A controversial high school work assignment has caught the eye of some parents. Several have come forward after their children were told to write a suicide letter for a Grade 10 English assignment at Kelly Road Secondary.
One mother says her son was told to write the suicide note from the perspective of a character in the book “The Chrysalids”. She has concerns about children thinking in that frame of mind.
The Executive Director of the Northern BC Crisis Centre, Sandra Boulianne, has similar thoughts. “I think talking about suicide with youth, with people of all ages, is actually the safe thing to do. It’s just that type of assignment, it puts the person in that character and if there are any thoughts that maybe that person has had, perhaps that assignment could trigger them.”
Some parents would have liked a heads up with this kind of assignment. Boulianne suggests airing on the side of caution with projects. “It’s probably well-intentioned to get students to really think about it, but if there is any risk; and especially around a time when kids are away from school, I just wouldn’t take the chance.”
School District 57 is looking into the situation. Superintendent, Marilyn Marquis-Forster, says she has been in contact with the Principal of Kelly Road. Neither of them have received complaints so far. “I’m investigating with the Principal and asking what the Principal knows about it and getting as many particulars as I can. We always do encourage parents when they have concerns to go to the folks closest to the situation, in this case the teacher and the Principal. Any concerns that ever do come to the District Superintendent or the Assistant Superintendent are responded to.”
The Parent District Advisory Council Chair, Gillian Burnett, says there are steps parents can take. “Parents have a right to have their problems and concerns addressed and the School District has the responsibility to listen. So they have developed the ‘Guidelines for Resolving Problems and Concerns’.
Depression is concerning any time of the year, especially during the holiday season. Boulianne says there are supports available 24/7. “If people are feeling suicidal they can call that line 1-800-SUICIDE at any time. Even if somebody is not suicidal and they are concerned about somebody they can phone that line as well.”