SIX NATIONS – Parents, community members, Six Nations Police and Six Nations Elected Council are continuing to work towards a solution regarding the drug paraphernalia found last week on I.L. Thomas school property. One possible solution is to hire a full-time policy writing person.
Several meetings have been held since Michelle Nanticoke, a parent, found the items on the school’s property last Monday, February 26; meetings that so far have heard the voices of concerned community members, parents, teachers, local media, SNof concerned, and more.
“The community needs to continue to get together and decide how to move forward in this situation,” said a concerned community member at a meeting Tuesday, March 6.
Nanticoke said she let a teacher know what she found, who then showed Vice Principal Chester Gibson, who responded by saying, “looks like garbage, throw it out”. The items found that day were two empty baggies with star patterns on them, and some other items that Nanticoke and Gibson said they were unsure of what exactly they were.
Since then there has been a community-organized school clean-up, an emergency I.L. Thomas Home and Parent teaching meeting, a protest outside an alleged drug house beside the school, and several meetings held at the SNEC administration building. More obvious drug paraphernalia was found during the clean-up; baggies with 8-Ball and marijuana leaf patterns; a hypodermic needle; used condoms; beer bottles and more.
“This is an issue of incredibly high concern and needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” said Kathleen Manderville, director of Federal Schools for Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) within council chambers. Manderville came in from out of town.
Several community members were concerned that there seemed to be no policy, or process to follow when unsafe items are found on Six Nations’ school property.
“It seems like your [ISC’s] chain of command is broken,” said Wilf Davey, adding that he doesn’t understand why it took action from community members to garner a response from ISC, instead of the Vice Principal recognizing that the items were unsafe, and reporting it to his superiors. “Every organization has policy and a process to follow. Your [ISC’s] staff needs to be trained to be able to recognize items like this.”
Misty Sandy, a community member who participated in the clean-up, thanked the acting principal of the school for helping clean-up last Tuesday, February 27, and doing what he could to bring it to ISC’s attention. Many community members at the meeting questioned Manderville as to why it took so long for a decision to be made to shut down the school. Manderville explained to everyone in attendance that this is currently the only way to handle an issue like this, considering that right now there is no policy or specific protocol to follow. She said that this would be changing soon.
“The funding is in place for the organization to hire a full-time policy maker for specific situations like this one,” she said. “The job posting has been made public and we aim to have the position filled by early spring.”
Manderville also said that by this spring the school’s security systems will be updated and that ISC is looking for more ways to help with security. “More lights, swipe-card access into the school, options like that.”
In the meantime, Director of Public Works Michael Montour said on Thursday, March 1 that he would see to it that there will be daily sweeps of the school property before students arrive and that the lights I the parking lot would stay on longer.
I.L. Thomas School is shut down for the rest of the week, leading into March break which takes place next week.