Pubdate: Wed, 26 Apr 2006
Source: Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2006 Lake of Two Mountains Gazette Ltd.


Hudson - Tina Brooks' son had the day off from school last Friday even
though there was no scheduled ped day.

Brooks made the decision to keep her son home from school to protest
the handling of the schools' decision to support student council's
idea of holding a pyjama day fundraiser for a tree-planting memorial
for Stevie Reilly, the 13-year-old Rigaud youth who died of a drug
overdose Feb. 6.

Brooks first learned of the plan after her son brought home a letter
from the school explaining what the children were planning to do to
remember the former Mount Pleasant student. "My son asked me why the
school was honouring someone who had died using drugs," she said.

He had, after all, learned of the dangers of drugs at a young age
after losing his own father to a drug addiction five years ago.

Brooks decided to call the school to find out whether anything else
was being planned in conjunction with the tree planting memorial. She
said she was "blown off" by the school and only received a call from
the principal a week later after writing an open letter to Mount
Pleasant School, Westwood High, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and
the Hudson/St. Lazare Gazette complaining about the lack of guidance
surrounding this event.

Brooks said she is not against the idea of planting a tree in Stevie's
memory, but finds it "irresponsible and misguided" that the tree
planting is not occurring within the context of providing the students
with any lessons on drug prevention or awareness.

Principal Tony DiVittori said that while Brooks raises some valid
points, it was the decision of the school administration along with
the governing board that okayed student council's idea to plant a tree
in memory of a former Mount Pleasant student.

"This was an act of altruism. We are remembering her as a Mount
Pleasant elementary student for all the years she spent here," he said.

A drug awareness program is already in place for Grade 6 students,
DiVittori said. "How young can we go?" he wondered. He added that he
is open to discussion and will be looking into the matter with other
experts to determine whether a more comprehensive drug awareness
program is needed at the elementary level.

Brooks said she hopes her actions will spark some dialogue so that, as
she said, "no other child follows in Stevie's footsteps."

She said now that the fundraiser is over, she hopes there will be
thought put into the tree-planting ceremony so that students are made
aware of how Stevie died and the event is used to inform students of
the dangers of trying and using drugs.

She added that she hopes the plaque accompanying the tree will also be
used to teach a lesson.

Otherwise, she said, "What is the message we're sending? Here we are,
as a society, telling kids, don't do drugs, then when they do, we
plant a tree in their honour."

For his part, DiVittori said that he never expected this kind of
reaction and said the school has made it a sort-of tradition to
memorialize those who were part of the school, citing former teacher
Bev Rhoads as an example.

"The student council has already talked about doing something for Mr.
Nagy as well," he said, referring to the Grade 6 teacher who passed
away recently. "These are great kids here at the school."

He said he and his staff are as yet undecided about what will be
written on the plaque or how the tree-planting ceremony will proceed.

"This has to be given thought. We will have to discuss it with staff
and with Stevie's family," he said.

Brooks says she'll wait to see what happens. "I picked up a ball and
don't know where I have to go with it," she said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake