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Nova Scotia Teachers' Union calls for government action on school violence

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Students at a Halifax-area school where two staff members were stabbed Monday returned to class Wednesday afternoon.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) says about 20 counsellors and extra police will remain on-site at Charles P. Allen High School (CPA) in Bedford, N.S., for at least the rest of the week.

The 15-year-old student accused of the stabbings appeared in youth court Tuesday to face several charges, including:

  • two counts of attempted murder
  • two counts of aggravated assault
  • two counts of possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace
  • two counts of carrying a concealed weapon
  • possession of a prohibited weapon
  • possession of a weapon knowing it is unauthorized
  • mischief

The accused is not being identified because of their age.

The teen was also injured, but it isn't clear how. During a news conference Tuesday, police said they wouldn’t comment on rumours that the teen’s wounds were self-inflicted.

The two employees remain in hospital. Police said Tuesday they are in serious, but stable condition.

The identities of the employees have been not been released.

CPA was placed under a hold-and-secure order while police responded to the scene Monday morning.

Police monitor the situation at Charles P. Allen High School in Halifax, Monday, March 20, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith

Around 9:20 a.m. Monday, police were called to the school for a weapons complaint.

Police allege the teen stabbed two employees inside the school and then fled the building.

Officers took the youth into custody in the area around 9:30 a.m. The teen had been injured and was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening stab wounds.

The two employees were sent to hospital with serious injuries.

The school remained closed Monday while police continued to investigate. It reopened Tuesday afternoon, but classes were cancelled.

Counsellors, psychologists and other mental health professionals were at the school to help people work through what they experienced.

However, as Tuesday progressed, an HRCE spokesperson says a crisis team, which was at the school, determined staff needed more time before classes resumed.

Roughly, 1,700 students attend the high school.

Forensics on the scene at Charles P. Allen High School in Halifax, Monday, March 20, 2023. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith)

Some seniors at CPA believe the incident shines a light on a lack of mental health supports in the province.

"I think anybody that does this senseless act of violence to anybody, there's clearly something underlying that's there,” Brady Moore, a Grade 12 student, told CTV News.

“I think we need to be able to create a way to find ways to support people like that and find a way to stop that violence before it occurs."

"I think it's critical that people are able to reach mental health support whenever they need it," he said, adding classmates are dealing with the incident as best they can.

"Everybody's processing it in their own way.”

TEACHERS DON'T BELIEVE SCHOOLS ARE SAFE: UNION

Meanwhile, shortly before classes resumed Wednesday, a dozen, mostly CPA, teachers posed for a Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NTSU) photographer, displaying a universal, silent hand gesture for distress.

"This was really a grassroots, something the C.P. Allen staff wanted to do, just to show some solidarity and really show that they need help," said NSTU President Ryan Lutes.

"They need government's help because they don't believe schools are safe. Their school, and all of our schools that we've seen an increase in violence, certainly culminated on Monday.”

Buses line up outside Charles P. Allen High School in Bedford, N.S., on March 22, 2023, two days after two school staff members were stabbed. (Bruce Frisko/CTV)

Lutes says teachers need everyone to be aware of the rise in school violence, and government has to do something about it.

"I spent three hours with the staff yesterday, and the emotions in that room, and the fear and the wanting to be there to support their students, was paramount,” he said.

"They need some help."

The Public Prosecution Service told CTV News the accused teen will be tried as a minor, but the Crown will seek an adult sentence if they are convicted.

"When it comes to youth cases, case law and legislation suggest that the Crown should provide notice to the court as soon as possible regarding adult sentence," said Communications Advisor Melissa Noonan via email Wednesday.

"The notice must be given before a plea is entered, as it keeps options open for the Crown.”

Wayne MacKay, professor emeritus of law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, a murder conviction only warrants a six-year sentence.

“We’re looking at much, much more -- even potentially life -- in the case of [an] adult sentence," said MacKay.

Judges generally base those decisions on three things, he said.

"The severity of the crime, or the heinous nature of the crime, that's a big one. Another one is public safety, which is obviously important. And a third one is the rehabilitation and care for the child," said MacKay.

The accused is due back in court Thursday for a bail hearing.

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