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  • I took Public School Law twice. The State of Maine was not sure that the school law in Massachusetts was sufficient. I loved the case law and arguing for and against based on principle and precedent but the long procedural litanies set forth by legislature and statute seemed designed to cut off thought and strictly limit action not encourage any search for understanding. The protocols for child protection and abuse are exacting. And, from one perspective, the risk of failure and the history of neglect and blind eye turning has had devastating consequences.

    It is no surprise that teachers, nurses and counsellors are tasked with a duty of care. Protocols are strict and all it takes is a key word, a type or pattern of injury to set off a chain reaction of procedures. It is no easy task keeping the world safe.

    There have been times as principal when I have had to ask parents deeply uncomfortable questions. Questions that probe to the very deepest heart of their relationships and values. Sometimes I get outrage in reply. Sometimes stony silence. I do a lot of listening. None of this was in the examples or the case law.

    I know how it feels.

    There were a few years there where we made quite a few trips to the emergency room. Carly was in early primary school and, up to grade three, she was an accident waiting to happen.

    The crowning glory came when Claire took her in with a swollen arm. The X-rays showed it was broken. Again.

    Carly was taken aside. Questions were asked. Claire was given form after form to fill in and felt eyes tracking her every move.

    Finally, a nurse thought to ask Carly how she broke her arm.

    Oh, we were playing duck-duck-goose at the school picnic, she chirped. I tripped.
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