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Education

Red Deer Public Schools Mental Health Pilot Program now permanently supporting kids and families in crisis

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Behaviour Support Team building capacity across Red Deer Public

Red Deer Public’s Behaviour Support Team has continued to make a positive difference throughout the Division as they help develop mental health strategies for students and help support teachers.

In the fall of 2022, the Division received a $706,000 grant through the Mental Health In Schools Pilot Program from Alberta Education. From this grant, a three person Behaviour Support Team was formed, which includes a registered psychiatric nurse, a teacher with additional training in supporting mental health and behaviour, and a social worker. This centralized team travels to schools throughout the Division as needed to help support students, staff and families.

Since December 2022, the team of three has made over 360 school team or teacher visits regarding an individual student, four classroom group consultations, 19 school-based professional development sessions, four Division teacher training sessions, and one Vice Principal training session.

“Once developed, the team was immediately available to classrooms to respond in a timely fashion to a crisis situation in school. They can help de-escalate the situation while maintaining the safety and dignity of the student and allowing the classroom teacher to return to teaching,” said Nicola Golby, Associate Superintendent of Student Services. “This has also led to less disturbance in the classroom and maintains regulation of other students.”

Recently, the Behaviour Support Team has been collaborating with the newly created Red Deer Youth Stabilization Team (CAST – Child and Adolescent Stabilization Team) with Alberta Health Services. CAST has both been a pathway to psychiatry and community resources with the goal of avoiding an emergency room visit.

“The team has met with AHS members and the CAST team to facilitate ease of access for families reaching a crisis point,” said Golby. “This wrap-around approach has been successful for families that were feeling a sense of hopelessness or desperation for high-level supports.”

Meanwhile, the Behaviour Support Team has been building capacity throughout Red Deer Public in two main ways. Firstly, they work with Learning Teams (Teachers, Educational Assistants, Administrators and Principals) with a focus on identifying proactive supports and strategies to build capacity in the school team.

“As a large part of their work, the team will go in a teacher’s classroom to model and trial strategies side-by-side with the teacher,” said Golby. “One piece is to build skills with the teacher and/or school in order to target dysregulation and diminish the resulting anxiety in other students within the class.”

The second way the team has been building capacity is through group professional development.

“Red Deer Public began implementing Student Support Rooms in our elementary and middle schools in fall of 2023. These rooms are part of a strategy to have a place for students to go when they need to regulate their emotions, display big behaviours, or to connect with an adult while maintaining dignity in a more private space,” said Golby. “The Behaviour Support Team has been training the 18 Student Support Room teachers, primarily using Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Education, Gordon Neufeld emotional playgrounds, and Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage. This professional development has been a great way to collaborate and support our teachers.”

Moving forward, the team will continue to provide support where needed throughout Red Deer Public Schools, while building the capacity of staff, students and families.

Education

40 Canadian professors urge Trudeau government to abolish DEI mandates

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From LifeSiteNews

By Clare Marie Merkowsky

“Many agree with us – including senior, tenured faculty – but will not speak publicly for fear of repercussions”

Dozens of Canadian professors have joined together to call for an end to the pro-LGBT diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandates in universities. 

In a May 24 letter to Parliament, 40 Canadian university professors appealed to Prime Minster Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to abandon DEI initiatives in universities, arguing they are both ineffective and harmful to Canadians.  

“While some may view this as a weakness, we hope most will see it simply as an act of conscience from academics no longer able to remain silent,” the professors began.  

“These policies disproportionately punish small institutions, are not supported by evidence, employ flawed metrics with no end goal, and are unpopular with the public who funds the research,” the letter explained.  

“Many agree with us – including senior, tenured faculty – but will not speak publicly for fear of repercussions,” the letter revealed. “Specifically, they are scared even to question Tri-Council policies relating to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI).” 

Currently, DEI quotas are mandated across Canada through the Canada Research Chairs program. Under the program, universities must meet specific hiring requirements, skewed in favor of racial minorities and those who identify as “LGBT.”

The letter cited various studies which revealed that the DEI mandates not only harm universities but lead to more discrimination.   

The professors referenced a case at Laurier University in Ontario where the institution sought to hire six black and six indigenous faculty. 

“During the process, an informal outside inquiry made on behalf of a promising black candidate had to be rebuffed because black people were ineligible,” the letter explained. “This open racial discrimination in the name of fighting systemic racism is one concrete example of negative impacts of EDI.” 

Similarly, a February research report from Wilfrid Laurier University social scientist David Millard Haskell, a signatory of the letter, found that there is “no evidence that EDI reduces bias or alters behavior.” 

“In fact, DEI interventions have been shown to do harm by increasing prejudice and activating bigotry,” the letter declared. 

The professor’s recommendation comes as Trudeau recently pledged $110 million of taxpayer money to hire DEI consultants tasked with looking into a supposed problem of “racism” in Canada. 

Indeed, the Trudeau government has spent over $30 million on DEI-affiliated contracts among many federal ministries since January 2019. 

This has led to an increase in woke ideology creeping into all parts of society. As LifeSiteNews reported recently, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Vancouver campus posted an opening for a research chair position that essentially barred non-homosexual white men from applying for the job. 

