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Category "Education Issues"

14Oct

B.C. school districts target vaping, call for increased regulation

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https://vancouversun.com/


Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.


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KELOWNA — A British Columbia school board says it has “serious concerns” about the risk of vaping and is asking all levels of government to take action.

In an example of how school districts are grappling with the new products amid shifting regulatory frameworks, the Central Okanagan School District outlined in a letter to parents on Friday how it is working to curb the use of e-cigarettes by students.

Since May, the school district says it has met with local municipal governments to encourage the development of bylaws to prevent advertising and targeting sales to minors.

It also says it supports proposed new provincial regulations, and the school board voted to write to local federal candidates asking how, if elected, they would address the “serious danger” posed by the electronic devices.

The board specifically asked how candidates would address the marketing of vaping products to children.

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Vaping products are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid solution to create an aerosol and typically contains nicotine or THC, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, but Health Canada has warned people who vape to monitor themselves for symptoms of pulmonary illness.

“The Central Okanagan School District continues to have serious concerns about the impacts of vaping on human health,” the letter from Superintendent Kevin Kaardal says to parents.

School staff are focusing education on middle school students and will continue to enforce a “no-vaping zone” on school property, it says.

School principals have been instructed to confiscate any vapour products they see on campus.

“If staff see vaping products on school property, they may confiscate them and turn them over to the RCMP,” the letter says.

In B.C., the rules around the sale of vapour products are the same as cigarettes and it is against the law to sell to someone under the age of 19.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said this month that a plan will be released in “the coming weeks” to deal with regulatory change and suggested licences would be required for vendors to sell the products.

The Central Okanagan School District isn’t alone in trying to address teen vaping.

The Sooke school district said vaping is becoming an “epidemic” among teens, ahead of an information session it held in May.

In August, the Vancouver school district issued information handouts to teachers and parents.

“Teachers are in a unique position to provide unbiased information about the adverse health effects of vaping to students and their families,” the package for teachers says.

The parents’ handout says the long-term health effects of vaping remain unknown.

“As caregivers, you can connect and discuss issues around vaping products with your child,” it says.

Two teenagers filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court Sept. 30 against popular vape brand Juul alleging they suffered “adverse health conditions” after using the company’s e-cigarettes beginning in 2018.

Juul has not yet filed a response with the court.

30Aug

Back-to-school is big business for B.C.’s lice busters

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Busy schedules, resistant bugs and, of course, the ‘ick’ factor.

B.C.’s lice busters say there are several reasons more parents are seeking professional help to deal with lice infestations — and as kids head back to school on Tuesday, they’re bracing for a busy month.

“By the end of September, we’ll likely see a few outbreaks,” said Rochelle Ivany, a Chilliwack nit picker who runs The Lice House with friend Ashley Wall. “Over the summer, kids have been off at camp, sleepovers and grandparents’ houses. When they come back to school, lice can come with them.”

Ivany entered the business when one of her kids came home with lice.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said. “Lice can be a taboo subject. No one wants to be the kid with it. Parents dread the letter coming home from school saying that there’s an outbreak in their kid’s class.”

After research and practice, Ivany set up shop in her home last year, offering people in the Fraser Valley an alternative to over-the-counter pesticides and hours of combing.

The key is to be “meticulous” while manually removing all lice and eggs with a special comb, she said.

Confidential sessions at The Lice House take between one-and-a-half to three hours depending on the severity of the infestation and the length of the client’s hair. Ivany charges $50 an hour — a lower rate than many of the services closer to Vancouver — and does comb-outs every three days until the client gets three clean comb-outs. She also provides treatment at cost for people who are referred to her through a social worker or community support worker.

“I get calls from a lot of panicked parents,” she said. “The message is that it’s OK, it’s going to be OK. We can help you.”

While it’s unclear if lice outbreaks are increasing — the B.C. Centre for Disease Control does not keep data on cases — more people are turning to professional lice removal services for help.

In Maple Ridge, Lice911 owner Barbara Pattison has been nit picking for 18 years.

“We’re the original,” she said. “When I started, there were four companies in North America.”

In the last decade, she’s expanded to provide mobile service in communities across Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island. In addition to Lice911, there are almost a dozen other companies offering treatment in B.C.

Pattison said lice seem to be more resistant to chemicals, which have become weaker in the last 10 years, while people may be too busy, or unwilling, to spend hours combing out bugs. In the last few years, she’s also seen a shift toward more teens and young adults arranging treatment for themselves, which she attributes to selfies and people putting their heads together to look at phones.

“All it takes is three seconds of hair-to-hair contact,” she said.

The lice expert advises parents to check their kids’ hair regularly for lice, looking for sticky black, brown or grey eggs half the size of a sesame seed attached to strands of hair. Some kids may have an itchy head or a rash at the nape of their neck.

“If you can catch it early, when there are 30 or 40 eggs, it’s much easier to deal with,” she said. “An average infestation is about 500 eggs.”

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18Mar

Rob Shaw: NDP government ‘reviewing’ a basic human right for girls

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VICTORIA — Annie Ohana was in her classroom at L.A. Matheson high school in Surrey last week, when an all-too-common scene played out. A young woman ducked into her room after the final bell rang and quietly asked: “Ms. Ohana, do you have a tampon or pad?”

“Teachers at schools and counsellors, especially as women, we do often keep a little stash of products,” said Ohana.

So Ohana, the Aboriginal department head at the school, gladly reached into her own supply to help out. It made the difference between the student being able to stay at school for her extracurricular activities, or having to leave.

“She was volunteering for something, but instead of going home because of her period, she was able to ask me,” said Ohana. “I was able to provide it, but that’s my own money …  the system should provide it. In this case I was there, but what if I was gone?”

