Director General's Report to Council for May 2022
by Cindy Finn, Director General, LBPSB
Each month in the Director General’s report, I bring news of what is happening throughout our school board with a view to highlighting the accomplishments of our schools and centres and celebrating the individual and collective achievements within our community. Each and every day, good things are happening in our learning spaces that are worthy of our attention and praise. Every month I typically share those things, for I am proud of what we are building together – a culture that is based on our stated values of community, respect, integrity, innovation, and inclusion.
However, this month I wish to reflect on some hard lessons that the last two years, generally, and the last two weeks, specifically, have presented to us.
Our classrooms and staff rooms and indeed all of our spaces are filled with people. Human beings who have all gathered for the purposes of teaching and learning. We are all constantly learning and growing in community. When there is a happy event and a celebration, we all rejoice in that success. But when there is a tragic event and a loss, we are called to reflect, remember, and ask ourselves some difficult questions.
The events of last February 8th forever altered a number of people’s lives. That one of our secondary students lost his life in a tragic and senseless act of violence has shaken all of us. We offer our deepest condolences to Lucas Gaudet’s family and friends, for they are mourning a young man they loved dearly. Across our system, there is grief over a student lost, a life tragically cut short.
The aftermath of this confrontation that was witnessed by hundreds of youth either virtually or on site is still being felt. We remain in varying states of shock, sadness, anger and confusion. Our students and the adults around them – staff, parents, community members – are still trying to make sense of an event that by its very nature is incomprehensible.
We are still seeking to understand the series of events that culminated in injury and loss of life. We are collaborating with police, we are deploying our mental health professionals to help move us through this acute phase of pain and suffering, and we are working with external partners to ensure that we are responding the best way we can. All of these efforts mean we are still in acute response mode and cannot offer detailed answers to many of the questions being asked.
What I can state is what we all know to be true: violence in all forms, verbal or physical, is not acceptable. We cannot use aggression as a means of resolving conflicts and disputes because violence is not the answer. It solves nothing and only engenders more distress and violence. That holds true whether we are in a school classroom, hallway, cafeteria or on a street, at the arena, or a shopping mall.
What I can also say is that we must work together in seeking answers to those questions. This working together calls on all stakeholders – students, staff, parents, law enforcement and community partners – to truly collaborate and seek solutions to problems that exist beyond the walls of a school, the hallway of a centre, or the corners of a playground.
We have seen an increase in violence in our community over the last several months and when I say our community I am not talking about Lester B. Pearson. I am referring to the larger context, beyond our schools and centres. I am not only referring to children and youth, I am also referring to how adults treat each other. Human beings have an enormous capacity for love and kindness, but we can also inflict harm with our words and actions.
More and more, we read about violent events reported in the media, we hear more concern being expressed about mental health concerns. It is even more distressing when these issues reveal themselves in our community, among our students. Violence is a social ill we all wish to see eliminated, but a reduction in verbal and physical aggression requires constant attention, vigilance, and concerted effort from everyone. The circumstances of the last two years – the fear, the isolation, and the frustrations associated with COVID-19 – have only amplified existing problems.
We have stated before that we wish to see our learning spaces be more welcoming, safe and inclusive. That commitment is more important than ever. We will continue to deploy the resources we have toward building kinder and caring spaces, to helping our students with their personal and social-emotional development. We will continue to work at finding new and effective ways to address violence in all forms. A 2-day event is being held February 24 and March 31 which has been organized by the SVPM and the City of Montreal – le forum Montréalais pour la lutte contre la violence armée, s’unir pour la jeunesse. This forum will address the problem of youth violence, and I will be there to represent Lester B. Pearson and reaffirm our commitment to work with community and civic leaders on this important topic.
I join with Chair Kelley in saying this is work that will involve all of us. We need to bring our energies together and work toward constructive actions that benefit our students. We need to focus on solutions that move us away from aggression and violence towards prosocial and caring ways of being. Our students deserve no less.