Friday May 20th, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Ombudsperson BC requesting the following information.
“I would like data of the past 10 years, (May 2012- May 2022) of how many parents have submitted complaints with the Teacher’s Regulation Branch, and how many of those complaints were investigated by an investigator. Please separate the data by year.”
Today, May 25th my request was denied. In a letter from the Deputy of Ombudsperson it was explained to me that FIPPA has very limited access to Ombudsperson due to that they are an office of the Legislature and I can only access information they post publicly. They recommended I look at their annual reports.
I went through all of their authority statistics reports. I can’t get any information specific on the Professional Conduct Unit (formerly Teacher’s Regulation Branch), only under the Ministry of Education. Based on the information in their authority statistic reports, I have created a graph for easy consumption.
This graph depicts the number of files Ombudsperson opened connected to the Ministry of Education from 2011-March2011. Data for this previous year will be posted on the Ombudsperson website in a month or two.
Here is a table version of the same data.
I find their annual reports and authority statistics reports to be very interesting. I highly encourage people who are interested in human systems, data and social justice to take a look.
For each file that was opened, you need to be so frustrated with your situation that you are filing a complaint with Ombudsperson, and be willing to wait months for something to be resolved…or not.
I have recently submitted an FOI request through the Ministry of Education requesting very similar and more detailed information. I will keep you all posted.
Also, keep in mind the the Ministry of Education is not tracking any Human Rights Complaint data. As I have blogged about previously, through another FOI request result.
When a teacher daily allows a student with a learning disability to fail their class, but does not even lift a finger to inform the case manager or parent, that is ableism and its discrimination. Disabled children failing, falling behind and being excluded without accommodations have become the normality of the education system. It’s so common, it is woven into the fabrics of the system.
They just invisibly slip through the cracks, while a detailed IEP sits in a student database system collecting digital dust.
The fact that the Ministry of Education intentionally doesn’t even track information regarding the human rights violations that are occurring across the province is an example of ableism. Disability issues don’t affect them, so they have the privilege to ignore it. Want to know how to systemically keep a marginalized group of people oppressed? Keep them off your radar to begin with. OH…and by the way…the group the people the Ministry of Education are intentionally oppressing, are disabled CHILDREN and their family unit.
What is even more profound is that these teachers who are discriminating are caring people. They love teaching and are inspired by the creations of their students. We think ableist teachers are lurking somewhere in the dark with DON’T CARE tattooed on them, when in fact that simply isn’t the case. When children are ignored and neglected in the education system by good teachers, that is obvious discrimination at its finest. The “other” students get their gifts, and the disabled students get left alone, left behind, and just….left. There are lovely people out there in the world completely unaware of their own biases and the normality of disabled children failing, just blends in with the wall paper. It’s not even a big thing. It’s just something that happens. Shrug.
This is very common in the education system, and the ableism these kids experience is then internalized, becomes part of their self-concept, self-esteem and identity. Want to know why kids turn to drugs and crime? Failure in the education system has been proven to be foundational in many of the peer reviewed journal articles. IT’s not that we do not know. It’s not that more studies are need to be done. We have all the information. Government is just biased, ableist and discriminatory and this shows in their government run and funded education system. It oozes out of the pores of all 60 school districts. It’s not obvious to the people who are not impacted by it. You need to look at the system and not just focus on what is there, but what is missing. Who is missing?
We need to flip this education system upside down and inside out. The future of their lives and our society depends on it.
Ministry of Education- It is time for anti-ableism leadership from your government.
Are we on your radar? Or will we continually be swept under the rug?
The Ministry of Education doesn’t track how much money districts are spending of tax payers’ money on lawyers’ fees to fight disabled children in human rights complaints. They don’t know how many human rights complaints are being processed by each district, how much settlements are…nothing. Not even on their radar. Click HERE .
Ombudsperson doesn’t look at the decisions school districts make; they just look at the process. If decisions are made as a group, they are not accountable for the actual decision. SO, if they plan to rob the bank together, they are good to go.
Ministries cannot testify against another government ministry in a human rights complaint. So, if your child was receiving counselling from the MFCD, they cannot testify that the damage was caused by the education system. If you could afford a paid counsellor at $120 per hour, they are allowed to testify.
