March 1st, 2024

Pamphlets on drug safety pulled quickly from Hat High wellness fair

By MEDICINE HAT NEWS on December 16, 2023.

Medicine Hat High School quickly pulled pamphlets that caused concerns with parents at its annual wellness fair Wednesday.

The two pamphlets were distributed by SafeLink Alberta on safer substance use practices published by CATIE, a leading source of free, publicly available and evidence-based information on sexually transmitted and blood borne infections in Canada.

They contained information on safer ways to use illicit drugs but did not encourage or promote their usage, according to a release from SafeLink.

“Secondary and post-secondary use of substances such as off-label amphetamines is not uncommon in southern Alberta; in sharing this information, our intention is not to promote substance use, particularly in youth, but to support anyone already using substances to make informed decisions that prevent further harms, including overdose death and disease transmission and to support access to recovery and treatment information where needed.”

SafeLink confirmed fewer than 10 of each pamphlet was distributed at the event and were immediately removed within the first hour at the request of MHHS.

Hat High principal Dean Brown issued a letter to parents later in the day ensuring they removed the display materials as soon as they were identified to not be suitable for a school setting.

“We will use this situation as an example when we connect with our community partners to reinforce our school standards and the importance of sharing age-appropriate materials,” Brown said. “To be clear, we are not OK with this content being shared in our school and are committed to doing better.”

Mark Davidson, superintendent of the Medicine Hat Public School Division, said in a statement he was angered by the materials at the wellness fair and says they were not reviewed by staff ahead of time.

“While we believe that SafeLink plays an important role in our broader community, we are not able to reach an agreement regarding what is appropriate in a school setting,” Davidson said. “As a result of this incident, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure all outside agencies understand the need for caution, respect and sound judgement when they are guests in our schools.”

In its release, SafeLink issued an apology for any miscommunication about the specific content. The organization also said intentions aside, it recognizes information about drug use may be alarming to parents who are unaware of substance use trends in youth and would want to know ahead of time that info would be released.

“If there are consenting parents who would like more information on substance use or sexual activity in youth, please visit safelinkalberta.ca, or connect with us at info@safelinkalberta.ca.”

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