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Playground incident prompts policy change at Spring Creek

Cell phones 'to be away from students' during school hours



Though a recent incident at Spring Creek Community School prompted emails home to parents, administrators with the Sea to Sky School District (SD48) are looking at it as a learning opportunity.

The incident allegedly involved a large group of students chanting obscenities at a playground supervisor (some students filmed the incident and later posted it to social media)—though administrators declined to discuss the details.

"We do kind of just look at things from that 30,000-foot level," said director of instruction Phillip Clarke.

"When our students make poor choices, or when they kind of behave in a developmental way with their decision-making part of their brains, how we wrap around and support students and staff in those scenarios (is) through the sort of practice of taking responsibility for their actions, and repairing harm if any harm is done."

While Clarke couldn't confirm how many students were involved or any specifics about the incident, he said it's a learning moment for everyone involved.

"We do know—especially in the developing brains of teenagers—that oftentimes they feed off of each other, and make decisions that they would otherwise not make when they are by themselves," he said.

"These are always learning moments for schools to reflect on how we expect our students to hold themselves, and also how to navigate tricky situations when you know you should be behaving a certain way but your peer group is behaving another way.

"So there's a lot of really positive dialogue that comes from when we have 'trickies' here and there at school."

Tracy Higgs, chair of the Spring Creek Parent Advisory Council, said she had heard about the incident secondhand from her own children.

"As parents, we tried to turn it into a learning experience for our kids on how easy it is to join the crowd without really questioning in your mind what is really going on and to think for yourself instead of getting caught up in the energy," Higgs wrote in an email.

After the incident, Spring Creek principal Stuart Bent wrote to parents explaining that he was conducting a review of the events, as well as the misuse of cell phones.

In a follow-up email, he explained that moving forward, cell phones "are to be away from students" during school hours.

Though SD48 has a district-wide code of conduct that outlines general expectations of behaviour for kids (which covers the use of cell phones), it's up to individual schools to set policy around their use, said assistant superintendent Chris Nicholson.

"We fully support technology as a tool for amplifying learning, and we would not be in a position to do a blanket ban. We think it's much more important to teach kids responsibility," Nicholson said.

"They will be using these devices, as we all are in our lives, and one of our main roles, of course, is to prepare our kids to be contributing members of society for the future, so that would include responsible use of technology, including cell phones."

If a school were to ban cell phones, it would never be in isolation, and never as a knee-jerk reaction, he added.

A second incident at Spring Creek, less than a week later, involved a rag that was stuffed in the exhaust pipe of a school bus that eventually caught fire (students were removed from the bus and the fire was put out without anyone getting hurt).

The events at Spring Creek come on the heels of news last month that Whistler Secondary School was broken into and vandalized (see

Pique, April 3)—but district administrators aren't concerned it's a growing trend.

"To be honest with you, kids today are making better and healthier choices than they have in any generation before," Clarke said, pointing to the 85 students who participated in a 24-hour drum event in March as just one example.

"There is just more awareness of when they do make mistakes, but we are always working with them to (make better choices) and to not make those same mistakes twice."