Halifax student calls for more mental health supports in wake of high school stabbing

Click to play video: 'Halifax student calls for more mental health supports in wake of high school stabbing'
Halifax student calls for more mental health supports in wake of high school stabbing
WATCH: Students have returned to class at a Bedford, N.S. high school just days after two staff members were stabbed. Now those impacted are calling on the province to address violence in schools to keep students and teachers safe. Skye Bryden-Blom reports. – Mar 22, 2023

A Grade 12 student at Charles P. Allen High School says more mental health supports are needed at Nova Scotia schools.

“There’s clearly something that needs to be addressed,” said Brady Moore, speaking outside the Bedford-area high school where two staff members were stabbed earlier this week.

“I’m hoping that we can provide mental health supports in schools and in our province to address this issue.”

On Monday, police arrested a 15-year-old student after two CPA staff members were stabbed and taken to hospital with serious injuries. The student was also injured.

In an update sent to families on Wednesday evening, the school’s principal, Stephanie Bird, said the two staff members were discharged from hospital earlier in the day.

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“We are so proud of our student body and how they responded during the hold and secure, during the evacuation and over the course of the last few days,” wrote Bird.

“We recognize there was some anxiety coming into the building today, but the smiles and hugs were amazing. Lots of love is being felt today.”

The teen involved now faces a number of charges, including two counts of attempted murder.

While Moore did not speak directly to the student’s situation, he said students can sometimes feel “overwhelmed” at school and there aren’t always places to go for help.

“Across the province, there needs to be more help for students to be able to reach out to someone and talk to, and people to even just check in,” he said.

“We need to have a way to identify students that may be struggling without necessarily them coming to us.”

Brady Moore says more mental health supports are needed for students who may be struggling. Skye Bryden-Blom/Global News

Moore acknowledged that the mental health-care crisis extends further than schools.

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“You hear stories on the news and online about people that aren’t … able to access mental health supports, not only in schools, but in our province and health-care system as well,” he said.

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“I think that comes down to funding and staffing, and I think we have people that want to be able to help, and we just need the funding to be able to provide more services in school, more staffing for students to get one-on-one support that we need.”

According to the Department of Education, there were 48 Halifax Regional Centre for Education members and two Halifax Regional Police officers available at Charles P. Allen High School to lend support Wednesday.

Moore said staff are doing a “tremendous job” supporting students in the aftermath of the stabbing, but said the memories of the traumatic day are still fresh.

Wednesday was the first day students were back in class at CPA.

“It’s a new reality that we’re looking at now. It’s not something that you expect to happen in Nova Scotia, of all places,” he said of the stabbing.

“A lot of students are probably ready to get back in the building, but I’m sure there’s a lot of anxiety that some students may be dealing with now.”

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He added that times have been tough since the pandemic, and many students are learning online.

“A lot more learning is focused on computers and it’s not face-to-face and there’s just some challenges that need to be address even socially in the schools,” he said.

Moore said the province needs to look at the number of violence happening in schools and take action.

“Something needs to change,” he said.

‘A cry for help’

Moore isn’t the only one hoping to see better supports in place — CPA teachers briefly walked off school property Wednesday to make a bold gesture ahead of class.

Ryan Lutes, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said the gesture was a “cry for help.”

“Teachers have been saying for years that our students are not getting the mental health supports that they need,” he said. “They’re bringing that trauma to schools, and they are crying for the support they need.

“Mental health is such a huge component of overall health, and we cannot expect kids to come to school ready to learn when they’re not mentally well.”

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The union is calling for more staffing, a provincial strategy to address school violence and better mental health supports.

“We really need government to move on this … to really put a focus on school safety, because teachers are not feeling safe,” Lutes said. “The status quo is clearly not an option.”

Click to play video: 'Student in custody after staff stabbed at Bedford, N.S. school'
Student in custody after staff stabbed at Bedford, N.S. school

The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education says violence has been growing in schools for years — long before COVID-19.

Stacey Rudderham, the group’s co-chair, said she’s aware of school staff who wear protective gear to avoid being injured, and said some students are even avoiding using the bathroom at school over fears of getting beaten up.

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“Provincewide, we have some big improvements to make as far as our children and their well-being are concerned,” she said.

Rudderham said cuts to teachers’ unassigned instructional time have impacted their ability to monitor lunch rooms or give extra help to students.

Education Minister Becky Druhan said Wednesday that the focus right now is to support Charles P. Allen High.

“I’ve also reached out to the school staff team to provide support and to let them know when the time is right. I want to speak to them,” she said.

Meanwhile, Moore encourages all students to reach out if they need help.

“I hope that students aren’t afraid to reach out to the staff and say maybe they’re not OK and they need some help,” he said.

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