When you are missing documents from a Freedom of Information request, and the Office of Information and Privacy investigates, you need evidence that the document you are seeking exists. Witnessing someone write notes, isn’t enough. So, you need the documents to prove that you are missing the documents. Catch-22, that they fully acknowledge and are aware of.
When filing a complaint with the Professional Conduct Unit, the certificate holder has the last word. You will never know what statements they make, even with an FOI request they will block you and site Section 22. When the OIPC investigate, the ministry will refuse again, and then your only option is to make a request to a judicator. The wait is 2 years, yet you have 60 days to file with the BC Supreme Court to contest it. The certificate holder can say anything they want and you will never get an opportunity to provide more evidence after their incorrect statements. If you experience retaliation, your only course of action is to file a complaint again, and go through the whole thing all over again.
If you file with the Professional Conduct Unit against a certificate for lying/misleading the commissioner, the Ministry of Education will say it will be processed and the commissioner will say it’s not in their jurisdiction.
The Ministry of Finance will block all Freedom of Information requests related to information connected to your child and the risk and litigation department.
Even with case law from the Supreme Court of BC that requires legislative change, school boards and the Ministry of Education requires Ombudsperson complaints just to force communication regarding such legislation and policy.
Our court system will most likely throw out any lawsuit against a school, as the court system doesn’t want to open the flood gates of parents suing. They know the system won’t be able to process and take on the number of cases. So, not only are you guaranteed to have your case tossed, but the district can then ask the courts to make you pay their legal fees.
Teachers, support staff and parents are all reporting that the education system is at it’s worse than it has ever been compared with 10, 15 years ago. Resources are stretched so thinly. EA’s now have way too many students at one time. The finance department in the Ministry of Education says that schools have never been this healthy… AND they believe it.
When people in power use silence, lying and manipulation with the goal of making you go away, they do so based on experience. They do it because they have experienced success with those strategies and it works.
Every time we do not agree to follow the path they lay out for us and we decide to swim upstream, and it does certainly feel like we are swimming against a very powerful current, we are upholding all of the advocacy work done by parents who fought the fight before us.
My grandfather’s sister was Deaf and his brother had a son with Down syndrome. My great aunt was an advocate in the Deaf community for over 30 years. My great uncle with his wife and other parents founded a school for disabled children who were being denied an education, and named it after their son. Parents who were getting together for support in their basement ended up founding a school. Stories that have been passed down in my family make it clear that we have come a long way. We certainly can accomplish things we never expected when driven by our children, don’t we? We validate and honor their work when we decide to not accept the discrimination but instead we decide to swim upstream.
The tactics schools use on parents, they use it because it works for them. Quite simply, we need to make their strategies not work. We may feel like we are fighting our own individual fights, but we are each a raindrop filling up the bucket.
Building relationships in the path of advocacy cannot be overstated. It’s these micro daily interactions that be the most impactful. Sometimes the most gentle actions holds the most power.
I had concerns about the daycare my son was in and I wrote them a very detailed and thoughtful email outlining all of the concerns. It was straight forward. I didn’t sugar coat the reality, but it was also no way aggressive, and was still written with care. Still….the first face to face interaction, I was nervous by their reaction. The manager said I was the third parent to express concerns in the past 2 weeks and obviously something was going on here. She said, to have one parent complain is not unusual, but to have three parents about the same issue in 2 weeks, that is alarming to us. Those first two parents have NO IDEA that because of their complaint, mine was validated and the daycare took action and changed staff and their whole program focus. I have no idea who these parents are, but THANK YOU!!
We are the enforcers of policy and human rights. Those words written on those documents of paper are meaningless unless someone stands up to enforce those policies when they are not being followed.
Before social media, before the mass sharing of knowledge, communication and support, there were individuals unaware of anyone else taking great risks to stand up for their children and what they knew wasn’t right.
Any advocacy you do in the system is never wasted. And if you do think it was wasted, never stop talking about it so we can all learn too!
We need to swim upstream.
We need to be a raindrop in the bucket whether its confirmed to us that we are making a difference or not.
Even people who identify themselves as advocates get tired. We need breaks too. Even people who don’t identify themselves as an advocate can unexpectedly be a swift force of change. Never underestimate the quiet ones sitting in the back.
Silence, unethical practices and discrimination need to stop being success strategies for administration on how to deal with staff shortages, poor inclusion frameworks and chronic underfunding.
For someone with a disability, it’s hard to put into words the level of shame that is connected to being disabled to someone who has no connection at all. In fact, I haven’t found the words yet. Shame is too woven into my brain chemistry that I can’t objectify it yet with language.
When you are a kid and you are disabled, your whole goal in life is to blend in. Many people whose identities are connected to marginalized communities will talk about how as a kid, “they just wanted to be like everyone else.”
The intense effort in hiding that disabled children define their day by, confuses non-disabled well-meaning adults. “Why don’t you just ask for help?” Beyond the obvious, that victim blaming disabled children for their lack of education supports is ridiculous, IT HAPPENS!
Even when children are offered supports in school, they are sometimes rejected, as kids don’t want to stick out. The desire for social acceptance is too strong. Survival is the priority, and that survival is the social atmosphere of school. It’s a tough environment.
Children are naturally impulsive, honest, and impatient. They ask us questions that make us chuckle, or turn red in public, or test our own patience level. We find cuteness and innocence in the childlike features. These features are also the very reason why disability needs to be talked about in schools and why adult guidance is essential. Left unchecked, and it can create a hostile environment for a disabled child. Sometimes to combat the bullying and oppression, education presentations are done in the class. By the time these are done, in grade six or seven, it’s almost too late. What ends up happening is the opposite occurs. The bullying increases. The bullies now have new language to use. Many families have experienced this, and the presentations were their last resort, and now school transfers are what is next on the agenda.
Kids who are forced to leave programs because of their disability and being systemically weeded out or being bullied by other kids, don’t forget it. Overt or covert acts of ableism stick to us and don’t fall off. They get absorbed and compound.
Children who need help, are rarely going to ask for it. The adults are going to need to pick up on the evidence laid out in front of them. Teachers need disability training. They need disability literacy skills to navigate disabled students through the education system. Without formal diversity and disability training, true inclusion is just a run-away train, and what is left in the dust…is shame.
When my child was struggling in school, it was blamed on his behaviour. Him not writing anything down was said that he was refusing to do his work, due to personality. He was punished by being sent out into the hall for 45 min to try again, or stand outside in the hall, or to be yelled at for not following the instructions.
When assessments are not provided and diagnosis are delayed, children suffer. It’s traumatizing for the child and family. Meltdowns after school were heartbreaking while we waited and waited for an assessment. Kids cannot wait.
My child slipped through the cracks in the system, and it was me, who had to pull him out.
My child said to me one day that he thought school was abuse. When I told this to the professional, we were working with, he said, “for a kid like my son, he’s not that far off.”
I had to leave my employment because my child wasn’t getting the support he needed, and dealing and supporting my son, while he dealt with “the abuse” took a huge toll on our family.
A diagnosis of ADHD and learning disability for written expression should not be a traumatizing process. The government doesn’t want to spend $2,000-$3,000 on an assessment, but lost me as an employee paying a lot more taxes than the cost of assessment. Even from a financial point of view, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s a pay now or pay heavily later. Kids cannot wait.
Without a diagnosis, you don’t understand the WHY – and that is really dangerous. Once we got a diagnosis, everything made sense. We could learn and provide supports that actually work. It is because of these two assessments that I was able to advocate for him and he is getting the targeted support he needs to access his education.
When people don’t understand why children are behaving the way they are, they get unnecessarily blamed, and so do their parents. All relationships become strained. All these theories start to be formulated. It becomes a blame game.
As a person who stutters I can also personally speak to this, as stuttering gets blamed on every little ridiculous thing we do or do not do. We don’t breathe right; we don’t chew our food right. As a child I never understood why I was different and therefore I had to guess, and as kids we guess wrong. We always think there is something wrong with us, that it’s our fault, that we aren’t good enough, and we are to blame for causing the pain in the people we see around us. We never even think for a second it is because of our genetics, or has something to do with what is lacking in our environment, or connected to the adults in our lives. Never. Kids take all of the frowning faces, the looks of dismay, the energy of frustration and disappointment and they soak all of that in without question. It becomes a part of them, a part of their identity and their self-concept.
Assessments for children in schools are crucial. Kids cannot wait. Having trained teachers who are able to identify learning disabilities in those early years and for kids to be assessed is a human right. School should not be places of abuse for kids with learning disabilities. When schools are not properly assessing children, they are disabling them. They are creating the barriers and enforcing those barriers. Our kids have done nothing wrong and yet our children take the failures of the system, as their own.
