Parent worried boy not learning at Hughenden School but being promoted anyway

Written by Stu Salkeld

A mom who sends her 15-year-old son to Hughenden Public School is concerned he’s being promoted to a new grade that he cannot handle, with the school principal and the school board either intimidating her or being uncooperative.

Tiffany Nickerson, who along with her boyfriend of a year and a half Jeff Duperron, have been working to help her son who a psychologist labelled as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but who Nickerson and Duperron said only needs rules and structure focus on school work .

Nickerson stated in an interview Sept. 13 that her son had trouble in school for years and when he was in Grade 4 a psychologist told her the boy was ADHD.

“I thought it was bogus from the very get-go because they were trying to get me to put him on medication since he was nine years old,” said Nickerson by phone.

She said once ADHD was mentioned she had to meet with teachers to discuss what they called a “positive behaviour plan” which would address situations such as the boy suddenly leaving the classroom.

Duperron, who said he’s very involved in the boy’s life and cares about him very much, stated in his opinion the boy is not ADHD, doesn’t need medication but does need discipline and structure.

Nickerson stated he’s now in Grade 9 and spends most of his days walking the hallways, which drives her nuts.

Duperron stated he and Nickerson started to hold the boy much more accountable at home, adding that there were consequences for things like skipping homework. After these consequences were applied Duperron stated he saw changes in the boy’s behaviour and attitude.

However, Nickerson and Duperron noted they ran into a problem with the principal of Hughenden Public School. They stated that while it initially seemed the principal agreed with their approach at home, that approach wasn’t being followed at school.

For example, if the boy didn’t follow through on school responsibilities, the principal didn’t enforce consequences.

Duperron stated that through the previous school year, Grade 8, he and Nickerson told the boy if his school work wasn’t acceptable he would have to repeat Grade 8. Nickerson stated the boy’s Grade 8 year did not go very well and amidst the problems she said they told the principal that if things didn’t improve they were committed to holding the boy back to repeat Grade 8 with the principal apparently agreeing.

Last school year the boy failed all of his final exams in June.

Nickerson stated it was clear they would have to hold him back in Grade 8, but she said the day before school started this fall she was called to meet with the Hughenden Public School principal and the Grade 9 teacher where she was told her son had been promoted to Grade 9, which he would start the next day.

“They threw him into Grade 9,” said Nickerson.

Duperron stated he was under the impression it’s the parent’s decision about holding a student back, but the principal told them it’s the principal’s decision.

The ECA Review newspaper requested an interview with Hughenden Public School Principal Ryan Duffet Tues., Sept. 13 but by Mon., Sept. 19 no response was received.

The ECA Review newspaper requested an interview with James Trodden, assistant superintendent of schools with Buffalo Trail Public Schools Tues., Sept. 13 but by Mon., Sept. 19 no response was received.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Nickerson, who added it’s been suggested to them to move the boy to a new school or move to another community as their only options.

Both Nickerson and Duperron stated that virtually everyone they’ve spoken to about the situation agreed it should be the parent’s decision.

Duperron noted that the principal and school board worked with him well, but after a certain point the principal and Buffalo Trail School Board stated they didn’t want Duperron involved in this situation anymore because he was not the boy’s legal guardian. However, Nickerson stated she filled out all necessary paperwork to permit Duperron to be involved with her son at school and her son wants Duperron involved in his life.

Both Nickerson and Duperron stated they spoke with a school board trustee who seemed sympathetic, but not long after the trustee stopped responding to them.

“He just kind of blew us off,” said Duperron.

Their experience with the school board was that the principal’s decisions should be respected and the board wouldn’t challenge those decisions.
Both Nickerson and Duperron stated the boy has never been officially diagnosed with any problem, with Duperron calling him, “…a good kid.”

Duperron was also concerned about the principal meeting alone with Nickerson because he said his girlfriend usually comes out of those meetings emotional and crying, and Duperron added he was concerned the principal was bullying or intimidating her.

When asked how they’d like to see this situation resolved, Duperron noted he’d like to see the boy repeat Grade 8 and Nickerson added she’d doesn’t want decisions at school sabotaging decisions she makes at home, and she’d like the community to know she and Duperron have no rights.

Nickerson stated she’s worried about her son’s school year even though they were making progress at home last year. “But now I think we’re going to see him regress,” she added.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.