N.S. parents upset over allegations students had mouths taped shut
Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013 10:04AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2013 10:43PM EDT
Parents whose children attend a Nova Scotia elementary school are upset they weren’t informed immediately after a child-care worker allegedly duct-taped the mouths of some students during an after-school program.
Chris Procunier said his wife Jennifer noticed tape impressions on their seven-year-old's mouth after the alleged incident last Thursday afternoon at Bedford South School in Bedford, N.S.
His son was one of 11 students enrolled in the Excel after-school program.
"Our biggest issue is the lack of response from either the school board or the Excel program. There’s been no indication this is being dealt with properly," Procunier told the Canadian Press on Wednesday.
He said school officials reacted slowly to the alleged incident and that parents should have been told immediately despite the school being closed the following day because it was a professional development day.
"If our kids hadn’t told us this was happening, we wouldn’t have known."
On Wednesday, Halifax police confirmed they are investigating a report of an assault that took place last week involving a student and a staff member at Bedford South School.
Cst. Pierre Bourdages told CTV Atlantic that an officer trained to interview young children is involved in the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Halifax Regional School Board has also launched an investigation.
School board spokesperson Doug Hadley confirmed that a child-care worker is currently on paid leave while officials investigate the alleged incident.
"What’s happening right now, is that the person has been asked to stay at home, they’re on paid leave," Hadley told CTV Atlantic. "The matter is under investigation. We’re trying to speak to all of the students, we’re speaking with other staff members, and we’re speaking with the person against whom the allegation was made. We’re trying to gather as much information as we can right now."
Hadley added that the school board was not trying to skirt the issue but is working to get to the bottom of the alleged incident so that steps can be taken to prevent similar types of behaviour, "if in fact it has occurred as it has been described."
It is not yet clear how many children had their mouths allegedly taped shut. According to a press release from the Nova Scotia government, only one student is referred to in the alleged incident.
But according to Procunier, nine children and his son were lined up for disciplinary action and had their mouths taped up.
"My son said they were speaking out loud, but I’m not sure what the catalyst was … and there was actual duct tape placed on the kids’ mouths for an extended period of time," he said.
Procunier said he and his wife heard about the details of the alleged incident from three other parents.
The school board has not said how many children were involved in the alleged incident.
"At this point, we believe there was between 10 to 12 kids in the room but I can’t confirm if the incident involved one, several or all," Hadley said in an email.
He said some parents were contacted about the incident on Friday or over the weekend, while others weren’t informed until Tuesday.
Procunier said he was one of those parents. He said he, along with eight children and other parents were called in to a meeting with school officials on Tuesday to discuss what had happened.
If the allegations against the child-care worker prove true, a policy review is likely, Hadley said.
"I would suggest to any of the parents that if they left the meeting not feeling satisfied, that they contact the Excel staff or board staff to express those concern so we can take that into consideration," he said.
On Tuesday, Nova Scotia’s Education Minister Ramona Jennex said she is upset by the allegations and said she hopes the school board will have some answers for parents and provincial officials soon.
"As the minister of education, a former teacher and a grandparent, I am very upset about this alleged incident,"Jennex said in a statement. "I want to reassure parents that this behaviour is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated.
The school board notified the Department of Education about the incident on Tuesday.
Jennex stressed that schools must be “safe havens” for children.
"I expect the school board to have answers about this alleged incident shortly and we will work with the board to ensure it doesn't happen again," she said.
With files from CTV Atlantic and The Canadian Press