PORT HAWKESBURY: Superintendent Ford Rice says the Strait regional school board (SRSB) is taking recent knife-related incidents at two local schools very seriously.

“It will continue to be of utmost importance to ensure that students and staff are in a safe learning environment,” said Rice following the SRSB’s monthly meeting on November 1.

The first incident on October 10 involved a folding utility knife and an alleged threat to a student of St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy.

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The interaction occurred on a bus and was witnessed by several students. No one was hurt and the knife was seized by the RCMP. A 16-year-old has been charged with assault with a weapon and the matter was referred to Restorative Justice.

On October 18, the principal of East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy sent a letter to parents and guardians informing them that two incidents had occurred in the school that day. The first involved a student who exposed a pocket knife “in a threatening manner” to several other students. The second involved a student who was in possession of a utility knife and three razor blades, but had made no direct threats.

When staff became aware of the incidents, they contacted the RCMP as well as parents and guardians of all students who were directly involved. The incidents are being investigated and Rice says he cannot comment on disciplinary action due to privacy concerns.

“If there’s an incident like that, we deal with it immediately. The outside agencies such as the RCMP that need to be contacted, are contacted right away,” said Rice.

Rice says the SRSB has resources in place for students to help deal with issues as they arise.

“Our teachers and our administrators are very well trained in terms of providing different types of supports,” said Rice, noting that guidance services are available in all schools.

“Depending on the scope of the incident, our response would be different as well. When we have traumatic events that occur… we always support our schools with additional guidance, and educational psychologists as well that provide ongoing support to the children.”

Rice said that all bus drivers for the SRSB attended an in-service meeting in September and were given training in emergency procedures.

“We have two-way communication with all of our bus drivers and we have GPS on all of our buses, so we know exactly where [they] are,” said Rice, adding that there are often teaching assistants on buses as well.

Rice added that staff and administration will continue to build on supports already in place so that they will be prepared for any incidents that may occur in the future.

“We’re not resting on the fact that we have services available. We’re learning new skills every day to be able to provide better services to our children that we serve each and every day,” said Rice. “We can’t predict what will happen, but we can train in terms of what our responses will be.”