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Teacher Janice Wilson Worried Violent Ex-Student May Return To Class

12/03/2014 06:30 EST | Updated 02/03/2015 05:59 EST
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A teacher from northern Saskatchewan is speaking out about violent students who return to the classroom after serving time.

Janice Wilson has been an arts teacher at the only school in La Loche, Sask., a village 600 kilometres north of Saskatoon, for 12 years. In 2006 one of her students tried to stab her with scissors.

"That student got 10 months," she recalled. "And when he was released he was returned to the school and was put in my classroom."

Following another more recent encounter with a violent student, Wilson, 58, has been on sick leave.

"I left La Loche on June 20th, after an assault in my home by a student who forced his way in," Wilson told CBC News in a recent interview from Edmonton. She is staying there with supportive friends and is receiving counselling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Wilson said the teen, who had recently dropped out of school, threatened to kill her.

"[He] said to me, 'I have a knife. I am going to stab you. I'm going to kill you. And you will be dead, dead, dead,'" she said. He stabbed her three times — twice in her left hand and once in her ribs — and then stole her truck.

The ex-student, who was 18 at the time, was charged and given a three-year sentence. Wilson said she is fearful he may also return to school when he is released from prison.

Wilson believes the school system should put in place measures to avoid situations where offenders can be back in a classroom with their victims.

"There is a limited amount of teachers in La Loche, so you do end up with people who are violent back in the classroom," Wilson said. "So there's things like that, that need to change. And the thing is, those violent students know where you live ... and it's a small community. And I worry about my friends who are still there."

Wilson suggests one option is to have returning students complete their studies using Internet resources and computers.

"I would like to see that if there are students who have assaulted teachers or other staff members, that the students take counselling," she added. "And see someone monitor their outcomes rather than shoving them back into school."

Schools need to be 'creative'

Ken Ladouceur, the director of education for the Northern Lights School Division which includes the school in La Loche, told CBC News that dealing with young offenders who have been violent in the classroom is a challenge.

"We have to consider both the victim, or victims, as well as the perpetrator," he said. "Because we certainly have a responsibility to both."

Ladouceur said ensuring high risk students complete their education may require some innovation, as suggested by Wilson.

"We have to get very creative, especially when you're in an isolated community," he said, noting that computer-based education may be possible. Other options could involve lessons after hours and home-based learning.

School divisions must plan for returning young offenders, officials say

According to officials, the Ministry of Education requires school divisions to create and implement transition plans for youths who are transferring out of custody and into schools. The ministry also expects divisions to work with corrections, police, community resource officers, and other authorities to help with the transition.

"I think this is a horrific thing that she's gone through and it's something that nobody should have to go through," Don Morgan, Saskatchewan's minister of education, told CBC News when asked about Wilson's experiences.

Morgan said he wants to ensure that what happened to Wilson does not happen to anyone else.

"I've written to her myself and offered to have a face-to-face meeting, or asked the officials to meet with her, to try and get a better understanding of what's taken place and to learn as much as we can so we can avoid this type of thing in the future," he said.

CBC News also contacted the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation about the issue.

In a statement, attributed to STF vice-president Randy Cline, the teachers union said safety in the classroom is paramount.

"Students, teachers, staff and community members expect that schools are safe places for teaching and learning," the statement said.

The STF added that early intervention, from a variety of agencies, must be provided "to address social and behavioural issues in a timely ... manner."

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