Posts Tagged "School"


Dr. Muffy Greenaway: We need to make mental-health conversations part of daily school activity

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The beginning of a new school year brings excitement and anticipation — the joy of spending more time with friends, seeing a favourite teacher, or sometimes just something to replace the boredom that comes with the end of summer.

For many students, however, the start of school fills them with dread and anxiety as school has been a place of discomfort and discontent, where anxiety surges, depression deepens and irritability is heightened.

They say misery loves company but this is not what I’ve seen or heard. When kids and teens are struggling with metal-health issues, the kids around them tend to distance themselves. They are left further disconnected when they most need their peers to lean in.

I have been working in the field of child and youth mental health for 15 years as a psychiatrist. I have sat with families in crisis during my days at B.C. Children’s Hospital, listening as the fear and heartbreak pours out of them because their child has mental-health issues that have brought them to the hospital. I have sat with hundreds of kids and teens in my practice at Three Story Clinic, listening to the quiet and desperate stories of youth struggling with anxiety, depression, addictions and social isolation.

I have worked with multiple youth-focused health authorities and agencies and have had many meaningful conversations with the principals, vice-principals and counsellors whose role in our children’s lives is to provide an education. Learning can’t happen when mental health is impaired; educators see this daily. We are all in agreement — the need is great and the resources are limited.

So, it was no surprise when I read the McCreary Centre Society 2018 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey. The results speak to what we all already know. Of 38,000 children and teens across 840 schools in 58 school districts who were polled, 15 per cent reported struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD or post-traumatic stress disorder. That is 5,700 students struggling enough to miss school days, pull back from friends and drop all activities.

What caught me off guard was the discussion around “stress.” An experience that we can all relate too, stress makes us tense, edgy, fatigued and weary. As a daily occurrence, it erodes our relationships with ourselves, family, friends and jobs.

According to the report, most students reported feeling stressed and about half feel that they manage their stress poorly. These students are either already struggling with mental-health challenges or are at very high risk of developing them. These are the students that our education and health-care systems need to reach — before crisis or disaster.

The provincial government took an enormous step forward this spring with the creation of A Pathway to Hope, to provide services and accessibility for children, youth and young adults struggling with mental health and addiction under the direction of Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy.

There are many schools and school districts elevating mental-health awareness through activities and programming and we applaud those. Still, many teenagers are lost and alone, unable to reach out and connect to get the help they need. Connection is the cornerstone for developing resiliency — a key protective factor for youth struggling daily with mental-health issues. It is through connection that they can become aware of what they are experiencing, including how to name and manage it and receive help.

When Adam’s Apples Foundation asked me to join its board, I was hesitant. My work was taking a big toll on me. So much need with so few resources and trying to see more children and families was beyond what was healthy for me. So I took a deep breath, ready to say no, but not before listening to what they had to say.

Adam’s Apples had developed a mental-health education program for the children and teens that the health and education systems struggle to help, based purely on the concept of connection as a way to inform, educate and teach.

What began in 2016 with a single bowl of apples strategically placed within a school to offer a healthy snack, quickly evolved to become a key gathering place for students to connect, socialize and converse. As simple as it may seem, the impact of one apple leading to one connection can be the turning point for a youth who is struggling.

From this seed has grown comprehensive programming that holds the Apple Program at its core, while expanding to a mental-health literacy program, developed with the University of B.C., designed to help students gain mental-health knowledge and peer support competencies.

Adam’s Apples Foundation was created to honour the legacy of Adam Hryhorchuk, who passed away from an accidental drug overdose on Sept. 20, 2013, at age 22. Adam had a very special quality: he was genuinely interested in every person he met and he valued people for whom they were — a quality he exhibited throughout his school years. Adam gave a hand-up to kids who weren’t in sync with the crowd. He understood how isolation could impact his peers. He made a difference.

Sadly, while Adam gave so much, he did not take enough for himself. From this tragedy came a deep desire to connect with youth, because as Adam so clearly demonstrated, every person has a story that needs to be heard, even if only for a few minutes a day.

Adam’s mother, Darcy Hibberd, started the foundation to bring her son’s effusive personality and nurturing nature to adolescents in need of guidance and support. Today, with a passionate and respected team of educators, healthcare professionals and business leaders, Adam’s Apples operates in 27 schools and community centres in Burnaby, Delta, Richmond, Surrey and Vancouver, with demand to expand the program, all of which is provided free-of-charge.

The mission of the Foundation — Connecting Youth One Conversation at a Time — is a simple concept and one we need to emphasize in our schools, homes and communities.

There are mental health days and weeks, but this must be a year-round effort — a daily conversation.

I cannot think of a more important purpose than investing in the mental wellness of our next generation. I have sat with hundreds of families in my office but though the efforts of Adam’s Apples, I have indirectly reached thousands.

Dr. Muffy Greenaway is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Three Story Clinic, a clinical instructor at the University of B.C. and a board member of Adam’s Apples Foundation.


UBC ramps up mental health services as students go back to school

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The University of B.C. has been steadily increasing its mental health services to meet growing demand. One of its initiatives is the Wellness Centre, which is staffed by trained student volunteers.


With thousands of students heading back to school this year, the University of British Columbia is ramping up its mental health services to meet a spike in demand that’s also hitting other post-secondary institutions across Canada.

UBC’s Vancouver campus has been steadily increasing free mental health services for students since 2015, investing $2.5 million annually in providing counsellors, boosting programs and diversifying services.

“UBC is very similar to campuses across Canada in that we are seeing increased demand for mental health services, which is why the university has invested in many ways,” said Patty Hambler, director of health promotion and education at UBC Student Services.

Patty Hambler, director of health promotion and education at UBC Student Services.


According to U.S. research firm Education Advisory Board, 13 Canadian post-secondary institutions across the country have seen a 35 per cent increase in counselling appointments between 2011 and 2015.

Last year, 28,069 UBC students accessed mental health professional support, which could include physicians, counsellors, mental health nurses or psychiatrists) at the Point Grey campus — almost half its approximately 55,000 student population. An additional 4,669 students sought help through Empower Me, a 24/7 helpline at UBC that connects students to counsellors.

Experts say there could be many factors behind the increase in demand, such as increased awareness of mental health and well-being; reduced stigma; the proliferation of social media, which has been linked to negative effects on mental health; or a more competitive and uncertain job market and financial stresses.

In recent years, the university also focused on improving mental health services for the nearly 12,000 students who live on campus, adding counsellors to residences and boosting health education programming at dorms.

Working with faculty members, it also introduced a pilot project for second-year mechanical engineering students to bring mental health literacy into the classroom. Similar initiatives are being adapted by other departments, including nursing and biology.

Over the past two years, UBC added mental health nurses and a nurse practitioner at the student health service centre, which operates out of UBC Hospital, though the service is provided by the university, not by the local health authority.

These programs are in addition to existing services, which include the Wellness Centre, which is staffed by wellness peers, and the Empower Me helpline, which is offered in multiple languages.

“Ultimately, the goal is to increase access for students and diversify what we offer, so there’s different entry points for students to access,” said Hambler.

The University of B.C.’s Wellness Centre is one of many mental health services offered to students.


Some students may find it challenging to adjust during their first year in university, so UBC tries to prepare incoming students for the different learning environment with its Jump Start orientation program, which helps freshmen make friends, build connections across the university community and become aware of resources and services available on campus.

“We’re really encouraging students to be proactive about their health,” said Hambler. “If they can build up resilience and focus on eating well, and getting enough sleep, then they can take on those challenges a bit better.”

Last year, Simon Fraser University launched a 24/7 mental health and support service that can be accessed through a phone or app to meet growing demand among its students.

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High school should prioritize accessibility, B.C. mom says | CBC News

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Maya Bosdet says she’s excited for the beginning of classes next week because it means continuing a family tradition of attending high school at Claremont Secondary, in Saanich, B.C.

But a tour of the school this week has her concerned the building won’t be accessible enough to meet her needs as a wheelchair user.

A previous visit to the school revealed a lack of ramps and an unreliable elevator. Maya also says the door to the accessible bathroom is really heavy, while the lock and light are situated too high for her to reach.

Maya has a rare genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis, which causes sugar molecules cells to build up in her body. She has joint pain, a dislocated hip, and regularly sees specialists and undergoes surgery. 

Accessibility problems

Lisa Bosdet, Maya’s mother, said the pair took a tour of the school in June and were disappointed to learn that the “archaic” elevator regularly breaks down, the desks are too high, and there aren’t any wheelchair ramps.

Bosdet said the elevator is currently being repaired, but is still concerned it will be unsafe.

“We expressed lots at that tour about what we saw [were issues],” she said. “I don’t want [Maya] to have to ask a friend to take her to the bathroom at 14 years old.

“I feel like it’s a basic human right for her to be able to use the bathroom.”

On a second tour of the school this week, the pair said they found not much had been improved for the start of the school year.

Bosdet said Maya’s therapists expressed concerns to the school staff about the lack of accessibility, but the response was that it would cost too much money.

CBC was not granted access to the school, and requests for interviews with school staff were declined. 

Maya Bosdet says Claremont secondary is the school her father went to, and the closest to her home. Her mother is adamant that accessibility issues at the school won’t stop her from attending classes there. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A B.C. government document says the school was built in 1961.

Justina Loh, the executive director of the Disability Alliance B.C., says that was long before buildings were designed with accessible features. 

“In the last few years accessibility has become more of a buzzword and more important … especially as our population ages,” Loh said.

‘Most of my friends are going to this school’

Maya said she doesn’t want to attend another high school because Claremont is close to her home. 

“My dad went here,” she said. “Most of my friends are going to this school.”

She added that her friend, who also uses a wheelchair, attends the school with a caregiver who helps him move around and use the restroom.

Maya said she wants to maintain her independence.

Dave Eberwein, the superintendent for the Saanich School District, said while retrofitting an older building isn’t easy, “that doesn’t mean we don’t make them accessible. All of our schools are accessible.”

“Our goal is to, within reasonable amounts, accommodate all … students’ needs in each building,” he said, adding that things such as a light switch that’s too high, or a door that is too heavy, can be fixed relatively quickly.

He noted, however, that “sometimes it’s just not physically possible to install every accessibility [measure] in every building [because it’s] just not going to fall within our budget.”

‘We need to progress’

Bosdet said it seems accessibility issues often don’t take priority in a school’s budget, and the change needs to come from the higher ranks in the school district. 

“It’s almost 2020, and I really believe we need to step up now … We need to progress,” she said. 

She’s adamant that Maya will not attend another school.

“I resist changing a school because … the path I’d rather take is speak up and get them to make these changes so [my daughter] can have a choice.

“We’ll find a way to make it work.”


Parents worried Drake Street bike lane will impact access to school

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A proposed bike route along Drake Street has triggered concerns from some parents that the project could make it harder to access a nearby elementary school.

The City of Vancouver is hoping to install a protected bike lane on Drake between Burrard Street and Pacific Boulevard, filling a gap in east-west cycling routes through the downtown core.

Only one other protected bike lane currently crosses Granville Street, and it’s seven blocks north along Dunsmuir.

Proposed bike route

But parents at Yaletown’s Elsie Roy Elementary School worry it could make an already busy drop-off, pick-up area even more hectic, particularly for the families of students with disabilities.

“There are some kids that really need to be picked up right here, right in front, because they can’t walk or they have some issues,” said Colette Tan, whose daughter goes to Elsie Roy. “We have to spare a thought for those kids and their parents as well.”

The bike lane proposal has already prompted a Change.org petition that’s been signed by about 160 people so far.

Officials note the route ends on the other side of Pacific Boulevard from Elsie Roy, and won’t impact the block directly in front of the school. But the two options put forward for the project would remove anywhere from 50 per cent to 88 per cent of parking spaces west of Pacific on Drake.

Parents say that could result in more drivers trying to snag the sought-after parking spots across the street from Elsie Roy, clogging up the road even more.

Some also questioned the need for a protected bike lane so close to the Seawall.

“Most of the people go to the Seawall. It’s better to cycle there than here,” said Tan, who sometimes bikes with her daughter to school.

Paul Storer, manager of transportation design for the city, said Vancouver has been eyeing a bike lane on Drake Street since 2012. It’s already a popular route for cyclists, despite a lack of protection that makes them vulnerable to accidents like “dooring,” when cyclists are struck as motorists are stepping out of their vehicles.

According to the city’s bike lane proposal, dooring accidents account for 40 per cent of crashes between cyclists and drivers on Drake, compared to 15 per cent across the city as a whole.

“Drake Street has been on the map as a street to improve that’s important for cycling,” Storer said.

Officials also said they can make additional parking changes on Drake if the bike lane ends up causing chaos outside Elsie Roy.

“If there is an issue in terms of parking in that area, we would have tools to be able to manage the parking to ensure it’s really used for what really needed for – pick-up and drop-off for the school is one of the key things,” Storer said.

More information on the city’s Drake Street bike route plans are available online.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Regan Hasegawa

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‘We’re not all in gangs, doing drugs and bumming out of school’: Surrey students defend their city | CBC News

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When you spend an entire month back in high school, you hear a lot of stories.

Once the students get comfortable, they have no problem sharing their thoughts about anything and everything.

And the most common topic the students at Surrey’s L.A. Matheson Secondary School wanted to talk about? The unfair reputation that comes with being from Surrey. 

“We are not bad kids,” said Grade 12 student Samantha Czulinski, 18.

“We’re not all in gangs. We’re not all doing drugs and bumming out of school.”

Grade 12 student Samantha Czulinski says people need to work harder to truly understand what happens in Surrey. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

It’s a common sentiment in these hallways, but not just among students.

Like it or not, Surrey has struggled with reputation issues throughout its history. As a suburb which was traditionally lower on the socio-economic scale compared to Vancouver, stigmas have always been attached to the city and its residents.  

Struggles with gang violence has also exacerbated the perception and reputation of the city, but students here say it’s high time those misguided ideas are put to rest. 

Living and working in Surrey allows Matheson teacher Annie Ohana to see first-hand the impact the reputation has on her students.

Some students say they feel that coming from Surrey negatively impacts how they’re viewed. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We all walk with a chip on our shoulders,” said Ohana, who teaches social justice.

“From a very young age, kids are very well aware that somehow our city is maligned.”

Ohana is concerned that sometimes students subconsciously parrot that narrative.

“If all someone does is point you out as negative or say you have a problem, that’s internalized and then often becomes a behaviour,” she said. 

“You think I’m bad? Well then I’ll show you I’m bad.”

Annie Ohana lives and works in Surrey and says she sees the impact of the city’s reputation on her students. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Stereotypes and stigma

Grade 12 student Kunwar Sandhu has lived in Surrey for most of his life, and said he often feels the stigma is felt deepest when Surrey students are compared to those who live elsewhere. 

Sandhu, 18, recalled one law field trip that brought together students from different schools in the region. 

“All the kids from our class were coming up with creative questions,” he said. Meanwhile, students from other schools weren’t nearly as engaged, yet the Matheson students felt looked down on.

“We’re not worse than these kids, but we’re viewed as worse than these kids.That’s not fair at all.”

Kunwar Sandhu, who is in Grade 12, has lived in Surrey for most of his life. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Sandhu is not the only one who’s felt the stigma in his family. 

“My brother got a full ride scholarship into UBC but he’s still viewed as thuggish because he comes from Surrey. It happens to most people who are here,” he said. 

“It’s crazy how people can go ‘Oh you’re from here? You look like this, you must act like this.'”

The hallways at Matheson are monitored during class. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Stigma in the hallways

The students say the stigma doesn’t just come from outside Surrey — it shows up in their hallways and classrooms, too. 

The Surrey School District has a program called Safe Schools that operate across the city. Trained liaisons monitor the halls during class to ensure students are safe and to look out for any suspicious activities.

Some students at Matheson point to this as an example of how their reputation as Surrey students has an impact on the way they’re treated. They say the feel that hallway monitors are policing them throughout the day. 

“If I’m outside of the classroom for two minutes, going to the washroom, I feel like it’s so unnecessary to attack every student who walks through the hall [during class],” said Grade 11 student Jasmeen Saini.

“We’re not rats infesting the school.”

Surrey’s school district is one of the fastest growing in the region. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Growing city offers means the chance for renewed reputation

Surrey is the second-largest city in B.C., with 800 new residents moving in each month, and its school district is one of the fastest growing in the region.  

That’s having an impact on how Surrey is seen, according to Matheson principal Peter Johnston.

“The perception of Surrey and LA Matheson is slowly changing in the minds of people who end up coming out here,” Johnston said.

“They realize we aren’t a small and rural town anymore and our facilities and school districts are second to none.”

L.A. Matheson is located in inner-city Surrey. (Evan MItsui/CBC)

But for that perception to continue changing, it’s also up to the students. 

“It’s part of our responsibility to get these students ready for the modern world to help change that narrative,” Johnston said.

“The students have to take some responsibility for that too.”

For students like Sandhu, they have a clear message to the rest of B.C. about Surrey’s reputation: 

“Just because I’m from somewhere else, you think you’re better than me? It’s just not cool.”  

