March 7, 2023

Exposing School Violence Using Halifax Crime Data

Data reporting on school incidents of bullying and physical and sexual violence from the province is limited and seldom highlighted in the media. Concerned parents’ phone calls aren’t being returned by our government. Education workers have the highest rate of workplace violence in the province. The crisis we have in our education system is being downplayed by our elected officials in the media. Thanks to ‘privacy concerns’ cited when anyone queries schools, RCEs or the province about these issues, it would appear the goal is to avoid having to acknowledge there is a growing and very troubling concern in our schools.

Many parents are oblivious until their own child is involved in a situation. In an effort to shine some light on a condition that impacts everyone attending or working in schools, we want to highlight how prevalent this problem actually is.

Halifax Regional Police and Halifax District RCMP publish a rolling seven-day data set of police crime responses for Halifax Regional Municipality. This information is updated daily at 12:15 AM and contains data points on five crime categories:

  • Robberies
  • Assaults
  • Break and enters
  • Theft of vehicles
  • Thefts from vehicles

The HRM Open Data Portal allows you to download these data points into a spreadsheet, and even view the data points on a map. From a privacy perspective the geolocation coordinate data is “fuzzy.” Crimes are plotted at the mid-point of the nearest block and are not associated with specific civic addresses. The latitude and longitude coordinates may not be exactly where a crime occurred, but it’s close enough to prove very useful.

We were able to pull 18 months’ worth (9400 records) of HRM crime data from an anonymous 3rd party who’s been collecting it since mid-2021. Each record contains the type of crime, the geolocation coordinates of the crime, and the event date.

Our goal was to determine if any correlations or patterns exist in the crime data related to the schools inside Halifax Regional Municipality. Specifically, we wanted to understand the nature and rate of crime occurring within various distances of schools.

The results, in our opinion, were alarming.

The Process

In order to highlight the results, we must show the methodology and logic used to build the result set. The “how” is always critical when talking about statistics.

First, we downloaded a list of schools in HRM from the Nova Scotia government’s website which includes the civic addresses and we determined the map coordinates for each school.

Second, we needed additional locations to cross-reference against crime and school locations. We settled on over one hundred church locations in HRM. We chose churches because they reside in similar locations as schools: primarily residential areas but many in commercial areas as well.

In layperson’s terms, we want to know how many crimes occurred within set distances from each school and church. Specifically, is there a reduction of crime near schools or churches during summer months (July/August)? We used distances of 200 and 100 meters as our comparison points.

The Results

Fig 1. Average number of crimes per month near churches

Within a 200-meter radius of a church, the monthly average number crimes are reduced in the summer by 2.47%. Within 100 meters there is no change.

When we look at crime data near schools, the monthly average changes drastically when the school year is complete and summer starts. During summer months there is a 25.26% reduction in crime for locations within 200 meters of schools and a 32.67% reduction in overall crime when the radius is reduced to 100 meters.

Fig 2. Average number of crimes per month near schools

Assaults are a far more important number to track since that’s one of the crimes usually seen in and around schools. Parents aren’t discussing how many cars are stolen each week at their children’s schools. Parents are discussing the TikTok videos of a child who was beaten in a washroom by six other students.

Churches see a small to moderate increase in the average number of summer assaults of 9.27% and 32.62% within a 200 and 100-meter radius respectively. Schools on the other hand, see a drastic reduction in assaults of 38.86% and 65.63% for those same distances during summer months!

What about days of the week?

In the following table, you’ll see that during Fall/Winter/Spring months where schools and churches have 0.94 and 0.96 assaults per weekday respectively, yet schools drop 40.54% on weekends while churches rise by 56.75%. During summer months, assaults are both up 22.34% and 61.76% for schools and churches on weekends compared to weekdays.

When you go a little closer at 100 meters, for Fall/Winter/Spring there’s a 61.71% reduction in average daily assaults near schools on weekends. Summer values are so incredibly low that the weekend values are meaningless.

What Schools are Notable?

We’ve established a correlation between police responses to assaults and the proximity to schools. The frequency is also concerning. What schools have the highest numbers of police activity for assaults in their immediate areas?

These schools had the highest average police calls for assault per month within 200 meters:

We should note that there are two elementary schools on this list: Joseph Howe and Saint Mary’s. Each exhibit higher police activity within 200 meters. However, neither of those two schools has a dramatic reduction in the summer months compared to the school year. The crime numbers around Saint Mary’s Elementary actually increases during the summer by 88.24%, while those around Joseph Howe Elementary drops by 20%. Both are located in relatively higher crime areas.

Each of the others schools are either high schools, junior high schools or P-9 and all have significant decreases in average monthly assaults going into summer, from 20.57% through 100%. The immediate Dartmouth High area sees a dramatic drop (58.82%) in average HRM police responses to assaults in the summer. Bicentennial’s immediate area sees a 100% drop for assaults and it is located right next door. During Fall, Winter and Spring, the Dartmouth High immediate area saw 68 assault calls while Bicentennial saw 15. The difference? Bicentennial is grades P-9 while Dartmouth High is grades 9-12. Once again, the province’s claim that “75% of violent incidents are recorded at the P-6 grade levels” does not add up. It’s time to provide clear evidence behind this claim.

At the 100 meter distance, five of the following eight schools with the highest assaults per month rate have a 100% reduction in reported police assault calls, including the aforementioned Dartmouth High who’s area had the highest average rate of assault calls at the 200 meter range.

As well, below are the schools who had a high number of 200-meter proximity-related assaults in those last 18 months.

Context is very important. We can’t simply label a school as a “bad school” or chalk up high-proximity police responses due to simply “being in a bad neighborhood.” There are many factors at play. However, what we must deal with are the facts about high assault rates within published law enforcement data. Are there high crime areas that schools exist within? Absolutely. And there are challenges to provide solutions with any high crime area.

What we found really troubling when taking this data at its word, is that there were only 275 assaults within 200 meters of a school reported to police during the 2021-2022 school year, while there were actually 13,776 violent incidents reported by schools? Why are the police not being called to schools more often? Why hasn’t the NS Department of Education provided vast amounts of incident statistics by school and grade? Transparency is essential, if parents are to believe schools are safe. The absence of information does not reduce concern.

We demand the following:

  1. Police departments across the province should publish full crime data with map coordinates.
  2. The Government of Nova Scotia must regularly release full and detailed statistics on school incidents of all types.
  3. What is government’s plan for the shortage in education staff caused by the lack of supports and solutions for staff dealing with violence, verbal abuse, harassment and other trauma while working in NS Public Education.

If we do not have access to the facts as a community, we can’t advocate for students and staff, and therefore can’t provide solutions. We need the facts to move forward constructively. Insight into what our public schools are really like should NOT be kept secret.

January 25, 2023

School Violence Has Become a Legitimate Workplace Hazard

Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education

In December, Saltwire published an op-ed by Susan Joudrey, calling attention to the fact that the Nova Scotia Government is contravening legislation in both the Education Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act that create requirements for safe, healthy, orderly, supportive, positive and effective schools. 

Dr. Joudrey’s view was that the government had abandoned the legislation, and was disregarding their obligation to keep students and staff safe. She was raising her concerns around COVID exposures, increased absenteeism and the grave impacts of Long-COVID that are becoming more apparent both as time passes, and as more of the population is infected. We feel that she raised some very good points with regard to the existing laws, and the failure to follow those laws when making decisions for public schools. Dr. Joudrey’s piece raised issues far beyond COVID concerns.

In 2022 another Saltwire article disclosed partial statistics around violence in schools. We find it alarming that the more than 11,000 incidents in the 2020-21 school year was not an issue for the government. In fact, the number of incidents was downplayed by Education Minister, Becky Druhan, who dismissed the number as being in line with previous years, as if that made more than 1,100 incidents per month acceptable. As per the article, 

“Education Minister Becky Druhan said the 2020-21 school violence numbers are pretty much on par with the past five years, though they did fall when students had to work from home during the spring of 2020.”

So this is the norm. The status quo. The baseline. Minister Druhan also seemed to forget that compared to past years, children were in school for far fewer days between 2019-2021. In the 2019-2020 school year for instance, students missed about three and a half months of in-school time from COVID in addition to regular absences and snow days. Likewise, the year 2020-2021 had extended breaks and individual schools were closed for consecutive days to prevent outbreaks and to do “deep cleans” of the facilities. This means the average number of violent incidents per school day was actually much higher than usual. Omitting the total student-days missed for each Regional Centre each year blurs the true picture of student violence rates.

