October 22, 2012
This morning, I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Robin Tomlin. I was pleased to be able to provide a sincere and heartfelt apology on behalf of the entire North Vancouver School District for the cruel and offensive entry next to Robin Tomlin’s name in the Argyle yearbook of 1970.
As an organization we can acknowledge, apologize for, and regret, that the actions of a few individuals caused such prolonged grief to Mr. Tomlin and to his family. I must also be very clear; this was the terrible action of an individual, or perhaps a small group, who have harmed not only Mr. Tomlin, but also the outstanding reputation of Argyle Secondary School.
Our society relies upon individuals taking personal responsibility for their actions. Where harm has been done, any organization may sincerely apologize, as we have done, but it does not absolve individuals from their personal responsibility.
This incident should not reflect badly upon the entire student body, the school and its community. Not the community of 1970, nor today’s. Our staff and students – both past and present deserve to be extremely proud of many qualities of their school and its history.
Every year, the overwhelming majority of students direct their energies towards positive achievements in academics, sports, service, citizenship, and social and global responsibility.
In 1970, schools placed a primary focus on what was to be taught and what was to be learned – a focus on content. Today, our schools place increased emphasis on the social and emotional factors that will significantly influence learning during a student’s entire school experience.
Learning flourishes in a safe, respectful and caring environment and we strive to achieve such an environment in each and every one of our schools.
As educators, we can provide guidance and leadership where it is most needed. Perhaps more importantly, we can also acknowledge and encourage the many acts of kindness, caring and generosity that we see in our students each and every day.
Unfortunately, the tremendous efforts of our educators and schools alone do not always succeed, just as the efforts of parents and family alone, do not always succeed. The challenges and solutions we face today are not limited to our schools, to our families, or to our communities, but are societal. Bullying is a societal problem.
Schools, families, and communities cannot solve it on their own, everyone has a role to play and we must direct our energies towards working together to achieve solutions.
In light of a surge of concern around the issues of the connection between teen suicide and cyber bullying, schools, educators and counsellors are often criticized for not doing enough.
Some of the most caring, skilled and dedicated individuals in the teaching profession have devoted their lives and careers to supporting struggling students towards a brighter future. Their work will always be conducted with a paramount concern for the dignity and privacy of these students and their families. For this reason, it is work that often goes unrecognized and largely unappreciated by the general public.
Through education, social and emotional supports and alternate pathways to graduation, positive opportunities can emerge for every student, every young person in our care.
I hope that the School District’s apology will bring some peace and long overdue closure for Mr. Tomlin and his family. We share a common and continued concern for the youth of today and an interest in creating a more positive environment for the future.
Thank you for listening.