This story is part of a series called Matheson, examining the lives of students at L.A. Matheson Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. CBC journalist Jason D’Souza was given unparalleled access as he spent a month embedded at the high school in order to hear unfiltered stories of students today.

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School board to vote tonight on fate of French immersion at Kitsilano school

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The fate of the French immersion program at Henry Hudson Elementary School will be decided at a Vancouver School Board meeting tonight. 

Trustees will vote on a motion to phase out the program, which would make this year’s kindergarten class the last to accept enrolment.

Many parents are worried about losing the French immersion program. 

“It’s been very stressful for families and our children,” said Josh Paterson, a parent on the school’s advisory council. 

“Some parents have had to think carefully about whether or not they should be looking at other schools, which threatens the existing program here and creates a stress in their life,” Paterson said.

Parent Josh Paterson said the kids at Hudson don’t want to be torn from their school or lose their French immersion program. (Radio-Canada)

The phase-out was one of several options recommended in a recent report to deal with the school being over capacity. There is not enough classroom space to accommodate the English program as well as French immersion. 

There are many families that get turned away every year.– Glyn Lewis, Canadian Parents for French

Adrian Keough, director of instruction for the VSB, said under the School Act of B.C., the board must provide education in English as a priority.

“We’re are at a point now where we cannot continue to enrol French immersion, and accept all of the English students who want to take the English program in that school,” Keough said. 

“We’ve taken away the staff room, we’ve taken away computer rooms, we’ve added portables. All trying to mitigate the situation,” he said. 

Keough said the school board remains committed to French immersion and added about 100 seats across the district last year. 

High demand for French immersion

Glyn Lewis, B.C.’s executive director of Canadian Parents for French, said accessibility of French immersion is already a major issue, especially in downtown Vancouver and Kitsilano.

“To cut a French immersion program in a neighbourhood, in a part of the city where there’s already very long wait lists, makes no sense,” Lewis said. 

“There are many families that get turned away every year,” he said. 

Originally, the report recommended moving the seats to Lord Strathcona Elementary School in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

However, feedback indicated that “very few” parents at Hudson would choose to enrol their children at Strathcona as an alternative due to an additional 25 to 35 minute commute.

Parent Joanne Garrie hopes her youngest daughter will be able to attend French immersion at Henry Hudson school, alongside her two older daughters. (Radio-Canada)

Joanne Garrie has two daughters who attend Hudson in French immersion. She hopes her youngest daughter can do the same. 

She said providing a place to learn French is important to her and her family, and they’ve built their community around the program and it’s current location. 

“My daughter, who started French in Grade 1, she says, ‘I found my passion, this is where I love learning is in French.’ I can’t take that away from her now. That would be very destructive,” Garrie said.  

The school board meeting begins at 7 p.m. PT. 

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Task force set up to tackle sexual harassment at UBC medical school

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UBC medical students are being sexually harassed more often than students in other Canadian medical schools, according to a new report.

An internal memo written by Dr. Andrea Townson, acting co-head of the UBC department of medicine, and sent to medical faculty at the University of British Columbia, refers to the “deeply concerning” results from a 2018 questionnaire of students who graduated from the 17 medical schools across Canada. Sexual remarks, uninvited touching and sexual assault are examples of harassment.

• Twelve per cent of students at UBC reported unwanted sexual advances and touching by faculty, fellow students, health professionals or patients, compared to a national average of 6.5 per cent.

• Thirty-three per cent of students at UBC said they were subjected to offensive sexist remarks, compared to the national average of 25 per cent.

• A third of UBC medical students also said they were subjected to racially offensive remarks, compared to the Canadian average of 12 per cent.

“We aren’t unique or isolated with these concerns but we are obviously not happy to see these high reported rates so it’s launched a number of different initiatives,” said Dr. Deborah Money, executive vice dean of the UBC medical school.

UBC results from the annual report have been “steady” over the past number of years, according to Money.

Money is chairing a dean’s task force meant to find ways to change the culture and environment at the medical school and to prevent mistreatment and harassment at the more than 80 training sites where UBC medical students learn, such as hospitals and clinics.

“Part of our work has to focus on learning from others, so we know what best practices look like.”

Sixty per cent of UBC medical graduates said they had been publicly humiliated. This may include being asked a question by a professor in a group setting, not knowing the answer and feeling shame about it because of, for example, how the instructor reacted.

This raises the question of whether students are becoming more sensitive to these kinds of learning tools.

