January 31st, 2017
On Monday morning, Canadians woke to news of an attack on a mosque in Quebec City that left six people dead, and several others wounded. The Prime Minister called the attack an “act of terror against Canada and all Canadians.”
This deplorable act will have an effect on the thousands of students, parents and staff we welcome to our buildings every day in different ways. We are particularly mindful of the effect this event and other actions around the world have on Muslim students and staff, families and allies.
We are a school district for all of Waterloo region, no matter what your background or beliefs. We are committed to ensuring our schools and communities are safe, caring and inclusive, where each and every student, staff person, family and community member knows that they are valued. We want everyone in our schools to experience a deep sense of belonging and acceptance.
While we are not aware of any specific local safety concerns, we know that racism and hate know no borders. Once racist thoughts and values attach themselves to our hearts and minds they are free to spread and negatively impact the lives of others.
It is important that we all pay special attention to how we greet and connect with one another this week. We all share the responsibility to ensure a warm welcome for all and that our schools are safe places for compassion and learning. We must all watch, listen and reach out to individuals who seem troubled and show that you care about them.
We have lowered flags across our district to show our communities that we stand together in grieving the events that unfolded in Quebec.
Support is available for anyone who is feeling vulnerable – at any time. Please encourage anyone who is struggling to seek out that support by talking to a friend, a parent, a teacher or a colleague.
I am grateful that we are a community that supports and cares for each other, and that we can lean on one another in times like this.
Director of Education
It can be difficult to know how to respond to events such as those in Quebec City. To help students, parents and staff we are providing some simple guidelines that you can use to inform your conversations over the coming days.
Guidance for students
- You belong here and we care about you – each and every one.
- You are part of a strong school community that comes together when any among us feels afraid or vulnerable.
- If you need to talk, reach out to a trusted adult at school, home, or in your community.
- If someone reaches out to you, listen.
- Pay special attention to how you treat others this week, especially those who may be questioning how they belong.
- Be kind, be welcoming, include everyone, show every day what it means to be Canadian.
Guidance for elementary student parents
- People are talking about the events of the weekend, so recognize that children may become concerned that something bad will happen to them, their family or friends. Explain that safety measures are in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take care of them.
- If your child is not focused on the events, do not dwell on them. Try to avoid having detailed adult conversations regarding the tragedy in front of children. However, be available to answer questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behaviour or social interactions.
- Limit exposure to media coverage. Images of a disaster or crisis can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Young children, in particular, may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. Older children may choose to watch the news; be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
- Maintain normal family routines as much as possible. Routine family activities, classes and friends can help children feel more secure.
- Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith leaders and mental health counsellors can help. Let your children know you are sad. You will be better able to support them if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.
Guidance for secondary student parents
- Bring up the topic at a time and place where a discussion can occur. If there are distractions, a shortage of time or if either you or your teen is too tired or busy, it is likely the conversation will not be completed. If your teen is not focused on the tragedy, do not dwell on it. However, be available to answer questions to the best of your ability.
- It is normal for people to try to make sense of things when a serious loss occurs. Allow your teen to share his or her ideas and speculations. Help them to separate what they know from what they are guessing about.
- Limit exposure to media coverage. Images of a disaster or crisis can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Teenagers may choose to watch the news—be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.
- Maintain normal family routines as much as possible. Routine family activities, classes and friends can help children and teens feel more secure.
- Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief and anger. Talking to friends, family members, faith leaders and mental health counsellors can help. Let your teen know you are sad. You will be better able to support them if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner.