We have criticized the Brandon School Division in this space before for some of its heavy-handed policies and the overly strict implementation of those policies.
They were shockingly tone deaf when it came to making accommodations for a student’s smudge ceremony, for example. And they refused to budge on the installation of prison-style door locks at local high schools, despite the fact the vast majority of students are not criminals.
So we thought that, with a couple of potentially controversial issues soon to appear on educational checklists, we would offer our advice to trustees ahead of time — especially as they begin to jockey for possible re-election this fall.
The first issue is whether students should be required to learn about the treaties that govern relationships between Canada’s aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
Although many local educators have already been trained in appropriate methods to teach these issues, it’s training that is optional. And actually implementing the lessons is also optional.
While the larger issue of aboriginal education — especially funding — remains thorny, we think it’s indisputable that students should learn about the legal structure that still governs so much of our country today.
There are innumerable racist beliefs about aboriginal and non-aboriginal relations that could be cleared up with a little education — so let’s get started on that educating.
Another issue set to come before school trustees sooner than they may think is that of e-cigarettes.
While workplaces, too, grapple with whether these oil-heating devices qualify as “smoking,” students in some places are beginning to latch on to them as drug-delivery mechanisms.
Unlike in the United States, where e-cigarettes are permitted to contain nicotine, Canadian e-cigarettes contain only a smoke-producing oil, and sometimes a flavouring.
The flip side of it being a nicotine-free product is that there aren’t barriers to teenage purchase, possession or use of such devices.
And, frankly, if teenagers want to play around with flavoured oil smokes, well, it’s not the dumbest thing teenagers have ever done.
The trouble that has cropped up in some jurisdictions comes when crafty marijuana users crack open the harmless oil cartridges and lace them with drugs.
That strips the marijuana of much of its distinctive smell, making it a little bit tougher for teachers and administrators to collar the culprits.
Now, no one wants glassy-eyed students getting high at school. But part of the job of the school system should be to ease students out of a full-supervision childhood and into an adulthood where they will be expected to make their own decisions and to live with the consequences.
Banning e-cigarettes on school property might also risk doing harm as well as good. After all, part of the point of e-cigarettes is that they are safer than the real thing, and that they can be used to help addicted smokers finally quit.
However they get them (and some high school students are of legal age) there are plenty of students who smoke actual real cigarettes. Surely the school division would like to encourage them to quit.
E-cigarettes can help that, so we’d like to head off a zero-tolerance policy before it crops up.
We don’t ban water bottles just because you can also put liquor in them.
The Brandon School Division should take the same approach with e-cigarettes.