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It shouldn't be this hard

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It shouldn’t be this challenging to write about the positive things happening to make schools safer.

I went last Friday to Education Minister Nancy Allan’s conference on safe and caring schools, which drew all 37 public school divisions and other major education players.

Allan gathered more than 300 participants and experts, with special emphasis on cyberbullying. At the same time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was downtown with his own group of participants and experts on cyberbullying, and there were no connections or pooling of resources between the two gatherings.

I knew the agenda for Allan’s conference because I had it in my calendar and asked ahead of time. But the forum was already under way when the government sent out a news release, which may help explain why I appeared to be the only media member there.

The emcee was Mary Hall, director of Safe Schools Manitoba, who talked briefly about some of the good work she does in schools. Hall severed her agency’s relationship with the Free Press on April 21, 2005, and we don’t hear about all those good things Hall does to make our schools and children safer.

Allan singled out for praise Evan Wiens, a student at Steinbach Regional Secondary School. Allan cited his extraordinary bravery and determination to establish a gay-straight alliance in his school.

Alas, Wiens only talks to the CBC.

The best events of the day, as far as potential newsworthiness goes, were Allan’s meeting with 50 students from across Manitoba, who told the minister about the reality of life inside their schools, and a session in which students from the Gray Academy of Jewish Education explained how they had established a gay-straight alliance in their school.

Again, alas, the province had decreed that any session involving students was off limits to the media.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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