“That’s a tough question. It’s an old style of teaching and how it’s done or how it’s perceived may be different in each scenario. We have actually made a video that tries to distinguish between being challenged academically and being bullied or called out so much that people feel humiliated,” she said.

Money said staff have collected data on the reported incidents of public humiliation, racially or sexually offensive remarks and unwanted sexual advances experienced by students.

Townson told clinical faculty members in the memo obtained by Postmedia that if they are concerned they’ve made a comment that might have been misinterpreted and want “a safe place to debrief” they should come and speak to her.

She said in the memo that “addressing student mistreatment” is a priority and students need a clear mechanism for reporting concerns. UBC has several satellite sites — Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George — where undergraduate students learn and Townson said in her memo that the disturbing reports are “not isolated to a single site or a single rotation.”

Money said there are about 700 professors in the medical school and about 7,000 clinical instructors. When students complain about a particular instructor or fellow student, an investigation is launched to determine whether coaching or discipline is required. Money said she couldn’t say how often that occurs but said expulsion is “rare and extreme.”

The survey of medical school graduates in Canada covers a broad range of topics about the quality of education and student experience and has been conducted annually by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada since 2015.

UBC is the fifth largest medical school in North America with 288 students admitted each year, and 4,500 students doing residencies and other postgraduate work.

At the same time as UBC is grappling with the mistreatment issue, the Lancet has published the results of an alarming survey showing that sexual harassment — by patients, teachers and peers of medical students — is common in Canada.

The study by researchers in Ontario and Alberta shows that despite policies and complaint mechanisms intended to promote respectful conduct and to prevent harassment, students are subjected to everything from sexist remarks to rape. A total of 807 incidents were reported by 188 respondents to the 2016 anonymous survey. The harassment occurred in clinics, medical schools and social settings; patients requested medical students touch their sexual organs and they groped doctors. One student said she was raped by a fellow student. Faculty members were implicated in about 20 per cent of the incidents that were predominately experienced by female students. Men were the most frequent perpetrators.

The authors say that faculty, peers and victims come to almost normalize sexual harassment. Students try their best to ignore it while at the same time finding it “confusing, upsetting and embarrassing.”

Many don’t report it because staying silent is seen as “less risky than confrontation or official reporting.”

Dr. Susan Phillips, a professor at Queen’s University and co-author of the Lancet study, said it is clear that women who are practising doctors or studying to become doctors are not immune to harassment and sexual assault.

“This is a societal problem. And we have to find ways to decrease the incidence,” said Phillips, who several years ago published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that 78 per cent of female doctors had been harassed by inappropriate comments or conduct by patients.

“Medical schools can’t fix societal problems but they can do more to legitimize student concerns. That means if they hear about a patient or faculty member making inappropriate comments, they don’t let it go. There has to be zero tolerance and in the case of faculty members, it has to be enforced.”

One limitation of the Lancet study is that few medical students completed the survey. There are about 11,600 medical students across Canada and just under 300 completed the consent form to submit answers to the anonymous survey.

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Province says no to replacing 70-year-old Kelowna middle school

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The provincial government has denied a request by an Okanagan school district to replace a 70-year-old middle school in Kelowna, a decision that’s left some in the community frustrated.

Marie Howell, the president of Rutland Middle School’s parent advisory council, says the school has a number of issues.

Howell, who has two children in the school, says about 550 students attend the school but there is only one set of bathrooms each for girls and boys, with two more toilets in the gym. 

The school has 11 portables  — temporary structures used to create extra classroom capacity — with more expected on site.

Accessibility is a major problem, Howell said. The library, the art and band classrooms, and the auditorium, all require the use of stairs which render the spaces inaccessible for anyone in a wheelchair or with other physical limitations. 

Then there’s the smell.

“Our school, because of its age, has quite the unique smell to the point,” Howell said. “Even trustees have noticed that smell when they walk in.”

Seismic upgrades, growth prioritized

In his rejection letter to School District No. 23 (Central Okanagan), Education Minister Rob Fleming said the government has prioritized new schools and additions in districts experiencing high growth, and accelerating seismic upgrade projects to make schools seismically safe as soon as possible. 

Rutland Middle School doesn’t meet those priorities, the minister said.

Fleming also pointed out four new schools were built in the Central Okanagan School Board area since 2007 to address growth in the area. 

The use of portable classrooms have been a major issue in the fast-growing school district of Surrey, B.C. (CBC)

10-year struggle

Moyra Baxter, the board’s chair, said she understands Howell’s frustrations. 