It’s a question increasingly being asked by teachers, parents, students and advocates in hundreds of schools across the province. Why is there no provincial funding to provide free tampons and pads for female students in school washrooms?

Instead, B.C. has a patchwork system that varies from school to school and often results in embarrassment and shame for female students.

Some districts put coin-operated dispensers in women’s bathrooms (requiring girls to have exact change to get a pad or tampon while bleeding and in need). Others schools have literally nothing. In some cases, like in Burnaby North Secondary, students have taken it upon themselves to organize free baskets of products in washrooms because nobody else will do it for them.

Some schools do offer free tampons or pads — but only if the student interrupts her teacher in class, asks to be excused in front of all her classmates, walks to the office, waits in the queue at the front desk and then asks the (possibly male) receptionist in front of everyone else sitting in that office if she can please have a tampon thank-you-very-much. You couldn’t create a more cumbersome and humiliating system if you tried.


L.A. Matheson teacher Annie Ohana.

Mark van Manen /

PNG

Some girls can’t afford to buy their own products. And there’s cultural and social stigmas around menstruation that can leave young women, at a difficult time in their life, isolated from family and friends. It’s even more difficult if the student is transgender. The very least the education system could do is offer them a discreet, free, and easy way to get a tampon or pad from every school washroom, without having to ask.

One in seven Canadian girls have missed school because they couldn’t get a tampon or pad during their period, according to a Procter & Gamble survey.

The issue was raised at the legislature by Green Leader Andrew Weaver during International Women’s Day. He based his question on a suggestion from one of his staff members, Stephanie Siddon.

Education Minister Rob Fleming responded by pointing to community grant programs that schools could try to tap, while offering to conduct more research into the issue.

It was an unimpressive display of leadership, said Weaver.

“There are some things that you just think about for 30 seconds and you realize, yeah that just makes sense,” said Weaver. “Here we are in 2019. You just do it. This falls into that. … “I would have thought he’d just have done it.”

Weaver’s own quick calculations — done in the middle of an interview using public pricing for hygiene products — pegged the rough cost at $200,000 a month for the education system, or $2.4 million a year to give more than 260,000 enrolled female students access to tampons and pads.

That amounts to a “rounding error” in the ministry’s $6.5-billion annual budget that should be acted upon without wasting time researching further, said Weaver.

New Westminster became one of the first school districts in Canada to fully fund feminine hygiene products when it voted last month to spend $10,000 of its own operating budget on dispensers and $7,000 annually to stock them with free supplies for women.

The issue is also on agendas for school trustees in Surrey, Greater Victoria, Cariboo-Chilcotin, Burnaby and Vancouver.

School districts are charging forward on their own, while the province lags behind.

The government could save time and effort by simply listening to advocates like Douglas College professor Selina Tribe, who has been clear, consistent and vocal about the issue for months.

Or Sussanne Skidmore, the secretary-treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour who is helping lead the United Way’s Period Promise campaign that sent a letter to Fleming on March 7 asking him to “take a leadership role in addressing period poverty in our province.”

“If there’s public policy around this, we can normalize it and make it no different than toilet paper,” Skidmore said. “It’s a human right.”

How frustrating it must be for socially progressive New Democrats to watch their government move so slowly on a clear-cut human rights issue like this.

“There are lots of leaders stepping up to say it can be done and it’s not that complicated,” said Skidmore.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson is set to announce B.C.’s new poverty reduction strategy on Monday. There’s no good reason why this couldn’t be included.

Fleming said in statements last week that he’s “committed to supporting students around the province who need access to these products and I look forward to putting forward a plan soon.”

In the meantime, he said, “ministry staff are currently researching this further.”

Researching what exactly?

Is there some sort of cost-benefit ratio needed before the minister will sign off on funding access to hygiene products?

Is there a price to be put on the embarrassment faced in having to ask the office receptionist or school nurse (if the nursing office hasn’t already been eliminated due to cutbacks) for a tampon?

Is there a figure we can apply to how many days it’s acceptable for a female student to go home sick because they get their period in class and have nowhere to turn?

Does the ministry research the cost of toilet paper or soap?

For Ohana, who teaches social justice to her high school students, the issue is clear.

“To me, this is tied in to social justice,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a human right. It’s a human reality.

“There’s a shame element,” Ohana added. “If girls can feel they can be proud of their bodies, and part of that being menstruation, that’s going to impact their self-esteem and confidence.”

That’s worth the cost.

Free advice to the education minister: Just do it.

[email protected]

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun




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2Jan

B.C. government to develop 24/7 mental health resource for students

by admin


The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health, stress and addiction challenges.


fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health and addiction challenges.

The program will include phone, online chat, text and email support for young adults available around the clock, including confidential virtual counselling sessions.

The province will be posting a procurement notice to B.C. Bid in mid-January to seek proposals from parties interested in working with the B.C. government to develop the support tool.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Minister Melanie Mark.

“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”

A total of $1.5 million has already been approved for the first year of the 24/7 support resource, with further hopes of expanding the program to reach teens.

The 2016 National College Health Association Survey surveyed Canadian post-secondary students about their mental health experiences in the past 12 months. According to the survey’s results:

• 44.4 per cent said that they had at some point felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”
• 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide
• 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide
• 18.4 per cent had been “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety

“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students.

“Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”

The service will be available to B.C.’s approximately 275,000 students at 25 public post-secondary schools and 51,000 students at private training institutions. There are about 1.3 million children, youth and young adults living in B.C.

The project will be a collaboration between the Ministry of Advanced Education, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development.

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