April 22nd, 2024

MHPSD to standardize community relation procedures

By Medicine Hat News on March 1, 2024.

Members of the Public School Board attend a meeting at central office Tuesday night. The division is creating a school-wide procedure to ensure any resources and materials shared at public schools are in alignment with the division's values.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

The Medicine Hat Public School Division is looking to create a procedure to implement across its schools to ensure any resources and materials shared at public schools are in alignment with the division’s values.

Under the system-wide procedure, organizations who wish to attend school division events like resource fairs must provide the event organizer with required information seven working days before the event.

The required information must include the overall message and information that will be communicated to participants, as well as a preview of materials or brochures that will be displayed.

“We presume positive intent of everyone who comes into our schools, if they’re wanting to be with us, we presume that they want to be with us for the right reasons,” said superintendent Mark Davidson following a board meeting Tuesday. “What we need to make sure is that we all have a shared understanding of what’s acceptable or age appropriate in schools, and this helps us do that.”

The procedure specifically includes topics on human sexuality, banned or illegal substances and religious instruction.

“Those are the big ones, the most likely to trigger controversy or challenge anyway,” said Davidson.

The division faced such controversy in December after Medicine Hat High School quickly pulled pamphlets distributed by SafeLink Alberta at its annual wellness fair.

The specific pamphlet contained information on safer ways to use illicit drugs but did not encourage or promote their usage. The pamphlets were removed from the event within its first hour at the request of MHHS.

At the time Davidson said in statement he was angered by the materials at the wellness fair and said they were not reviewed by staff ahead of time.

“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,” said Davidson in the statement.

Event organizers will also have to complete an application and approval form three working days before the event and acting administration of the event will provide a final scan of resources 30 minutes before the start of the event.

Under the procedures all classroom presentations will need to be reviewed and approved by teachers and the school principal and must be age appropriate.

Teachers will also supervise students during in-classroom guest presenters and follow up with learning activities that support the presentation.

Davidson said in the past individual schools were using their own systems to organize educational events like the wellness fair and the new policy will standardize those procedures division wide.

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