The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) is calling for increased staffing and a provincial strategy to address school violence.

The call comes after two school employees were stabbed at Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford on Monday. 

In a media release Tuesday, Halifax Regional Police said the employees were in hospital in serious but stable condition. A 15-year-old student was also transported to hospital with stab wounds not considered life-threatening. 

The student is now facing 11 charges in relation to the incident, including two counts of attempted murder. 

‘Sparked a broader and necessary conversation’

On Wednesday afternoon, NSTU president Ryan Lutes said in a media release that what happened at the high school has “sparked a broader and necessary conversation” about not only combatting school violence, but improving access to mental health supports for students. 

While pleased the incident is being thoroughly investigated, Lutes said he’s asking the province to take “urgent steps” to help make Nova Scotia schools safer.

The NSTU is requesting a reversal of staffing cuts made at HRM’s most populated high schools in 2021. Lutes said they also want to see additional resources allocated to all high schools outside of HRM to “enhance student supervision and support.”

In addition, the union is requesting a comprehensive review by the province that would include consultations with stakeholders. The goal would be the creation of a provincial strategy to reduce school violence. 

‘Tragic events extreme but not isolated’

“In the last couple of days, I have spoken to teachers at CP Allen and around the province, along with many parents, and it’s clear to me from these conversations that more needs to be done to make our schools safer,” Lutes said in the news release. 

“The tragic events that unfolded on Monday, while at the extreme, are unfortunately not isolated in our public school system. Enrollment has jumped significantly in recent years, classrooms have become increasingly complex, however resources and staffing levels have not kept pace.” 

In an article for CBC on Wednesday, Josh Hoffman reported that Halifax Regional Police have been dispatched to schools 424 times since 2018, resulting in 77 charges.

In a statement issued Monday,  Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Becky Druhan said staff and students at the school should be recognized for their quick actions. Her department will work with Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) to ensure established safety protocols worked as intended and to determine next steps. 

Druhan said they’ll also engage with partners, including NSTU and the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia.  

“Right now, our attention is on the individuals directly impacted by the incident today and the broader school community. To the staff at C.P. Allen, thank you for being there for your students,” Druhan said. “I want to assure Nova Scotian students and families that we are committed to ensuring the safety of our schools.”

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and health issues. Twitter @ydentremont

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  1. Why the conciliatory tone by the NSTU president to have a “broader conversation” when these conversations have been happening for decades? Clearly there’s more wrong with schools than the individual events, but maybe we should reevaluate the purpose of education altogether. More and more students are pushed into an academic direction despite evidence that their talents lay elsewhere. They are smart and passionate children who are being told they are inferior because they don’t have an interest in a very narrow set of subjects. Maybe the source of violence in our schools is the school itself, forcing children into straight jackets for the most creative decades of their lives?

    Close the schools. Education should be free.

  2. Thank goodness the obviously troubled teen could not get their hands on a gun. I hope that they get the help they need and for the recovery of all injured parties, including witnesses to this horrific tragedy.

    1. They probably could have found a way to get a gun, if they had planned this. It seems more like an extreme reaction to an unexpected event at school that day and they used what was at hand. Seems like pocket knives are essential school supplies in high school these days. Given the size of the school, I’m surprised this didn’t happen earlier. The NSTU asking for more staff is great, but that is only a measure to keep a lid on all the frustration. The core issue is what the life of a student is like these days. If they don’t get consistent A’s in a very narrow set of subjects, they are told they will be poor forever. I’m not surprised it happened. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

  3. It is helpful to know what the data indicates.It is also helpful to know what the research on school violence indicates. Both can inform parents and students-especially those who are seeking info. on ‘good schools’. Police are an important source of information on police attendance at schools(they document every visit made, and this can be helpful info, not just for the police but also for media and parents);results of this attending-including charges and the nature of those charges are useful information. Also available in some instances are the actions taken by the school ‘s administration. School administrators do not share this info. on record at the police station although they are aware, if they wish to be, of its existence.It is unfortunate that some school administrators and some central office staff view the availability of this information as putting it out in the public that school X is unsafe. The data does not show this at all; the data or data sets can inform parents how one school compares to another based on certain criteria. This could be very important to parents!
    Generally speaking, smaller schools are safer than bigger ones; this does NOT mean that bigger schools are unsafe by the way.
    I hope that the Examiner and other media continue to follow this important issue, and I’d suggest two areas for their inquiry: 1. the extent to which high schools have implemented comprehensive guidance and 2.the links among lagging skills-unsolved problems- and cooperative planning strategies.