The Saltwire article also cited an unnamed FOIPOP release stating about three-quarters (75%) of the violent incidents “are recorded at the P-6 grade levels while students are learning about appropriate interactions, self-regulation and other important social emotional skills.” However, teachers and other educational staff we’ve spoken with cast serious doubts on such a claim. In fact, if you look at other incident types you’ll see that this violence claim is questionable and that incidents of violence could be higher among older students. For instance, using the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s own data released in FOIPOP 2018-07970-EDU highlighting the incidents of bullying reported by grade and gender in 2017, the peak of incidents is grade eight. As well, over two-thirds of the incidents reported in that year are between grades 5 through 9.

Fig. 1 – FOIPOP 2018-07970-EDU Incidents of Bullying

% by Grade2.833.995.655.809.1313.1912.5414.4216.8110.222.612.030.80

As well, note that in recent FOIPOP 2022-01614-EDU which shows the incidents of bullying combined for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, the peak once again is grade 8. These are the years referred to in the Saltwire article above. 

Fig. 2 – FOIPOP 2022-01614-EDU – Incidents of Bullying

% by Grade3.152.753.726.867.4411.5612.2415.1617.6810.584.352.921.60

We have questions. In fact, we demand answers from our elected representatives; not just talking points and platitudes.

If “three quarters of violent incidents are recorded at the P-6 grade levels” how are more than two-thirds of bullying incidents between grades 5-9? Why is there a difference? Are kids more prone to bullying through approximate ages of 10-15 but more inclined to violence in grades P-6? One reason for the difference is that incidents of bullying are broken down by grade; such grade statistics have not been released for violent incidents. Or sexual assault. Or sexual harassment. Or verbal abuse. Or most other types of behaviours by grade. Bullying is often a pattern of harassment and violence, but do these numbers capture one-off incidents as well? And young children who may still be learning appropriate coping skills aren’t necessarily bullies, but can still inflict a lot of harm through violent actions. It is imperative that the Department offer updated definitions of these two types of behaviours. Is everyone adhering the definition of bullying and inappropriate behaviors as outlined in the Provincial Student Code of Conduct? The province must also release more fulsome data. 

In 2019 the Globe and Mail reached out to provincial Ministers of Education seeking data on school violence. Nova Scotia provided such data, which indicated that:

“in the 2015-16 school year, there were 631 recorded incidents against an educator by a student, and the following year, there were 683, the vast majority occurring at the elementary-school level, the government says, characterising it as a “mild” increase but also adding that “one is too many.”

It goes without saying that “one is too many” – this is a mere platitude. But this data release also reveals that there is more to be shared. The comment that the “vast majority” of these cases are at the elementary school level suggests the existence of more detailed numbers that consider incidents by grade. These must be made available so that we can understand the scope and root of these incidents.

What about other data sources?

There are other relevant numbers to consider outside those released by the NS Department of Education and Childhood Development.

From a 2019 survey across the country by CBC there emerged some alarming statistics:

  • 35% of students say they were physically assaulted (slapped/kicked/bitten) at least once in elementary/middle school, 
  • 40% of high school boys have been assaulted at least once,
  • 45% say they did not report the incidents they experienced, and
  • 25% experienced sexual harassment or assault before going into grade 7. 

Other forms of violence with which children contend are also important, but do not appear in NS statistics. What about misogynistic and sexual violence or violence connected to racism? Are incidences such as the bullying that took the form of graphic and obscene peer harassment — the bullying that contributed to the suffering and death of Rehtaeh Parsons — identified and tallied by the province? We need the full picture of violence, in all its forms, in Nova Scotia schools. Without it, how can we advocate for improvements?

We reached out to the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCBNS) to ask them about workplace claims related to violence. These claims, freely shared and clarified on by the WCBNS, tell quite a story. 

