SD8 psychologist: ‘A school is not an island’

School board talks violence risk threat assessment following Mt. Sentinel grad cancellation.

District psychologist Todd Kettner (right) is part of the inter-agency team prepared to deal with potential mental health crises in the district. He made a presentation alongside director Ben Eaton at Tuesday evening’s school board meeting.

What needs to happen when students threaten to harm themselves or others?

That’s a question the Kootenay Lake school district has been asking itself for years as it develops a collaborative, inter-agency approach to potential crises.

And earlier this year they put their violence threat risk assessment (VTRA) plan into action for the first time.

“Tonight is a celebration,” director Ben Eaton told the school board on Tuesday, as along with district psychologist Todd Kettner he described how the district responded to a threat from a Mount Sentinel student earlier this year.

Ultimately nobody was hurt, but grad was temporarily postponed.

“Part of the VTRA planning is that’s it’s evolving. It started as an anti-bullying strategy but it’s become so much more. You’re going to see an increased interest in mental health, and mental health First Aid strategies.”

The plans calls for staff to work towards creating a positive culture and climate on school grounds, and teachers and staff need to be ready to communicate with police, mental health services and other supports before things get out of hand.

That’s something they believe Mount Sentinel did well, but they can’t rest on their laurels.

“We’ve been inoculated, but we need to continue to work at this.”

Eaton first heard news of the situation from Mount Sentinel’s principal Glenn Campbell.

He immediately made a call that activated a provincial response, with Nelson Police, RCMP, mental health services and provincial experts all coming together for a teleconference call.

Provincial experts such as Teresa Campbell of Safer Schools Together were included, and ultimately federal agencies were even informed.

“We wanted to show you how quickly it begins,” Eaton said.

“This reached the top. I feel reassured we were able to respond in the way we did and that we can continue to do so.”

And according to Kettner, things went according to plan—though there were a lot of variables.

“You plan as best you can for scenarios and what ifs, and we train with our community partners. But then it happens and it’s a fluid situation,” he said.

“It’s less of a set play, and more you know who your teammates are on the field and what the goal is.”

“How you get there is an ongoing process.”

Not every VTRA response involves radical intervention. The goal is to identify problematic behaviour beforehand and ensure students have a solid social infrastructure consisting of trusted adults.

Eaton and Kettner recently met with principals across the district to explain how the Mount Sentinel situation played out and to plan for any future scenarios.

“We’ve also had two of our staff, Jeff Yasinchuk and Danny Leeming, receive digital training so they can gather social media information and see if there are any further cases or anything we should be aware of,” said Eaton.

Board chair Lenora Trenaman thanked them for taking the time to explain the plan.

“Knowing we have this team in place is very comforting.”

And everyone needs to work together.

“A school is not an island, especially not in a situation like this,” said Kettner. “Training and collaboration is critical.”

To end the presentation, Eaton shared a picture of graduation.

“I’ll leave you with this: a truly amazing night.”

Just Posted

Isn’t it spring? Forecast calling for snow in the Shuswap

Up to 10 centimetres expected over the next two days, Environment Canada said

After energy pledge, Kootenay leaders roll up sleeves to hammer out details

Meeting this week of local governments to hammer out details of 100-per-cent renewable pledge

Low Lions Club membership could lead to event cancellations

The club’s Canada Day pancake breakfast may be scrapped

RDCK sets deadline for Nelson to agree to compost plan

Mayor John Dooley said the timeline request is unreasonable

Selkirk College valedictorians set for Class of 2019 send-off

Patrick Zubick and Emma Cuell are this year’s valedictorians

VIDEO: B.C.’s waving granny gets incredible send-off from school kids

Tinney Davidson has been waving at students on their way to school for over 11 years, but is moving in a month

Be wary of robot emotions; ‘simulated love is never love’

Research has shown that people have a tendency to project human traits onto robots

One million recyclable bottles ‘lost’ daily in B.C., foundation says

387 million beverage containers didn’t make it back into the province’s regulated deposit refund system in 2017

Struggling B.C. adoption agency elects new board that intends to keep it open

The previous board announced that Choices would close May 31

Drug decriminalization report welcomed in East Kootenay

Provincial report recommends decriminalizing people who use illicit drugs, shift focus to treatment

New flight service an ‘angel’ for medical patients

Angel Flight East Kootenay will fly medical patients to Kelowna or Vancouver

Vancouver man, 19, charged in human trafficking case involving teen girl

The 16-year-old girl was reported missing and later discovered in Vancouver

Family dog stolen from Kootenay backyard

RCMP appealing for information on pregnant Karelian bear dog missing from Elko, B.C.

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

Most Read