In the past week, two articles have appeared in the Globe and Mail concerning a student in a Guelph elementary school being expelled for violent behaviour:
Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students?
Advocates for students with disabilities call on Ontario to stop school exclusions
These two articles, while highlighting the issue of special needs students in the classroom, failed to voice the perspective of the education workers who are tasked with creating a safe, productive learning environment for all students in their care.
Harvey Bischof, President of the OSSTF, responded with the following letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail.
January 7, 2019
Caroline Alphonso’s article, “Educating Grayson: Are inclusive classrooms failing students?”, explores a difficult and sensitive issue from a number of perspectives, including those of parents, school administrators, academic commentators, and advocacy groups.
The article fails, however, to take into account the voices of the education workers who are tasked with creating and maintaining safe and productive learning environments on a daily basis.
Had they been asked, front-line workers would have pointed out that many of them are routinely punched, kicked, scratched and spat upon in the course of their daily work. Far too many have suffered significant physical and psychological trauma. Their narrative would almost certainly have demonstrated that this story really reveals, among other problems, the limitations of a deeply flawed education funding formula that, for decades, has simply failed to provide the levels of support required to address real student needs.
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) has, for years, advocated for a funding regime that would provide robust supports within our classrooms and additional professional support within our schools to provide students with special needs the assistance they require to succeed, while also ensuring that classrooms remain safe, stable learning and working environments for all students and staff.
In an arena of competing rights, I insist, on behalf of my members, that a worker’s right to come home uninjured at the end of the day must be taken seriously and supported with all appropriate resources.
For all involved – students, parents, administrators and educators – the status quo is simply not acceptable.