Signatories:

Geoff Horsman, PhD
Associate Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University

David Haskell, PhD
Associate Professor of Digital Media & Journalism, and Religion & Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University

Zachary Patterson, PhD
Professor, Concordia Institute for Information Systems Engineering, Concordia University

Stephen Lupker, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Western University

Lawrence M. Krauss, PhD
President, The Origins Project Foundation
Foundation Professor, School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, retired

Kirsten Kramar, PhD
Mount Royal University

Stephen Quilley, PhD
Associate Professor of Social and Environmental Innovation, University of Waterloo

Scott Davies, PhD
Professor of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, University of Toronto

Edward Vrscay, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Martin Drapeau, PhD
Professor of Counselling Psychology and Psychiatry, McGill University

Frances Widdowson, PhD
Political Science professor

Brian F. Smith, PhD
Professor of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University

Christopher Dummitt, PhD
Professor of Canadian Studies, Trent University

Altay Coskun, PhD
Professor of Classical Studies, University of Waterloo

Ron Thomson, PhD
Professor and Chair of Applied Linguistics, Brock University

Chet Robie, PhD
Professor of Organizational Behaviour & Human Resource Management, Wilfrid Laurier University

Mark Collard, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Human Evolutionary Studies and Professor of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University

Janice Fiamengo, PhD
Professor of English, University of Ottawa, retired

Philip Carl Salzman, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, McGill University

Laurence Klotz, CM, MD, FRCSC
Professor of Surgery, University of Toronto
Sunnybrook Chair of Prostate Cancer Research
Chair, Council for Academic Freedom at University of Toronto (CAFUT)
Member, Order of Canada
Division of Urology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

Brad Fedy, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

Scott Smith, PhD
Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University

Henry Wolkowicz, PhD
Professor of Combinatorics and Optimization, University of Waterloo

Gail S. K. Wolkowicz, PhD
Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, McMaster University

François Charbonneau, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa

Rima Azar, PhD
Associate Professor of Health Psychology, Mount Allison University

Douglas W. Allen, PhD
Burnaby Mountain Professor, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University

Rachel Altman, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University

Alexandra Lysova, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University

Richard Frank, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University

John Craig, PhD
Professor, Department of History, Simon Fraser University

Dennis Sandgathe, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University

Mike Hart, PhD
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University

William McNally, PhD
Professor of Finance, Wilfrid Laurier University

Yannick Lacroix, PhD
Professor of Philosophy, Collège de Maisonneuve

Julie Guyot, PhD
Professor of History, Cégep Édouard-Montpetit

Leigh Revers, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Chemical & Physical Sciences, Institute of Management for Innovation, University of Toronto

Rob Whitley, PhD
Associate Professor of Psychiatry, McGill University

François Caron
Professor of Chemistry, Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston
Emeritus Professor, Laurentian University

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Alberta

Alberta government’s new smartphone restrictions won’t eliminate digital distraction in classrooms

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From the Fraser Institute

By Paige MacPherson and Tegan Hill

Research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

According to a new directive from the Smith government, beginning next September there will be restrictions on smartphones in Alberta schools. While the directive is light on details, one thing is clear—given mounting evidence that smartphone distraction can hinder academic performance, unless the province (or individual school authorities) ban smartphones in the classroom, students will continue to suffer the consequences.

Indeed, research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

Moreover, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report found a clear connection between smartphone distraction and declining student achievement, particularly in math. Specifically, 80 per cent of Canadian students report being distracted by the devices of other students in math class—and students who were distracted by smartphones in math class scored 15 points lower on PISA math tests than those who were not distracted. (PISA equates a 20-point drop in student test scores with one year of lost learning.)

Again, this is not just students distracted by their own devices, which are obvious attention-zappers for kids and teens. This is students distracted by the devices of other students. The research on digital distraction and its impact on student achievement makes clear that only a smartphone ban—with very few exceptions—will save kids from digital distraction.

And notably, Alberta’s PISA math scores have fallen 45 points in the last two decades, from 2003 to 2022, which PISA equates with more than two years of lost learning, with the decline predating COVID school closures.

The empirical evidence against smartphones in schools is mounting. But it’s also common sense, and people understand. The Alberta government’s own survey revealed that 90 per cent of more than 68,000 respondents—including parents, teachers, students and principals—had concerns about phone use in schools. This is consistent with other public opinion research in Canada. One survey showed 80 per cent of Canadians support banning phones in public schools. Another found that 51 per cent of Albertans said that phones should be banned in K-12 classrooms, and another 40 per cent said they should not be allowed unless directed by a teacher.

In 2019, the Ontario government issued a similar directive restricting smartphones in K-12 schools, which was nearly pointless because the government left the specifics up to school boards (just like the Smith government is now leaving the specifics up to school authorities in Alberta). Without being able to point to an overarching policy, Ontario teachers said they spent too much time surveilling and nagging in class, and many stopped trying altogether.

In its directive, the Smith government indicated there will be exceptions not only for reasonable health and medical needs (e.g. blood sugar monitoring) but also for “learning needs, and for educational purposes.” To actually eliminate digital distraction in the classroom, the provincial education ministry must support school authorities, who must support principals, who must support teachers to help enforce an actual ban.

While we should be skeptical of reflexive government “bans” in general, smartphones clearly impede student learning and socialization in schools. Banning smartphones in K-12 public government schools is the right move. But a patchwork approach, which accommodates endless exemptions, won’t free Alberta classrooms from the negative effects of digital distraction.

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