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School safety always a top priority, area division officials say

"It’s so unfortunate what took place in Leduc,” said CESD superintendent Kurt Sacher
MVT stock Chinook's Edge building front
File photo/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL - Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) both continue to make the safety of students and staff a top priority, including enforcing strict no-weapons policies in all schools and during all school activities, officials said.

“Our staff in our schools are simply relentless about ensuring the safety of everyone," said CESD superintendent Kurt Sacher. “Our highest priority it to protect the safety of our students and staff.

“There are a number of processes that have been in place for years where we listen very carefully to our students and try to anticipate difficulties. When things do escalate we have processes that kick in to provide support for kids and families and staff.”

Sacher’s comments come following the stabbing death of Jennifer Winkler, a 17-year-old female student, in a classroom at Christ the King School in Leduc on March 15. 

“It’s so unfortunate what took place in Leduc,” he said. “It is extremely rare that that would happen anywhere. Every jurisdiction is working hard to ensure the highest levels of safety and is something we are constantly reflecting on and trying to get even better at.”

CESD has several policies in place prohibiting the possession of any weapons, including knives, on school property.

Administrative procedure AP 3 - 12 is in place to “ensure that schools are a safe place and therefore prohibits the possession of weapons at school, in a bus or while attending a school-sponsored activity.”

It describes a weapon as “a firearm of any description, a knife or similar item dangerous to others or anything designed to be used or intended for use for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person.”

Under the procedure, any student using or threatening to use a weapon must be reported immediately to the principal and may be reported to the RCMP. 

The principal must suspend the student and may recommend to the superintendent that the student be expelled. The incident shall be recorded and the parent and the superintendent shall be advised, in writing, of the incident and the actions taken and/or recommended.

As well, the RCMP is to be contacted if a criminal offence has been committed or a perceived danger to the well-being of staff or students exists, and a threat assessment of the perpetrator should occur after the weapon is secured to ensure that appropriate interventions occur.

The RDCRS division’s threat assessment protocol defines high-risk behaviour as including possession of weapons and threats to kill or injure.

Under the protocol, upon receiving a confirmed report of high-risk behaviour, the principal must initiate the protocol for the response of the school's threat assessment team (TAT) composed of the principal, counsellor, and police in order to assess the high-risk behaviour.

In cases where it is believed a Criminal Code violation has occurred, the police officer assigned to the TAT has the first call as to the course of action.

The division has a support system in place to help students and staff, including a regional team that can be called in to any school if needed, said Jodi Smith, division principal and emergency operations centre director.

The division’s Hour Zero program allows schools to be locked down immediately in the event of threats.

RDCRS includes schools in Olds and Innisfail.

A 19-year-old old male student, Dylan Pountney, has been charged in Winkler’s death.