Nova Scotia

School trophies tossed in trash by principal in Advocate Harbour, N.S.

A school principal in Cumberland County, N.S., is being criticized for throwing her school's athletic trophies and plaques into a dumpster.

Actions 'disrespected the whole community, past and present,' ex-student says

These trophies and plaques from Advocate District School in Advocate Harbour, N.S., were found in this garbage bag inside a dumpster on the school grounds. (Submitted by Ashley Collins)

A school principal in Cumberland County, N.S., is being criticized for throwing her school's athletic trophies and plaques into a dumpster, apparently as part of a space-making exercise.

The discovery was made last Thursday night by Ashley Collins, a former student at Advocate District School who now has two daughters going to the primary-through-Grade-12 school.

"I just couldn't believe that something like that would cross someone's mind to do such a thing," said Collins, who graduated from the school in 2007.

She checked the dumpster on Thursday evening after one of her daughters said the principal told her she was planning to throw out the trophies and plaques. Collins took the mementos home and posted about her displeasure on Facebook.

Some of the trophies have been damaged.

One of the trophies that was thrown in the trash at Advocate District School came from a 1976-77 school basketball team. (Submitted by Ashley Collins)

"She just really disrespected the whole community, past and present," said Collins, who played high school basketball at the school.

"If that was one of our children that damaged school property, they would probably have been punished by now. They'd probably be charged with vandalism, and nothing is being done about this …."

A Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education spokesperson said removing the trophies from the case and tossing them out was "a regrettable decision" made by school principal Denise Dickinson.

Since Jan. 31, there have been three posts on the school's Facebook page about the trophies, but the posts are not attributed to anyone.

"We want to acknowledge a recent action that has caused harm and apologize for its impact," said part of the first post. "Recently, in the process of trying to make space for our students' work, a decision was made to remove the contents of the school's display case."

Several trophies and plaques were damaged when they were tossed in the dumpster. (Submitted by Ashley Collins)

Dickinson has been working with the school advisory council to discuss how to repair the harm done. An invitation has been extended to parents and community members to meet and discuss how to move forward and rebuild the relationship.

At the school on Monday, students in grades six to 12 spoke with the principal about the situation.

Collins is planning to go to the school on Tuesday with other members of the community to return the trophies.

"Everything is going to be put back in the trophy case, but that doesn't make up for the fact that this did happen," she said.

Letter from principal

On Monday, an apology signed by Dickinson was sent home with students.

"I know many or all of you are angry and disappointed by the decision I made," she wrote. "I'm not asking you to make those go away. You have a right to those feelings."

Dickinson said she's done a lot of reflecting about the situation and said she prides herself on building relationships.

"I've also always spoken about mistakes being a part of learning," she wrote. "I am hoping this is the beginning of both of these processes."

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