisions. As faculty and staff, safety is instilled in our culture; it is what we do.  

When we consider the safety of our students, we carefully review the physical environment, the selection of activities, and the social-emotional wellbeing of our students.  

In order to create an optimal learning environment, it is crucial that students feel safe and secure. As Dr. Kang eloquently presented on Thursday night, when individuals feel safe, their parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and this system is conducive to creativity and learning. The opposite would be feeling unsafe, which affects the sympathetic nervous system, and this triggers an evolutionary survival instinct called "freeze, flight or fight" and is not conducive to learning.   

Factors we consider when ensuring student safety: 

  • Carefully communicating the expectations for student conduct. This includes regularly promoting and modelling positive behaviours, and consistently reviewing the consequences for misbehaviour.  
  • Outlining expectations in our published Handbooks (Student, Parent, and Faculty); available via MySchool, our website, and the main office.
  • Closely monitoring student safety and supervising accordingly.
  • Establishing a predictable environment, which has shared ownership.
  • Prioritizing structure and routine, while maintaining flexibility. 
  • Ensuring students understand that there are places to go for help (Eg. teacher, advisor, school counsellor, or principal). 
  • Annually reviewing and communicating our policies and procedures to ensure consistency.
  • Promoting positive peer-to-peer behaviour, discussing healthy friendships, and practicing conflict resolution skills.
  • Teaching students the differences between normal conflict, mean behaviour and bullying, and what they can do to seek help in each of these situations.            

The commitment of the school's faculty and administration to respond to concerns and maintain a safe environment.

When incidents occur, we conduct a thorough fact-finding exercise that includes observations, feedback from students, teachers and other supervisors, and a review of tracked documentation. We collect and analyze the data carefully and often meet personally with parents. If there is a serious issue, the administration works in pairs to ensure objectivity and alternate viewpoints. Often the six-person leadership team will meet to review, seek external input, and then decide on the appropriate course of action.  

Overall, we have had very few serious issues. When these do arise, we consider consequences and/or repercussions. Our primary goal is to maintain a safe learning environment through eliminating the undesirable behaviours. 

Ensuring that there is no preferential treatment.     

We have an amazing community of students at our wonderful school where each individual is valued for who they are, not who their parents are. At times, I hear that there is preferential treatment given to students that are children of faculty, Board members or benefactors. We make every effort to make sure that this does not occur.  

We have conflict of interest policies in place that ensure equity and fairness. For example, if the child of a faculty member is involved in an incident, we make sure that the faculty parent is removed from having any sort of authoritative or influential role in the decision process.    

A great deal of time and energy is committed to preserving a safe environment. We have numerous drills, policies, and procedures that are checked regularly by both internal and external bodies. We meet regularly during professional development and staff meetings to ensure that behaviour is appropriate, and that duties are executed with diligence.    

We invite your participation.

The safety of our students is so important to me that I welcome meetings at virtually any time to hear concerns and feedback. I can assure you that your comments will be heard and carefully reviewed by all members of administration, and that we are continually working to refine our procedures.

Please remember, no issue is too small.        

With warm regards,

Chris Grieve

Head of School

christopher.grieve@aberdeenhall.com

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