“I can’t disagree with anything that she raises as an issue at Rutland Middle School,” Baxter told CBC Daybreak South  host Chris Walker. 

Baxter says the board has been looking at replacing the property for 10 years, but discussions have gone back and forth between the board and the province with different ideas how the school could be replaced. 

Rebuttal letter in works

For Baxter, however, the growth in the Rutland area is comparable to that of Surrey’s in the Lower Mainland where nearly 300 portables were in use in 2017.

It’s something she said the board will focus on in its rebuttal letter to Fleming. 

“Surrey has over 70,000 students, so we absolutely realize how huge it is,” she said.

“But we believe when you take the population and you count the number of portables, that we actually percentage-wise have more portables than they do.”

She said the board will also consider giving priority to any projects at Rutland when it applies for its 2019- 20 facilities grants.

Howell says she wants the government to consider the changes from the perspective of the students. 

“When my kids come home and say they don’t want to use the toilets, that they think their school is gross, they hear students from other schools coming making comments about how disgusting our school is, I don’t think that helps any social or emotional learning for our students.”

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North Van school addresses vaping problem by locking washrooms

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A high school in North Vancouver, B.C. is taking some extraordinary steps to curb the number of students meeting up during class time to vape. 

The number of teenagers using e-cigarette in washrooms, locker rooms and sometimes even classrooms has become a “very serious issue” at Seycove Secondary School, according to a bulletin that was distributed to parents on Friday.

“Students are arranging to meet in groups by texting each other during class time,” the bulletin said. “There is increased hallway traffic during classes, and a generally ‘casual’ response from students when (they) are asked to return to class.”

To curtail the vaping problem, staff said they are locking all student washrooms except one near the gymnasium and a gender-neutral washroom near the office.

Signs are being posted at closed washrooms alerting students they have been locked over “inappropriate use” and directing them to the locations that are still open.

Locker rooms are also being locked all day except at the beginning and end of classes, according to the bulletin, and supervision aides have been instructed to record the students they see in the halls during class time.

E-cigarettes simulate smoking by vapourizing fluid, which can vary in nicotine content and sometimes contains no nicotine at all. While the risks associated with the habit are still being studied, Health Canada currently believes vaping is harmful, but less harmful than regular cigarettes.

The agency is also unequivocally against nicotine use by teenagers.

“There is … clear evidence that nicotine exposure during adolescence adversely affects cognitive function and development,” the agency said in a May 2018 statement.

“Nicotine is a potent and powerfully addictive substance, particularly for youth. Vaping products containing nicotine could potentially lead to addiction, the subsequent use of tobacco products, and the renormalization of smoking behaviours.”

Not all parents are fans of Seycove’s response to the vaping problem. One woman told CTV News that limiting the number of available washrooms was an unacceptable response.  

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North Vancouver school limits washroom access to cut down on vaping

by admin

North Vancouver’s Seycove Secondary has temporarily limited the number of washrooms available in an effort to cut down on instances of student vaping.

Justin Sullivan / GETTY

A North Vancouver high school has temporarily limited the number of washrooms available in an effort to cut down on instances of student vaping.

Some parents, however, have expressed concerns over the restricted access to toilets.

In bulletins sent to parents and students last week, school officials at Seycove Secondary said there had been a “recent increase in the amount of vaping at Seycove.”

“It has now become a very serious issue which needs to be addressed,” the bulletin reads.

A school bulletin listed the most popular places for vaping as being school washrooms, locker rooms, in classrooms or inner rooms and off-site in the nearby woods.

As a result, the school is taking a number of steps to try to curb vaping activity on school property including:

• Locking all student washrooms with the exception of a set on the school’s main floor and a gender-neutral washroom by the school’s office “until further notice.”
• Locking physical education locker rooms at all times except during the beginning and end of class for changing.
• Teachers are being asked to restrict the number of students permitted out of class during class time and to monitor the length of their absence.
• Supervision aides will speak with students loitering in hallways during class time.
• Students not scheduled to be in class are required to report to the school’s library, cafeteria or DL centre.

“Vaping poses significant and immediate health risks for all those who do it,” the bulletin continues.

“The bottom line is that vaping is having a significant negative impact on our community and our learning environment and it is illegal for all of the students in this building for a reason.”

More to come.

Are you a student or parent at Seycove Secondary and want to weigh on this issue? Email us at [email protected].

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