A Rothesay mom who was called to pick up her injured daughter at school last week was shocked to find out what had happened to her: she'd been struck with a hammer by another student.
She was even more shocked when she learned the hammers had been given to her daughter's Grade 3 class as part of outdoor learning activities.
Alissa Newman said she was too upset at the time to discuss it with the school's officials, because her daughter's hand was swollen and she needed medical attention.
Newman said she took Sophia to Saint John Regional Hospital, where they determined Sophia had a broken finger.
By the time they got home, Newman said, she was furious and wanted answers.
Were these real hammers or toy hammers? And if they were real, why would they be given to young children to play with?
I don't need the school teaching my kid to use a hammer. I need them to teach my children to read and write. - Alissa Newman, parent
"I'm an adult and I have a hard time holding a hammer," she said. "These are seven- and eight-year-old kids. What if someone had been hit in the head instead of the hand?"
She called Rothesay Public School and the Anglophone South School District.
Eventually, she said, officials confirmed that the children had been allowed to use hammers during outdoor learning activities.
Newman was incredulous.
"I don't need the school teaching my kid to use a hammer," she said. "I need them to teach my children to read and write."
Students were supervised, district says
In an email, Anglophone South School District superintendent Zoë Watson confirmed that the district was aware of the incident involving Rothesay Elementary School.
"The tools were a donation to the school and the particular learning activity was not a prescribed part of the curriculum," Watson said.
"The teacher was present and saw the accident when it happened."
Watson said that, during the pandemic, the district has encouraged teachers to have their classes outside when possible in addition to the recess and noon break.
She noted the tools were used by a homeroom class "as part of their planned, outdoor learning activities," and said the children had been taught how to use the tools and observe safety practices.
Watson said that notices were sent home to families to notify them that the class would be learning about tools and using them, and that the teacher had also "sent home photos of the students using the tools on their projects as part of the homework package."
The hammers and other tools are no longer in use at the school, Watson said.
"In light of this unfortunate situation, the tools have been donated to a local high school."
Mother didn't get notice
Newman thinks they should never have been at the elementary school in the first place.
She said she did not receive any notice that tools would be used by the Grade 3 class, nor did she receive any photos of students using the tools. She said she would have objected had she known.
Sophia's hand is still bruised and sore but healing six days after the incident, but Newman said she herself is still feeling rattled.
She said the school never checked in to see how Sophia was doing on the days she missed, and her confidence in their ability to keep her child safe has been shaken.
"I'd like an apology," she said. "This should never have happened."