N.L. teachers' association president commends plans to review sexual assault policies

N.L. teachers' association president commends plans to review sexual assault policies

The president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association praised the provincial government's plan to review its policies following allegations of sexual assault by a student — and says there are other areas that can also be improved.

Dean Ingram told CBC's On the Go on Friday that he thinks Education Minister Dale Kirby is on the right path.

"The NLTA, the province's teachers, are obviously very supportive of any measures that would allow schools and school districts to be better positioned to address issues such as that which arose in Stephenville, and any similar instances," he said.

"Every child absolutely has a right to a quality education … in a safe and caring environment," he said.

The fact that a student accused of sexual assault was able to return to the school where he and his accusers attend classes highlights the limitations in the Schools Act, said Ingram.

"I think the situation in Stephenville did put a light on some of those limitations in terms of what can and cannot be done under the current legislation," he said.

Other areas also need updating

Ingram added there are other areas that need to be reviewed — like how to handle student-teacher violence.

"We've had 87 reports of student-teacher violence in the past year, and we think that's something that needs to be addressed," he said. "There's instances of a teacher with broken bones, concussion, bruising, etc., spat upon — these incidents are occurring in our school system."

Legislation and policy also needs to be updated to address the impact of social media and its effects and abuses, like cyberbullying, he said.

"We know there's been a large number of reports of concerns regarding students' mental health, a number of tragedies in this province in the past month alone," he said, adding that ways of restricting or at least policing students' access to and use of social media in school should be reviewed.

"I think these are things that need to be examined wholesale."