In the last ten years, workers in the Educational Services sector have had the highest rate of claims due to violence, at a decade rate of 11.28%. Next in line is Health/Social Services at 8.60%. The peak in the last ten years was in 2019, where Educational Services led the pack at a whopping 16.32% of claims related to violence! This nearly doubled the claims in Health/Social Services which were at 8.58%. While the overall number of claims due to violence in the Health/Social Services sector is far higher than any other, the rate claims (percentage of employee impacted) due to violence in Educational Services has taken the lead every year except for 2020. That year Business Services averaged a claim rate of 14.23% compared to claims in Educational Services, 10.92%, which took second place). Typically, the Business Services sector rounds out third place, behind Educational Services (first) and Health/Social Services (second). 

Who are these educational workers who submit claims around violence each year to the WCBNS? They are Regional Centres of Education employees as well as contract workers. Employees such as Educational Assistants (EAs), Educational Program Assistants (EPAs), administrative assistants, caretakers, custodians and potentially bus drivers (depending on the contracting company). Teachers and school administrative employees use a different provider other than WCBNS.

What’s actually happening in our schools?

Conversations with school staff offer insight into what staff-directed school violence. School staff report being discouraged from documenting incidents of violence and, when recording cannot be avoided, the process is difficult and the mechanism for reporting, featuring drop down menus, limits a full and accurate reporting of incidents. Privacy protocols prevent student victims from being named in perpetrators’ reports, precluding long-term tracing of patterns of incidents. As well, there is no set standard to ensure all teachers are documenting incidents in PowerSchool – teachers report divergent experiences as some are encouraged by Principals to report violent incidents, others say they are discouraged; some principals prefer to enter information on behalf of teachers. Each Regional Centre may or may not have its own directives around how schools operate in terms of data collection; we don’t know of that for sure because there’s no public insight into Regional Centres since English-language elected school boards were dissolved in 2018. One thing is certain: no one but teachers and school administrators have the ability to enter incidents, a protocol that impedes reporting from employees such as EAs and EPAs.

Before and since the 2022 Saltwire article highlighting school violence, there have been several very concerning in-school incidents that make it very difficult to move on from the revelations it provided. Videos and photos taken by students of some really troubling attacks have made the rounds on social media and the news. Reports from parents about their children being bullied and assaulted while at school, sometimes requiring hospitalization, are impossible to dismiss. When eliminating the at-home learning options around COVID, the government made assertions about schools being the safest place for kids. While acknowledging the important role that schools can play in students’ access to food and other basic needs, many parents and child experts objected strongly to this portrayal of schools, noting that such statements ignored highly problematic realities of school culture related to violence, such as bullying and negative mental health experiences. 

A parent shared: “one of our children started high school in 2021. In the first month at the school, a Grade 9 student was beaten very badly by four older boys on school property — unprovoked. His assailants wore steel-toed boots to kick him and told him they would kill him. They tore his clothes; he had a broken nose and collarbone, among other injuries. At least a dozen others were present, some recording the attack. No one present tried to stop it. The next day another group of students took a vigilante approach to the incident, giving a few of them a ‘mild’ taste of their own medicine. A few months later another attack was recorded at the school which included another Grade 9 student being kicked in the head multiple times. In between, our kids (at two different schools) reported to us multiple times about drugs at the school (bongs, a weed smell in the stairwells), plus vandalism and destruction of school property.” These violent incidents only fully came to light when highlights on the local evening news started a fire-storm on social media.

Many parents report picking their children up to take them home to use the washroom, because the washrooms at schools are not safe. In fact, students have reported the washroom is a good place to engage in all kinds of inappropriate behaviours, because there are no cameras and because teachers also avoid washrooms because of the negative behaviours that occur there. A few years ago, a teacher in an HRM high school was assaulted while checking a washroom, and suffered long-term injuries that have prevented their return to work. 

The parent continued: “In our case, we communicated with the Principal and our MLA about these issues. We questioned why there is widespread knowledge of these problems, but nothing is being done to prevent violence and drug use on school property. Both told us: if they are not doing it at the school, they will just find somewhere else to do it! Fights and drug-use are accommodated on school property to prevent it happening elsewhere? One administrator even suggested the need for a police presence to protect staff anytime the parents of some students are expected at the school. When asked why there is no communication with families about these serious fears and incidents in schools, there was invariably a single response: privacy concerns.” This lack of communication fosters rumours and misunderstanding, and forces parents to rely on whatever version of events their kids and other parents can cobble together – or worse yet, having to witness school violence via the news and social media. Neither is an appropriate source of information. Parents deserve transparent information. Knowledge of what is actually happening in schools is key to addressing the problems that exist. Schools are obliged to do all they can to remedy the situation – and this includes an obligation to inform the school community. 

