Missing Counselling Notes

There is a very concerning trend that is happening around this province in our school districts, and that is related to disappearing counselling notes and other sensitive student information.

We have case law from the Supreme Court of BC with expectations and instructions for the school boards on what they should be doing regarding counselling notes, but schools districts do not have policy as they should around this.

https://www.oipc.bc.ca/orders/1226

79 (1) Subject to the orders of the minister, a board must

(a) establish written procedures regarding the
storage, retrieval and appropriate use of student records, and

(b) ensure confidentiality of the information
contained in the student records and ensure
privacy for students and their families.

If you are a parent who has had issues regarding this, or are concerned about this, I offer you a standard letter to send to your school board’s trustees and please CC: the Secretary-Treasurer and consider including the Ministry of Education in your email.  Feel free to write your own with your own individual issues, however, for those who just don’t have the spoons at the moment but are still very concerned, I offer you a letter below. Please attach the case in the link above to your email. The email addresses you will need you can find on your school districts website.

The Ministry of Education needs to have their legislation match current laws. Please email the Ministry of Education or your MLA’s to express your feelings on this matter.

Dear Trustees,

It has come to our attention a concerning trend in missing counselling notes. Confidential student information has gone missing in many school districts and this is an administrative crack in the system that is a disadvantage to students and their parents for many reasons.

We would like to bring to your attention case law that has already been established by the Supreme Court of Canada that states counselling notes are protected under the School Act as property of the school district and that they should be kept locked and treated as school records. In this decision it also states that school boards should develop policy around the storage of counselling notes.

We are requesting that you review your own school policy around school records and confirm if counselling notes have been added to this policy and if not, to implement new policy connected to the legal standards established by the Supreme Court. Please see the attached case law for your reference.

Kind Regards,

Parents SD##

The Scary Parent

To get us into the spooky spirit this week I present…

A true scary school tale in advocacy called The Scary Parent.

(I highly recommend you read this blog in the dark with a flashlight…or better yet, sneak into your kids fort and read it in there.)

I love spy movies.

Information is so valuable. People risk their lives for it.  The power people have because of information cannot be underestimated.  Information is knowledge and knowledge is POWER.

So, parents…what’s our power?

We know A LOT of information. (Insert evil laugh track)

We know A LOT.

There are Facebook groups out there where parents share stories, tips, resources and yes…education advocacy information.

This is terrifying news to school districts.

In these Facebook groups, policies are shared, laws and cases get posted, advocacy tips are offered and email examples are suggested. It’s pure group synergy.

There is only one rule about the Facebook group.

We don’t talk about the Facebook group.

Kidding…WE TALK ABOUT IT A LOT. (Rewind evil laugh track and press play again)

Now, here is the scary part. Not for the parents….the districts. We are invisible. They will never know if the parent walking into their office is a secret member, or not. If they have access to over 4,000 passionate parents. We travel incognito.  We are right in front of their eyes, and they don’t…even…know…it! (Feel free to make scary faces right now using your flashlight to heighten the scary blog affect.)

Here is the best part…

We are growing. Oh no!!! They say!

The scariest parent to the district, is an educated one. I am talking about being educated in how to navigate THE SYSTEM.

THE SYSTEM is a beast. It only responds to policy, law and complaints filed with external organizations.  

So, parents….

Go ahead.

Be that scary motherfucker you always wanted to be. Make THAT Facebook post. You go ahead and you fill out that intake form like nobodies’ business.

And then….

press…..

SEND.

I Give Myself Permission…

The first email that I sent the principal to advocate for my son included a description of my concerns and then a statement about how I am not placing blame with the teacher at all, but that there must be something else up, because this is what I am seeing.

Anything before that moment never involved the principal and always involved conversations with the teacher, making myself very clear that I loved them to bits.

Fast forward many years and I have filed so many complaints with external organizations I need to keep a flow chart to remember everything and when anyone goes past their legislated due date, I follow up with another complaint.  I kid you not, I have a timeline and a flow chart! 6 TRB complaints, 3 Ombudsperson complaints, 4 OIPC complaints, 8 FOI requests, 1 Human Rights complaint, and so many emails to the Ministry of Education and mini due dates for each individual complaint filed I would need to look through all my papers and count to give you a final number. I am even filing complaints on the very organizations I am filing complaints with.

My first round of complaints and I broke out into stress hives. I had them around my back and chest all around my heart. I felt horrible. The first time I walked into the elementary school and the principal looked at me like she wanted to rip my heart out, I felt my stomach drop. When I saw a staff member at a board meeting that I reported senior admin to, I almost tripped over my feet walking through the door and then secretly hoped for an earthquake to commence to break up the meeting.

