PCs urge minister to deal with school violence as bullied teen leaves N.L.

House of Assembly

Tory education critic Craig Pardy told the legislature Tuesday that the Newfoundland and Labrador government needs to ensure schools are safe for all students.

The Bonavista MHA's comments come in the wake of a CBC News story on Alex Mercer, a teenager who says he moved to Fort McMurray, Alta., to finish Grade 12 due to relentless harassment at Carbonear Collegiate. 

"After bravely facing taunts and name-calling for months, the family feels the system failed Alex and turned a blind eye toward this reprehensible behaviour. Will the minister commit to a review of this situation?" Pardy asked in the House of Assembly. 

Mercer first told his story in September, when the school dismissed his complaints about homophobic abuse and bullying. 

"It's disturbing to hear of such incidents, student safety must be top of mind at all times in everything that we do," said Education Minister Brian Warr.

Warr committed to a review of Mercer's case. 

Submitted by Alex Mercer

Pardy pressed the minister on how he can assure the public that the province's Safe and Caring Schools Policy is working, if Mercer said he didn't feel safe in the school. 

Warr said the policy is being reviewed, and when it comes to educators, "we'll put training in the area of being able to recognize these incidents before they happen."

Call for Child and Youth Advocate review

In light of a national CBC investigation into violence in schools, Pardy also asked what the department is doing to combat sexual assault in schools.

He also requested that the government ask the Child and Youth Advocate to review "systematic bullying in our schools."

Warr said the department is working closely with the school district and he'll "make sure that it is brought up" in an upcoming meeting with the advocate. 

House of Assembly

"School administrators have been directed to report any allegation of sexual misconduct to the regional assistant director of education," and it will also be part of the review of the Safe and Caring Schools Policy, he added. 

Pardy noted this review should include a look at available school psychologists and counsellors, considering the national recommendation is one psychologist to every 750 students.

A Marketplace investigation in October discovered at least one case of alleged sexual assault was not documented.

However, Warr reaffirmed in the legislature that the school district uses Review 360, a program that tracks student behavioural and disciplinary data. 

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