Teachers and other staff are not immune to the risks of violence in schools.

We have been hearing more and more since the NSTU labour dispute with the government about Kevlar bite guards, mental health concerns, COVID cases, injuries while breaking up fights, teachers being verbally assaulted and threatened. None of these would be tolerated in any other work environment. Ever. School violence has become a legitimate workplace hazard. 

What good are labour laws that are not enforced?

Taking all of these things into account, along with reports like the one above about teachers being injured while at work, made some of us go back to that report about violent incidents. And Dr. Joudrey’s commentary inspired us to read up more on the legislated obligations for safety in our schools where we became familiar with precedent setting legal decisions that force us to ask: Why is the government violating the law? Why are our kids, school staff and others being exposed to serious, avoidable harm?

What precedent do we find in Nova Scotia and across the country?

First, let’s start with education. In a 2017-2018 school year health and safety document from the South Shore Regional Centre of Education (formerly SSRSB), refers to a “special recognition of violence as a hazard.” 

In an example from another sector, SiteLogic Construction Management Inc was fined under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety Act for the wrongful death of a contractor on one of a site owned by the Halifax Port Authority. Lawyers for HPA argued that because the contractor wasn’t an employee that they should not be held liable. The judge disagreed stating: “safety measures were required to protect everyone, not just employees.” Both the Halifax Port Authority and the owner of SiteLogic Construction Management were fined for labour violations. 

Hang on now. Everyone? Right. Let’s reiterate what the Occupational Health and Safety Act actually states:

Employers’ precautions and duties

13 (1) Every employer shall take every precaution that is reasonable in the circumstances to

(a) ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace

Persons. That’s an interesting word. It turns out we are one of the few provinces in Canada with that wording and the precedent has been set repeatedly in the private sector that protects everyone at or near the workplace.

The following is an excellent example of how the OHSA is applied and interpreted by our own provincial government:

On August 5th, 2022, motorists were subjected to hours-long delays due to the twinning of Highway 104 between New Glasgow and Antigonish during a heat warning. The Guysborough Journal had asked the province to provide insight given the wording surrounding “persons at or near the workplace” in the OHSA. They wanted to know if motorists stuck in their cars during a heat warning were subject to the protections since they were, most definitely, persons.

The province responded: “Owners and employers’ duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act are intended to prevent hazards associated with the workplace (e.g. present at or generated by). Environmental factors like heat or cold events have broader impacts outside of occupational settings. When environmental factors like heat events happen, the intent of OHS requirements under most circumstances do not apply to the general public near the workplace because it’s beyond their control to manage adequately.”

If you follow the logic of that stance, by a provincial government representative no less, it would be that if the workplace was within their control then they’d be held accountable to the Act and be required to protect all persons at or near the workplace.

The precedent has been repeatedly set – repeat it here. Children and education staff (teachers, EPAs/EAs, custodians, secretaries, and even school administrators) are reporting more than 11,000 instances of violence in provincial workspaces per year — not counting bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault and others. 

11,000-plus instances of violence each year. This is scratching the surface.

What other workplace would tolerate this? Surely not the Nova Scotia Legislature. Right? 

Nine years ago, NDP MLA Percy Paris was charged with assault and uttering threats for an altercation with Liberal MLA Keith Colwell. The charges were ultimately dropped a few months later and Paris later successfully completed the adult diversion program.

We know that in 2019 Liberal Education Minister Zach Churchill allegedly put his hands on then-opposition leader and now Premier Tim Houston during a heated argument in the Nova Scotia Legislature. At the time, MLA Houston did not appreciate the physical contact and the Liberal-majority government quashed his motion for an internal affairs investigation. 

At least they discussed the matter out in the open. Never mind that an alleged physical assault was whisked away to nothingness by way of majority vote. The difference however in the case of Paris and Colwell, is that someone reported the matter to the police, it was dealt with and the matter had been managed.

Well, Premier Houston’s party now has the power.

When will educators and children be deemed “persons” in the eyes of the government when they are certainly “persons” in the eyes of the laws we have in place to protect them?

