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School exchange trip spawns investigation

School trip policies, procedures refined



By Cindy Filipenko

An investigation into activities that may have occurred during a Pemberton Secondary School trip to Japan has some Pemberton parents upset.

Upon returning to Canada after the10-day trip last month, a concern was raised that two of the students had returned late to the hostel they were staying at and may have been drinking. It was decided by Principal Lawrence Tarasoff, in consultation with Dr. Rick Erickson, superintendent of schools for School District No. 48, that an outside party should conduct the investigation into the matter.

Tarasoff said both men felt that a third party could better provide clarity to the matter and dedicate the necessary time.

According to Erickson, hiring outside consultants to do information gathering is standard practice for the school district.

“The purpose of the information gathering, and the report, will be for us to look at when reviewing our policies and procedures, so that everyone has a full understanding of expectations,” said Erickson.

Tarasoff concurred with Erickson.

“At this point all there is, is rumour and speculation about what, if anything, happened on the trip,” said the high school principal.

Asked if the investigation and subsequent report would negatively impact any future student exchange opportunities, Tarasoff said he had no plans to change anything.

“I think our students and teachers do an excellent job of representing the school wherever they go,” he said. “They’re good ambassadors. We always have had positive feedback about our kids.”

According to Erickson, initially only a few of the participants were going to be interviewed, but that tack was changed when a parent complained that certain students were being singled-out.

Participation in the interview process was not mandatory.

“The students were allowed to decline being interviewed, choose to be interviewed alone, with a parent or with someone else present,” clarified Erickson.

Asked about rumours that a lawsuit had been brought against the school or school district in relation to the investigation, Erickson said that he was not aware of any legal proceedings at this time.

Erickson declined to comment on whether the initial complaint that led to the investigation came from a teacher or a parent. Nor would he comment on whether or not any disciplinary action against any students would arise from the report.

“I would say that communication was an issue — especially in a small community — we should have made it clear what we were doing from the start.”

Dr. Erickson has said that he and Principal Tarasoff are available to speak to any parents who have concerns about how the matter has been handled.

“It’s really about learning what we could have done better,” said Erickson of the report’s purpose.

The report is expected to be delivered within two weeks.

This is the first time the exchange has raised concerns. Students from Pemberton Secondary School have been involved in the biannual exchange since the ’90s, an opportunity made available through the Village of Pemberton’s sister-city relationship with Miya Village, a small community in Japan’s Ono District. The VOP’s involvement with the exchange officially ended when the sister-city relationship dissolved in February 2005, when Miya was absorbed into city of Takayama. The school then took on the responsibility of organizing the exchange.

“The school has always been very involved. The principal of the high school always sat as co-chair on the committee,” explained Tarasoff. “The school has always taken a lead role with the village steering the committee.”

One parent, who requested anonymity said, they felt the investigation had obscured the real point of the trip — students acquiring a unique cultural experience.

“What happened in Japan should have stayed in Japan.”

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