Disability is a social construct, created and maintained by people. Living with a disability isn’t NEARLY as challenging as dealing with the ableism.
The Ministry of Education with their chronic underfunding, sets up this system to fail. It’s sets up the teachers, the EA’s and the children to fail. Discrimination all over this province in the education system, is rampant and shameful. One may think, contact the Ministry of Education. They may not be aware of the situation. OH! They know. In fact, they are ignoring me, and they ignore many other parents voicing their concerns about systemic issues. So, Ministry of Education, if you don’t respond to our concerns, our emails, our phone calls, we will take to the streets and rally. Our children have a voice and they will be heard. The abuse of power, lack of transparency and zero accountability need to come to an end.
Ministry of Education and to the province of BC, we will never stop advocating for our children.
To get us into the spooky spirit this week I present…
A true scary school tale in advocacy called The Scary Parent.
(I highly recommend you read this blog in the dark with a flashlight…or better yet, sneak into your kids fort and read it in there.)
I love spy movies.
Information is so valuable. People risk their lives for it. The power people have because of information cannot be underestimated. Information is knowledge and knowledge is POWER.
So, parents…what’s our power?
We know A LOT of information. (Insert evil laugh track)
We know A LOT.
There are Facebook groups out there where parents share stories, tips, resources and yes…education advocacy information.
This is terrifying news to school districts.
In these Facebook groups, policies are shared, laws and cases get posted, advocacy tips are offered and email examples are suggested. It’s pure group synergy.
There is only one rule about the Facebook group.
We don’t talk about the Facebook group.
Kidding…WE TALK ABOUT IT A LOT. (Rewind evil laugh track and press play again)
Now, here is the scary part. Not for the parents….the districts. We are invisible. They will never know if the parent walking into their office is a secret member, or not. If they have access to over 4,000 passionate parents. We travel incognito. We are right in front of their eyes, and they don’t…even…know…it! (Feel free to make scary faces right now using your flashlight to heighten the scary blog affect.)
Here is the best part…
We are growing. Oh no!!! They say!
The scariest parent to the district, is an educated one. I am talking about being educated in how to navigate THE SYSTEM.
THE SYSTEM is a beast. It only responds to policy, law and complaints filed with external organizations.
Be that scary motherfucker you always wanted to be. Make THAT Facebook post. You go ahead and you fill out that intake form like nobodies’ business.
Trust has been a heavy topic on my mind for over two years now. My trust in the education system as a whole went diving out of the window on September 19th, 2019 and since then there has been a highway collision of trust breaking events. To be fair, there have also been some trust building events.
Let’s back up a bit.
I have had incidents occur that brought out the reality – teachers and principals are human. Even as parents we make mistakes with our children. We look back and wish we handled things differently. School staff make mistakes too. Harm was certainly not intended, but that is exactly what happened. It sucks when they make a mistake and it double sucks when their mistake impacts and harms your child. However, in the past I was always met with integrity, honesty and genuine care. How the education staff handled some pretty big “incidents” shall we call them, built my trust in the system. Shit happens, it’s not intended, and now we are going to fix it and make it right. They helped the healing process, for all.
How does your trust in the education system as a whole dictate your decisions regarding your child’s education? How you engage? Or not? How do you cope when you don’t trust the people in it?
I have to say, there are some amazing teachers my children have been connected to. My children have had teachers who care, who go beyond their job descriptions, who connect, who inspire, and who in my mind…they were made for this profession. Everywhere you go, in education too, there is a patchwork of people full of passion, skill, knowledge, and unfortunately some who don’t know any better or just don’t give a fuck and have lost their way.
You don’t know who you are going to get, until you’ve gotten them.
Do you trust your child’s school?
Do you trust the school district and the administrative staff?
If you have a disabled child, trust in the education system is a sensitive topic. They system isn’t set up to build a trusting relationship. As parents of disabled children, we proceed with a high level of caution. Everyone else is diving into the ocean for a swim and we are sticking our baby toe in and waiting 6 hours to see what happens. It’s called experience.
It’s a balancing act. Sometimes you need to be so far up their ass, you know what they ate for lunch.
Other times, you can let yourself breath knowing that whatever happens, they have your child’s back.