Precedent has been set. We must use the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect our educators and students.

Update: An error that existed in this blog regarding the number of education workers who have made claims due to violence in school has been corrected. A grammatical error created a misstatement that 11% of education workers have filed claims. This was incorrect. We have made every possible effort to ensure this article is correct, and apologize for this mistake.

January 5, 2022

Writing to your MLA

Many requests have come from our membership, asking for help in communicating concerns and expectations from parents for government to act on its responsibility to make schools as safe as possible, and thus to make it possible for them to remain open during the latest wave of Covid-19. Below is sample of a letter that can be used as a guide, can be used in full, or can be used in part, as you see fit. We do recommend you use it as a guide and express your own concerns as completely and accurately as you wish.

Continue reading “January 5, 2022”

December 4, 2021

Shortages, pandemics and a lack of last resorts…

By Stacey Rudderham, Co-Chair, Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education

I have been mulling and fuming for weeks, trying to find a way to express the very real grief I am feeling for our teachers and EAs, bus drivers, students and others in our public education system in Nova Scotia. I see an awful lot in messages written to me and hear a lot more in the discussions I have with parents, teachers and others, and I feel we have hit a level of crisis I did not envision. Maybe I didn’t see it coming, because I hoped errors and misguided decisions in the past would have been corrected by now. 

Continue reading “December 4, 2021”

October 4, 2021

NSPFPE demands government address in school outbreaks NOW

The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE), a volunteer run group dedicated to a strong and safe public education system, is gravely concerned about the government’s current approach to Covid-19 in schools.

“There have been multiple exposures at Halifax West High School including 5 new cases announced on the weekend. Parents are informing us that many families have received several close contact notices,” notes Stacey Rudderham of NSPFPE. “The frequency and number of cases in this school is highlighting the fact that current protocols do not seem to be working. And there seems to be an absence of any approaches that could stop spread.”

Here is a list of the recent Covid-19 activity in just Halifax West:

Sep. 22 – Halifax West High School, Halifax

Sep. 24 – Halifax West High School, Halifax (exp Sep 17)

Sep. 25 – Halifax West High School, Halifax

Sep. 25 – Halifax West High School, Halifax (exposures Sep 21, 22 and/or 23)

Sep. 28 – Halifax West High, Halifax – 2 additional cases

Oct. 2 – Halifax West High, Halifax 2 Cases (Exposure Sep. 28 and/or 29)

Oct. 3 – Halifax West High, Halifax 3 Cases (Exposure Sep 28 and 29)

There have also been cases in feeder schools. Our student population is not an isolated bubble. They are part of the overall community and their lives and families cross over with younger students who are not yet eligible for vaccination, the general public through their jobs and activities, and more. And the government is slow to update its in-school exposure list.

This is not the only school with multiple cases (cases to our knowledge, colour coded by families of schools, can be found in the PDF attached). It is simply the prime example of how cases can quickly expand. While extra curricular, outside visitors, and use of lunchrooms/cafeteria have now been restricted the above numbers seem to clearly indicate in-school spread. But without full schools being tested when cases happen it is impossible to fully establish the link between cases.

With our under 12s not yet eligible for vaccination, and the presence of vulnerable individuals at all school levels, something has to be done to actively protect our children. “Living with Covid” is not a safe option for a large portion of our population.

Now is the time to keep our student population safe. We demand the government address this issue with a clear and safe plan for this school and any others impacted.

September 27, 2021

Families clamour for information about in-school cases

The group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE)feels the Nova Scotia Government should be treating announcements of in-school Covid cases the same as other exposure notifications. To help keep people informed the group has been tracking in-school cases (based on information provided by parents with confirmed notices).

After starting this list the group was flooded with new membership – about 3,200 new members with most joining in the last 5 days. Bringing its total membership to over 21,000. When asked, a massive majority of new members stated they joined for access to this list of in-school cases.

Policy on information around these cases seems to vary from school to school – with some informing teachers of a case in their workplace and others not. It appears some are informing only close contacts while others are informing the entire school community. The NSPFPE list relies on reports from parents – so there could be more schools that are not yet on the list. Cases seem to be being treated as isolated incidents that are not of public concern, and yet some schools have reported multiple cases and one case in a building with hundreds of people is not “isolated”. The definition of close contact has also not been made clear.

Families deserve to know about ALL cases in their school –and the public deserves to know the reality of cases in schools. Teachers definitely deserve to know about exposures at their workplace (a recent HRCE statement implied that this group can inform teachers faster because social media is “lightning fast”. Not only does the HRCE have access to social media itself, but the group is using school emails to verify cases before posting them – so the HRCE is aware of cases long before NSPFPE). Dr. Strang commented recently that they were looking into ways to share this information – it was done last year and so the way seems obvious and not out of reach.

What happens with contractors brought into schools… such as school photographers? How would they know if they were exposed before going to other schools or locations? And what about substitutes who travel from school to school? Or support staff with multi-school locations (guidance counsellors, speech therapists, etc). These individuals deserve to know if they were in an exposure location so they can take precautions and protect others.

And the community also deserves this – schools are part of our communities. We reached out to our members and were flooded with their reasons. Here are just a few:

“As someone who runs recreational programs for kids and teens I think it is essential that I know what the cases are like in schools. It is important for us to be aware of where things are happening, how things are spreading so that we can be better “informed” as to what is happening in communities and to prepare for possible closures and assess risks.” – Laura Caswell.

“Transparency is best. Example: If we have a play date lined up with friends and discover that there is a case at a school that one family may somehow be connected to, then we have the choice to postpone, etc.” – Katherine Ferguson

“At first, people didn’t realize there were covid cases in schools. Because of this people felt a little too comfortable. I feel like being made aware of school cases is a reminder that we all need to take the necessary steps to reduce the risk. People need to remember that while we are close to the goal of 75% being vaccinated, 100% of kids under 12 are not vaccinated. These kids are the most vulnerable right now.” – Tanya Houlihan

“I have an 11-year-old son with a neuromuscular disorder who is also somewhat immunocompromised. Having information about cases in schools is a critical piece of information for us to have in order to make the best possible decisions about whether we keep him in class, move him to the resource room full-time as a precaution, or keep him home entirely. Will we feel differently once he is fully vaccinated? You bet. But for now, knowing if cases are starting to pop up around us is crucial.” – Lorrie Power

“If people want the information they will find it but there is no guarantee that what is found is correct and since there is no official data source to refer to that leaves a huge opening for misinformation. If they want to fight misinformation they have to make sure the correct information is out there and easily obtained.” – Elizabeth Guitard

“If we are going to keep our under 12 year-olds in school, we need to be able to assess their risk of exposure. Transparency and open communication build trust, hiding outbreaks from the public erodes that trust.” – Barbara M. Campbell

“Knowing which schools are affected and where they are informs choices about activities and extracurriculars with my children, especially until the vaccination requirement is in effect the safety of places where kids from many schools may gather.” – Allison Carpenter

“I would like us to be confident the government is doing enough for our smallest residents and they need to be forthcoming in order to give us that confidence.” – PoonehFooladi

“Previously my (asthmatic) son was able to maintain his much-needed structured activities outside of school because I had trust in the transparency and could see where cases in the school community were. There is much more anxiety/fear/doubt now as parents are being left in the dark.” – Kathleen Manson

The above is just a tiny portion of the responses given by members of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. Many of whom joined this group specifically for access to this information.

This information is not of a private nature. It is being collected by our government and is of a public health nature. And parents clearly want it made public.

The fact that a private group of volunteers is doing a better job than our own government at keeping parents and teachers informed about this is unacceptable. Our new government has spoken often about transparency. The time for that is NOW. Our kids deserve nothing less.

September 13, 2021

NSPFPE Says Keep Masks on in our Schools

NS Parent Group calling for Minister and Public Health to leave mask mandate intact in NS Public Schools

HALIFAX, NS – Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education is urging the Minister of Education, Becky Druhan and NS Public Health to leave the current masking protocols, as well as other Covid measures in place in NS Public Schools for the foreseeable future. In response to the numbers of new cases disclosed today, and Public Health’s statement regarding community spread, parents are more concerned than ever about the removal of recommended measures that have made schools safer over the past 18 months. With at least three known school cases in Nova Scotia last week among consistent new case numbers, PEI having to close a number of schools this week due to outbreaks in children under 19, and NB returning to masking in their schools, it seems obvious Nova Scotia would be prudent to act preemptively when it comes to our students.  While a large portion of our school population remains unvaccinated and are the most vulnerable in the current Covid outlook, parents are concerned that the government is intending to drop the very important protections most recommended by experts all over the world, far too early.

