Yukon child advocate keeping a close eye on Jack Hulland Elementary School review, investigation
Annette King wants to see 'supports put in place for therapeutic recovery'
The Yukon child and youth advocate says while there can be a role for "hands-on approaches" in schools, the approaches should help children regulate themselves and feel safe — not do the opposite.
Annette King told the CBC she's keeping a close eye on Whitehorse's Jack Hulland Elementary School, currently at the centre of at least three reviews or investigations on the use of holds, restraints and seclusion on students.
While she hasn't seen "any reports coming out of any investigations yet," King said it was "validating" for some of the youth who have approached her office to hear about the interim findings of a review ordered by the education department.
The review, according to meeting notes, found that holds, restraints and seclusion were "routinely" used on students at Jack Hulland prior to 2020 for matters of "non-compliance."
School staff across the territory are trained to use holds or restraints, where they use their own bodies to limit a child's movement, as a matter of last resort when there's an imminent threat to physical safety. Seclusion refers to putting someone in a room or space and preventing them from leaving; its use is not approved by the department.
King, who has not seen the interim findings directly, said any methods used on children "should be things that help build regulation and safety and support, not make it worse."
"All children should feel safe in school … What we want for these kids, and all children, is that when there is an issue, it's addressed, it's acknowledged, that there's supports put in place for therapeutic recovery, and that the appropriate school program is provided for that student," she said.
'Supports for everybody'
King launched a systemic review related to Jack Hulland in November, shortly after the Yukon RCMP confirmed it was investigating allegations related to the use of holds and seclusion at the school and the Yukon education department ordered its internal review.
The reviews and investigation came amid growing concerns from what parents said were student-caused disruptions and violence that were impacting other children and staff.
King's review is focused on how Yukon government departments and other agencies are responding to the allegations, and whether children and families are receiving the support they need. Earlier this year, she alleged "political interference" was slowing down the process; however, she told the CBC she's since had "quite a bit of engagement" with the education department on school-related issues, and that the current approach is "quite collaborative."
As the education department and RCMP continue their respective internal review and investigation, King said she would continue providing oversight to ensure everyone involved is taking a "coordinated approach," as well as working on individual advocacy files.
"I always quote Dr. Cindy Blackstock saying, 'What we'd like to do is raise a generation of children who don't have to recover from their childhoods,'" she said.
"In order to do that, we also have to support all the adults involved, so we're talking about supporting parents, other educators … We just really need to be sensitive and make sure we provide those supports for everybody."