Violence a "major problem" at Yukon elementary school
YUKON - Violent students "threatened and attacked" school staff, other students
Students and staff at Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse say they have been experiencing and witnessing student violence on a regular basis since 2020 (Image: WN)
BEFORE READING: This story contains references to sexual abuse and violence against children.
Violent outbursts, physical attacks and serious injuries caused by students have become a "major problem" at Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse, Yukon.
That is according to a group of parents and teaching staff at the school who contacted the Whitewash News with information on violent incidents at the school going back three years.
The worst of the alleged incidents include:
a plastic bag being wrapped around the head of a student onboard a school bus;
a student threatening to kill another student;
a student 'curb stomping' on the head of another student;
a student who was physically attacked and injured but went the whole school-day without medical treatment as he was embarrassed about being attacked;
"baseball-sized" rocks being thrown by a student at teachers and students onboard a bus, causing a bus window to break; and
sexual, abusive and foul language directed at students and teaching staff.
One parent said that in many cases the Department of Education doesn't record incidents of violent crime properly so that when a parent of a victimised student starts asking questions, there is nothing on their child's file.
Another said that her child was threatened by other students so many times that she and her husband pulled them from the school.
Staff abandoned, officials protected
Teaching staff at the school say they feel "abandoned" by their employer and they have "lost all faith" in the Yukon government.
"Through their response to the Hidden Valley scandal, this government made it abundantly clear they will protect political careers first and foremost" a staff member said. "The wellbeing of students and staff comes second, if not last."
The scandal being referred to is the Yukon government's cover-up of the sexual abuse of children by an educational assistant at another Yukon school, Hidden Valley Elementary.
An investigation by the Yukon's Child and Youth Advocate Annette King into why the cover-up happened found that government officials had "warped priorities" and were more concerned with the impact on themselves "rather than the wellbeing of students and their families."
After the cover-up was exposed, the Liberal MLAs and deputy ministers responsible were allowed to stay in their jobs and in some cases were even promoted.
Families of children impacted by the sexual abuse pushed for a change of government but their efforts were thwarted after the Yukon NDP voted against a no-confidence motion in the ruling Yukon Liberal Party.
Amongst the incidents of violence at Jack Hulland Elementary in Whitehorse was the throwing of "baseball-sized" rocks at a bus with students onboard
Several teachers have also allegedly been injured at the school whilst trying to protect peaceful students from aggressive students.
In the worst cases, two teachers suffered "serious head injuries" in 2021 and have yet to return to the school.
In another incident, a teacher intervened when a student was "swinging a metal table leg around" during a gym class, putting others students at risk of physical harm.
The RCMP received a complaint about the teacher who intervened and a subsequent investigation found no evidence that the teacher had done anything wrong.
According to teachers at Jack Hulland, however, even though the teacher involved in the gym class incident was putting himself in harm's way to protect non-violent students, his reputation "continues to be damaged by false allegations."
A member of the group who contacted the Whitewash News said teachers and educational assistants at Jack Hulland have "no voice" and need their side of the story to be heard in order to counter what they say are "grossly exaggerated or flat-out false allegations taking root in the public perception."
Teaching staff at the school claim they are unable to speak out publicly because they are prevented from doing so by their employment contracts and union agreements.
The parents, on the other hand, say they are afraid to speak out because the families of violent children at the school are, they allege, "litigious and aggressive" and have been threatening to sue people as early as February of this year.
These fears may be related to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in court on October 31 on behalf of two former male students of Jack Hulland.
The families in the lawsuit allege that their boys were "subjected to holds and involuntary seclusion on a frequent and repeated basis" in response to their behaviour at school.
In court-filed documents, the families claim that the conduct of school staff when trying to manage their children's behaviour amounted to "assault, battery and false imprisonment."
The parents and teachers who contacted the Whitewash News claim these are the same types of "bombastic claims" being made since February by the families of violent students.
The Supreme Court of Yukon in Whitehorse where families of former students at Jack Hulland Elementary School are trying to certify a class-action lawsuit (Image: WN)
The Whitewash News was also told that some teachers at Jack Hulland are "losing sleep" due to the track record of the lawyer whom the families hired to head up their lawsuit.
The lawyer in question, James Tucker, is allegedly known as both "Jim" and "Tucker the Fucker" by long-time Yukoners.
"Jim knows how to work the system and manipulate the media" a school staff member alleged. "He cares about money, not winning. He knows public and political pressure can be enough to force a settlement."
"We're anxious he'll drag our names through the mud because that's what he does to get his big payday."
The Whitewash News previously published a story on Tucker's penchant for attacking reputations after he victim-blamed a teenage sexual harassment victim.
Within days of that story being published, the Yukon Law Society removed his name from the list of lawyers on their website's Access to Justice Committee section.
Fears expressed by parents and teachers that the media will be manipulated during the Jack Hulland lawsuit appear to be warranted by news coverage of the story to date.
On November 23, the CBC published a story on the lawsuit and broadcast it widely on publicly-funded platforms across the country including CBC websites, social media channels, television, radio and podcasting services.
Despite the fact that none of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court, the CBC promoted the position of the parents making the accusations that their children were treated in a criminal manner by school staff.
The CBC did not include the perspective of staff or parents who claim their children (or they themselves) have been victims of violence at the school.
Yukon CBC reporter Jackie Hong co-wrote the story with a senior producer at the CBC's audio documentary unit Julia Pagel.
Although both CBC employees seemed quick to promote the side of the parents who filed the lawsuit, Pagel appeared to take it a step further by framing the story as if those parents' allegations have already been tested and proven correct by a court of law.
"Parents trusted their kids school would keep them safe," Pagel wrote on Twitter. "They were wrong."
The Twitter account of senior CBC producer Julia Pagel suggests the CBC is already taking the side of parents who filed a lawsuit in the Yukon even though none of their allegations have been tested in court (Image: CBC/Twitter)
A lot of class-action lawsuits in Canada are settled before they ever reach the courtroom because of the cost and political damage involved in fighting them.
An out-of-court settlement is especially likely in the Yukon where a minority Liberal government is already being sued by three different parties over the Hidden Valley scandal.
According to a recent poll by Léger, the largest Canadian-owned market research and analytics company, the Liberals are by far the least popular political party in the Yukon, after the Yukon Party and Yukon NDP.
The Liberals cannot afford another dragged out scandal which means the Yukon NDP can't afford one either because they have since April 28 been protecting and propping up the Liberals in exchange for power and influence.
Unfortunately for everyday Yukoners, in order to get rid of the Jack Hulland lawsuit and bury negative press, the government will have to dig deep into public funds to pay off and silence the people suing them.
This means that millions of taxpayer dollars that could fund public events and services in the territory will instead be spent on covering up the failures of politicians.
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