Is policy preventing Rehtaeh Parsons' parents from speaking?
Published Thursday, January 14, 2016 8:03PM AST
Last Updated Friday, January 15, 2016 7:14AM AST
Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents say they have spoken at dozens of schools across the country, but not a single school within the Halifax Regional School Board.
“I feel sad because our children are more important than some sort of feeling associated with my daughter’s name," says Leah Parsons.
Parsons say she has been invited to speak at schools by parents and students many times, but the visit is never approved.
On Thursday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Karen Casey said there is no provincial policy that would prevent her from speaking to students.
“That’s left at the principal and the school board’s discretion, as to the message and how they want that to get delivered," explained Casey.
The school board says guest speakers are left up to individual schools.
“I wasn’t surprised that they weren’t allowed in the schools,” adds Laurel Walker, who has been an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention for more than 10 years.
She says she’s also been shut out of a Halifax-area school after being invited by a principal.
“So he said, ‘I want you in my school, and I want this training in here,’ but then he would call me back, much like Leah Parsons, and say, 'We’re not allowed to bring you in,’” she says.
Both the school board and the education minister point out many of the subjects in Leah Parsons’ presentations, such as bullying, mental health and suicide prevention, are covered in the curriculum.
Some mental health professionals caution there could be risks to vulnerable students during stand-alone discussions on suicide.
“After I talk, there’s always supports in place in all the schools,” says Parsons.
Parsons says while suicide does come up during her presentations, she doesn’t discuss it in detail, and that extra help is always available.
“For the kids to debrief, to go over what they heard, so they have the supports in place so there’s really no reason why Nova Scotia can’t also be part of this," she says.
The school board communications coordinator and the board chair both declined to comment on camera.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.