‘Don’t scapegoat Highland,’ writes Comox student

Dear editor,

I have one main response to Mr. Baird’s letter to the editor (Record, Feb. 26): Don’t scapegoat Highland.

Dear editor,

I have one main response to Mr. Baird’s letter to the editor (Record, Feb. 26): Don’t scapegoat Highland.

He clearly has a highly subjective political agenda he wants to sell, and is using Highland Secondary as the scapegoat for a deeper-rooted issue he takes with Don McRae and Christy Clark.

If he wishes to speak about his political agenda, what he should have done is written a piece about the failures of the BC Liberal party in their stance on bullying and the (lack of) measures to be taken against it. Him tacking on his label as the managing director of a children’s safety group does not change the real purpose of his message.

His statistics show major issues — Baird stated that his organization has “… received over 500 e-mails and calls from very concerned parents about this situation since Amanda’s death.”

First off, he did not state how many of these emails or calls were from unique parents — for all the reader is aware of, these could be five individuals continuing several hundreds of corresponding e-mails and calls with the organization. Statistics are not immediately fact, and his bias makes this fairly clear.

Secondly, if bullying at Highland is Baird’s true agenda in this piece of writing, why has he not brought it to administrative ears personally?

Although normal protocol would require that any sudden influx of concerned communications should be brought to the attention of the administrators at the school, the principal of Highland was not informed of any of these concerns until the publication of the letter Feb. 26, nor did the PAC hear anything of concerned parents.

As the managing director of Street Smart Kidz Canada, Mr. Baird clearly has the power and influence to change things at Highland — but the fact he chose not to do this suggests that his main issue is not with bullying, but with the politics of the educational system of British Columbia.

The part that puzzles me the most is that he states that the death of Amanda Todd, a 10th grade student in the city of Port Coquitlam, triggered these calls.

Why, if the bullying was such a major issue at Highland previously, did these parents call only after the death of a student in an unrelated district? What did this one highly publicized event have anything to do with issues at external schools?

Shouldn’t the death of Tina Slater, a local student at Highland who passed away in 2011, have triggered these events? Only now in the face of election time does Baird bring up a highly publicized suicide to garner emotional reaction from people in the face of an epidemic that is bullying.

There were many factual inaccuracies that Baird painted of Highland as well — in fact, his depiction of Highland is highly reminiscent of an ’80s movie trope of an underfunded inner city school.

As students attending Highland Secondary can confirm, we have yet to witness a set of green stairs where the Grade 11s congregate — the lines dividing these stairs are also far more blurred than Baird suggests they are.

Not to mention, his harsh depiction of punches being thrown or younger students being spat on not only shows that he has never personally seen Highland, but also shows how out of touch he is with the modern picture of bullying in high schools — although extreme cases do depict physical violence being inflicted, most modern-day bullying is far more insidious than “jocks” throwing punches at “losers.”

Baird also offers no real solutions to the issue of the culture of cliques occurring in schools, other than a call to move anti-bullying awareness movements to occur earlier in the year. Does this not suggest that his message is not to end bullying, but to give his organization purpose earlier in the school year?

Is his targeting of Highland a move from Street Smart Kidz Canada looking to expand their message into secondary schools?

Cliquing in schools today is not “mean” or “cool” kids “deciding” the “coolness” of others, but a natural tendency for youth to seek friends who are like-minded or similar — this is obviously still an issue, but can we say that this does not occur in workplaces, or even in communities?

In the case of high schools, this is clearly an issue born of ageism instilled in the system of age-based grade levels. This is not just propagation of a hierarchy — the hierarchy itself is a product of ageism.

Students from a very early age are taught to fear anyone older than themselves, and to hate anyone younger than themselves — how is this not ageism in the truest sense?

Until the educational system re-evaluates the age-based grouping of processing students, this will continue to be an issue in schools.

If the issue of bullying is to be eradicated, it should occur on a deeper level of eradicating discrimination, not just simply taking a political stance.

Pam Choi

Editor’s note: Pam Choi is a student at Highland Secondary School in Comox.

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