I had to give myself permission to be blunt with people. To communicate in a way that was not motherly or nurturing. To be professional and collect evidence and think strategically. To risk people feeling uncomfortable around me, and have people not like me.  I had to risk people talking about me in ways, that I will never know.

It is a very uncomfortable feeling. I am not an aggressive person.  At the same time…. when you feel cornered and under attack, you never really know yourself until you are pushed to your limits. I have to say…they created me. They have put me through a very effective training program. I have been whittled down by their games into a fine advocacy tool. I am now, thankful for that. I now can say, I am assertive, honest, and effective. Before any difficult meeting, I take a deep breath and think to myself…”I say this with love”, and I get to the point.

We need to give ourselves permission to advocate.

To stand firm in our opinions.

To voice our thoughts and feelings.

To not be “nice”.

To be effective, and not let them manipulate themselves out of the situation.

To hold people accountable.

To be bold.

To take risks.

To fail.

To try again.

To be vulnerable.

To speak our truth and stick to it.

All of the advocates who have come before me have given themselves permission to be and do all of these things. I gift this to myself and I want to gift it to all of you.

We can step out of the socially expected roles of how a “nice mother” behaves. We can be compassionate and caring people and we can also speak our truth and not allow people to walk all over us.  

We can be strong.

But toxic kindness, can go fuck itself.

Do you Trust me?

Trust has been a heavy topic on my mind for over two years now. My trust in the education system as a whole went diving out of the window on September 19th, 2019 and since then there has been a highway collision of trust breaking events. To be fair, there have also been some trust building events.

Let’s back up a bit.

I have had incidents occur that brought out the reality – teachers and principals are human. Even as parents we make mistakes with our children. We look back and wish we handled things differently. School staff make mistakes too. Harm was certainly not intended, but that is exactly what happened.  It sucks when they make a mistake and it double sucks when their mistake impacts and harms your child. However, in the past I was always met with integrity, honesty and genuine care.  How the education staff handled some pretty big “incidents” shall we call them, built my trust in the system. Shit happens, it’s not intended, and now we are going to fix it and make it right. They helped the healing process, for all.

How does your trust in the education system as a whole dictate your decisions regarding your child’s education? How you engage? Or not? How do you cope when you don’t trust the people in it?

I have to say, there are some amazing teachers my children have been connected to.  My children have had teachers who care, who go beyond their job descriptions, who connect, who inspire, and who in my mind…they were made for this profession. Everywhere you go, in education too, there is a patchwork of people full of passion, skill, knowledge, and unfortunately some who don’t know any better or just don’t give a fuck and have lost their way.

You don’t know who you are going to get, until you’ve gotten them.

Do you trust your child’s school?

How much?

100%?

50%?

0%?

Do you trust the school district and the administrative staff?

How much?

100%?

50%?

0%?

If you have a disabled child, trust in the education system is a sensitive topic. They system isn’t set up to build a trusting relationship. As parents of disabled children, we proceed with a high level of caution. Everyone else is diving into the ocean for a swim and we are sticking our baby toe in and waiting 6 hours to see what happens. It’s called experience.

It’s a balancing act. Sometimes you need to be so far up their ass, you know what they ate for lunch.

Other times, you can let yourself breath knowing that whatever happens, they have your child’s back.

Trusting “the system” or authority runs deep. Depending on our culture, history, sexual orientation, gender, disability, etc our trust levels are going to vary.

One of my take away learnings from a degree in human relations, is just how essential trust is to every human interaction. We filter our trust levels through every decision we make and every decision we choose not to make. Trust is the glue that connects us or disconnects us.

Some parents will comment that it concerns them how trusting their children are. “They will go with anyone…” Parents who have witnessed their children traumatized by a broken system, will feel crushed by how fast their kid grew up and how the innocence of childhood was stolen from them. “They are so cautious around other people now, and don’t trust anyone”.  

For all the days our children, pieces of our heart, leave our homes and enter schools…. we hope, we trust, that they will be ok. And when they are not and harm has occurred…it’s heartbreaking.

It takes a lot of time and effort to build trust, and it takes a moment to destroy it.

How do we risk trusting again? Children are no different. Do our children trust their school and the people in it? They need to heal. Will they risk trusting again? Or have they just learnt a valuable life lesson? Don’t trust anyone.

As staff administration enter district offices and school buildings in the morning…

As they drink their coffee and turn on their computers…

As they review their agenda and mentally prepare for their upcoming meetings for that day…

As teachers open their windows and gather their photocopies…

They are asking us…do you trust me?