NEWS

TDSB supports principal's decision to downplay gun incident

04/26/2012 11:28 EDT | Updated 06/26/2012 05:12 EDT

The director of education for the Toronto District School Board, says the principal of Oakdale Park Middle School did the right thing when he sent home a letter telling parents of a serious incident at the school, but didn't mention that a student had been caught with a loaded gun.

"I'm as troubled as the parents are," Chris Spence told CBC News on Thursday.

School principal, Craig Crone, sent a letter home saying an "urgent situation" had taken place but didn't say what the urgent situation was. He decided to explain what had happened in person during a parent council meeting on Wednesday evening.

Spence said he supported that decision, even though some parents have criticized the move.

"I absolutely support the principal" who has 24 years experience, said Spence.

"I know that he wrote it anticipating that there was a regularly scheduled school council meeting [Wednesday] night. And you know you want to be careful as to how you message that, there's some context that also needs to be provided and I know he wanted to do that."

But Spence said the incident should also be seen as a wakeup call.

"We have to remember that schools really are a microcosm of society and we know that in the broader community there are challenges with guns. I mean kids have told me themselves it's easier to get a gun than to get a job," he said.

The incident involved a 12-year-old Grade 7 student who was discovered with a loaded handgun — a Colt .38 — in his backpack last Friday.

The child has been arrested and faces a number of weapons charges.

Police say the boy claims to have found the gun on the street, put it in his backpack, and brought it to school.

Crone said Wednesday he believes security at the school is "sufficient."

"If you look at the American model, with metal detectors and so on, that's not the Canadian model of schooling," he said.

"I believe … this is a safe place to come to school," he added, saying the school is looking to add video cameras and a secure back door.

Parents at the Wednesday evening meeting were not reassured. They have asked the board to speed up the installation of security cameras. "My child's safety is at risk," said Hayleen Leonardo.

Spence said he believes the extra security measures will be in place "in short time."

Oakdale Park Middle School has been the scene of other incidents of gunplay.

In November 2011, a gunman fired at a 19-year-old man steps away from the school. Two teenage girls sitting on the school lawn were also targeted.

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