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 Lance Hiltz
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From: Monday, January 25, 2016 3:59 PM -0600
Subject:Letter to Parents and Caregivers - La Loche
To:
January 25, 2016


Dear Parents and Caregivers,

Horizon School Division extends our deepest condolences to the students, staff and families of La Loche Community School and our colleagues in the Northern Lights School Division following the tragic events of last Friday afternoon. We are grieving this horrible loss along with everyone across our province and indeed our country. In the wake of this tragedy, you may have questions regarding school safety in your own communities.

Providing safe and caring environments for our students and staff is a foundational goal of the Board of Education of Horizon School Division. We have processes in place to ensure that we are prepared in the case of emergency situations and we have worked diligently to build strong community partnerships with local RCMP detachments, fire departments, provincial Ministries including Education, Social Services and Health and other community and provincial stakeholders.
  
Since 2012, Horizon has been working closely with Kevin Cameron, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response (CCTATR), to develop a process for assessing threats across our schools. This work has intensified in the last year and a half with expertise developed at the system level, increased system and ministry sponsored training opportunities for all staff and an even greater focus on ensuring necessary staff, such as administrators, are trained. Should a situation arise involving a threat to student, staff or community safety, Horizon and community partners utilize the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process to involve school staff & administrators, police officers and other related partners (community mental health, social services, etc.) to assess the risk. The VTRA Team applies a multidisciplinary process to determine if the individual poses a legitimate risk to a target or targets. VTRA Teams also assess individuals who have a history of violence with concern for further and/or more serious violence potential. Training for this process is conducted through the CCTATR and to date, all of our school administrators have received this training except those new to their positions this school year. These educators will be receiving their training this spring.

Mr. Cameron’s work also highlights a number of guidelines for parents and caregivers to help their children through traumatic experiences:

  • Limit media exposure for younger children.
  • For older children, let them know that the media may be too upsetting for them to watch and discuss how social media and news reports may desensitize us all to violence.
  • Spend extra time with your children to help them feel safe and secure.
  • Contact your family doctor or school administration if you are worried about your child and would like professional support to assist with your child's reaction. Every school has an assigned counsellor who is available to support the needs of your child.
  • Parents should be aware that being overly protective of their children is a normal response. Adult emotions may include: sense of helplessness, fear, anger and a heightened sense of vulnerability.

Further resources for helping children recover from traumatic stress can be found at the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website: www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/parents-caregivers.

Horizon School Division offers counselling supports for students affected by trauma or looking to speak with someone about how they are feeling. If your children express interest in speaking with a counselor or other staff member at the school, please encourage them to do so or contact your school principal to have this arranged.

The I Am Stronger initiative is a partnership between SaskTel and the Ministry of Education, designed to stop activities of bullying and cyber-bullying. This initiative empowers youth to support one another and create positive change in their schools. In addition, the Ministry has a program in place for reporting acts of bullying - Report Bullying SK – which allows students to report bullying behavior anonymously online or through text message. More information on each of these initiatives can be found on our website at www.horizonsd.ca.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office or your school’s principal with any questions or concerns. Together, we will continue to ensure our schools are environments where our children and staff feel safe and cared for.

Sincerely,

Kevin C. Garinger
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division #205
“A Community of Learning and Achieving”