Only weeks ago, we were told that a 75% vaccination rate is the minimum required to move to Phase 5 in Nova Scotia, and we would like to see that target remain a priority, and reassessed consistently, as we move through the beginnings of the latest wave of this pandemic. Schools and the Covid protocols applied there should be strengthened based on being proactive and the highest standard of protection for our students and their families, our teachers, and every staff member who is present in our public schools. Regardless of the vaccine numbers, other jurisdictions are showing that removing masks increases cases in the unvaccinated. We call on the government to maintain this important safety measure for our young children in schools.

NS Parents for Public Education also calls on the government to restore the public notice policies that were in place in the prior school years, returning to making school cases publicly known, and maintaining a publicly accessible list of current school cases and any closures. While there is a continued publication of possible exposure sites, where 15 minutes is deemed a risk, a list that is growing longer and wider everyday, it makes no sense that schools and buses, where children and teachers and other school staff exist in crowded environments for up to several hours a day, are not treated in a like manner, and perhaps with some more importance. 

Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education was started in 2016 by parents concerned with the government’s deteriorating relationship with teachers. They have 18,000 members on Facebook, and use their platform to promote and protect public education.

August 24, 2021

NSPFPE statement on 2021 back-to-school plan

We at Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education were disappointed in premier-designate Tim Houston’s announcement of the Back-to-School plan, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang’s details.

We agree that the best place for our students is in the classroom with our peers and teachers. However, with our elementary students unable to be vaccinated, and many previous concerns unaddressed, we believe this plan does not go far enough. We were hoping to see the continuation of Nova Scotia’s cautious approach to COVID, but instead feel like yesterday’s briefing was a “COVID is over” announcement.

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August 20, 2021

NSPFPE Condemn Excessive Force by Police

NS Parent Group calling for investigation and support for unhoused

HALIFAX, NS – Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education denounces the actions taken by the city and Halifax Regional Police on Wed, August 18. We are disappointed and dismayed at the flimsy excuses and lies offered to explain their actions.

Members of NSPFPE were present at the protest, and affirmed that actions by the police were designed to intimidate and provoke as soon as crowds gathered. This included surrounding the crowd (a technique known as kettling — widely condemned after the Toronto G20 Summit in 2010), using bikes to push back protesters, and brandishing pepper spray before any unrest began.

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Nova Scotia parents impatient for school COVID-19 plan

Saltwire (Chronicle Herald) John McPheee, August 11, 2021

Like many parents across Nova Scotia, Stacey Rudderham is losing her patience as she waits to hear the province’s COVID-19 plans for the school year that begins in a few weeks.

One of her daughters, who will head back to high school on Sept. 7, has both of her COVID-19 vaccine shots. But her youngest daughter won’t be eligible until she turns 12 in November.

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N.S. parent group worried education has taken back seat in provincial election campaign

Elizabeth McSheffrey, Global News, August 10, 2021

With just one week left before Nova Scotians go the polls, some parents in the province say they’re concerned that education has taken a back seat in the election campaign.

Stacey Rudderham, co-chair of Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education, says it’s “befuddling” how little she’s heard the three major party leaders talk about education for school-aged children, as opposed to post-secondary students about to enter the workforce.

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July 17, 2021



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Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (NSPFPE) was founded in the wake of the labour dispute between the provincial government and the Teachers Union in late 2016. Within a few weeks, over 18,000 Nova Scotian parents and grandparents had come together to support not only our teachers in their fight for justice, but also public education itself, which has long been under attack. Our social media presence and several town hall meetings show our support remains consistent almost five years on.

Along with the group Educators for Social Justice, we published the Manifesto (Agenda) for Progressive Public Education ( 

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May 19, 2021

NS Parents for Public Education Dispute Facts behind Teacher Cuts

The recent cuts to teaching staff at many HRM high schools has raised concerns for the group Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education. They believe the reasons being given for the cuts do not match the facts. And they question why misinformation is being used as justification for cuts.

Continue reading “May 19, 2021”