SD78 responds to shocking attack on female students

The School Board addresses the tragic incident that involved the death of one girl, and the injury of another by a male attacker

Flags fly at half mast (the flag at outside of Agassiz Elementary Secondary School) to honour victim Letisha Reimer

Fraser-Cascade School District 78 has responded to the shocking attack last Tuesday at Abbotsford Secondary School.

Two female students were stabbed at that school by a male who is not a student there, and one of the girls has since died from her injuries.

SD78 school board has approved flying flags at half-mast at all schools throughout the district starting last Friday through the day of the funeral or memorial service.

SD78 board chair Linda Kerr also sent the Abbotsford school district a letter of support.

“We react with sympathy and support to the incident that took place at Abbotsford Senior Secondary this past week,” said Kerr’s letter. “We are heartened at the courage school staff showed in taking the matter into their hands when they did, perhaps containing the incident, however tragic, to a smaller number.”

“We are saddened by the loss of your student, and by the traumatizing effect this incident has had on all school staff, students and their parents.

“We have lowered the flags in our district schools to half-mast in solidarity with your pain and loss.”

SD78 assistant superintendent Kevin Bird, who oversees this area, confirmed that SD78 has sent “their deepest sympathies and deepest sympathies and offered any support they might need.”

Within SD78’s boundaries, Bird reassures schools have adequate preparation should a similar incident happen.

“When a critical incident takes place, our district safe schools coordinator counsellors, administrators, youth support workers and other service providers know what to look for and who to contact for support and help as needed,” wrote Bird in an email.

Bird noted that they follow RCMP protocols for schools and practise drills regularly.

“There are staff at every school trained to recognize and take appropriate actions should a threat occur,” said Bird. “We are well supported in all our communities by youth mental professionals and our local RCMP with whom we meet regularly.”

SD78 also works with Safe Schools BC and receives information of critical events, which helps them work with their partners in youth mental health and the RCMP “to tailor our services to the needs of our students and staff.”

Other school districts around Abbotsford have also responded to the recent incident.

Chilliwack School District staff confirmed they have been in contact with the RCMP, and that police were attending all three local high schools last Wednesday. They also ensured someone would be there emotionally for any students affected by the tragedy.

“Our counselling staff are on deck to support any students who are struggling,” said Janet Hall, director of instruction.

A letter was sent to parents and staff as well.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic event that took place at Abbotsford Senior Secondary yesterday. As we reflect on yesterday’s events, our hearts go out to the family and friends of the students involved and we extend our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the families of both students,” the letter states.

“Violent events like this one remind us of the importance of our collective efforts to keep students and staff safe. Be assured that we have school emergency management guidelines to assist schools in preparing for and responding to any type of emergency, including human caused events such as this one.

“Student and staff safety continues to be a top priority in Chilliwack and we are supporting schools in whatever way we can during this difficult period.”

The district reviewed both their lockdown and their hold-and-secure procedures this fall, Hall added.

A message also went out to staff as they work to support students.

The district has asked teachers to “model calmness,” and reassure students they are safe and that emergency procedures are in place. They also requested avoiding class discussions, watching students who seem to be struggling, referring those students to counsellors.

Finally, the district asked staff to “be compassionate; be open and truly “available” during this critical time.”

Within the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district, twice a year, they practise lockdown drills to prepare for the eventuality that someone gets into their school with ill intent.

“The key to all of this is to try to use education as a tool so we can get the kids so that they’re prepared … so this becomes something they’re familiar with. What are the things that they need to think of,” said Judy Dueck, manager of health and safety with the school district.

At the secondary school level, RCMP participate with staff and students in the lockdown drills. Students practise staying inside their classrooms, staying quiet and staying off cellphones, which could draw attention to them.

Drills are also practised in elementary schools, involving staff and teachers, and students but not police.

Sometimes lockdowns are implemented to keep a someone from taking refuge from a situation that’s going on outside the school.

“We believe we’re preparing people to be prepared in these situations. There’s no doubt this situation is very upsetting to anyone in the education sector,” Dueck said.

Anytime the school district hires a new employee, emergency procedures are reviewed. All visitors to schools should also sign in at each school office, so that administration knows who’s in the building.

Gabriel Brandon Klein, 21, has been charged with the second-degree murder of Letisha Reimer, 13, and the aggravated assault of a 14-year-old girl, whose name appears to be under a publication ban.