Trusting “the system” or authority runs deep. Depending on our culture, history, sexual orientation, gender, disability, etc our trust levels are going to vary.
One of my take away learnings from a degree in human relations, is just how essential trust is to every human interaction. We filter our trust levels through every decision we make and every decision we choose not to make. Trust is the glue that connects us or disconnects us.
Some parents will comment that it concerns them how trusting their children are. “They will go with anyone…” Parents who have witnessed their children traumatized by a broken system, will feel crushed by how fast their kid grew up and how the innocence of childhood was stolen from them. “They are so cautious around other people now, and don’t trust anyone”.
For all the days our children, pieces of our heart, leave our homes and enter schools…. we hope, we trust, that they will be ok. And when they are not and harm has occurred…it’s heartbreaking.
It takes a lot of time and effort to build trust, and it takes a moment to destroy it.
How do we risk trusting again? Children are no different. Do our children trust their school and the people in it? They need to heal. Will they risk trusting again? Or have they just learnt a valuable life lesson? Don’t trust anyone.
As staff administration enter district offices and school buildings in the morning…
As they drink their coffee and turn on their computers…
As they review their agenda and mentally prepare for their upcoming meetings for that day…
As teachers open their windows and gather their photocopies…
We have another school year upon us and everyone’s anxiety around a new school are compounded this year, for so many reasons. More so, for parents of disabled children.
Advocacy for the new year is already in full swing, and who are we kidding, advocacy for this year -started last year!
When things feel out of control, it is important to remember that we do have a foundation of some education law to stand on. We can push.
First, we have The UNESCO Salamanca Statement
“In June 1994 representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organisations formed the World Conference on Special Needs Education, held in Salamanca, Spain. They agreed a dynamic new Statement on the education of all disabled children, which called for inclusion to be the norm. In addition, the Conference adopted a new Framework for Action, the guiding principle of which is that ordinary schools should accommodate all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. All educational policies, says the Framework, should stipulate that disabled children attend the neighbourhood school ‘that would be attended if the child did not have a disability.”
Now that we have established that exclusion is actually illegal, and all of our children are legally allowed to attend their local school, let’s move onto Loco Parentis.
Second, we have Loco Parentis.
What does Loco Parentis mean?
It means that LEGALLY teachers are expected to behave like a “careful parent”.
“Traditionally, the teacher was considered to be acting in loco parentis. This means that in relation to the student, the teacher stands in the position of a caring, responsible parent and unofficial guardian. This concept allows the teacher some of the privileges of a parent but also brings with it added responsibilities for the protection of pupils. Thus, a teacher could be liable for injury or damages to a pupil if the teacher’s conduct falls below the standard of care deemed to be necessary under the given circumstances. In some instances, the duty of care owed by the teacher may exceed that of the parent if special knowledge makes the teacher aware of dangers that the parent might not appreciate.” – https://www.teachers.ab.ca/News%20Room/Publications/Substitute%20Teachers/Pages/Chapter%204.aspx
The courts continuously have tossed lawsuits against school districts who do not want the system to be flooded by parents’ ability to sue schools, especially around education malpractice. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/56369776.pdf
Is the common law of Loco Parentis our way in???
I have such a respect for teachers. They are not given all of the education that is required of them to fulfill the expectations demanded by society, and then they are working in a failing system on stage in front of an audience. Does anyone else want to sign up for this? No thank you!
I have many friends who are teachers and EA’s. I was an EA! Working in education is not easy. However, I would like to add that there is a HUGE sliding scale of ability, skill and knowledge amongst education staff. There are the most AMAZING teachers out there and then there are some people who just shock me.
Some people don’t even know the harm they create. Some of it is systemic and functioning in an ablest society. The education system is very sick. It operates from a place of scarcity, defense and secrecy.
Every time school districts get away with harming children, and it usually takes a team, intentional or not, it reinforces that they are untouchable.
So, how can we use common law “Loco Parentis” to aid in our advocacy?
It’s sad to say, but it may take a lawsuit around this topic to get everyone’s attention. If anyone is interested in this path there are pro bono lawyers out there you may want to consider.
When communicating with school districts, it’s all about getting their attention with legal language.
For example: “Your suggestion would exclude my child from school and they would not be able to access their education.” – human rights complaint
“How does the harm my child has experienced because of my child’s team fall under the supreme court decision around loco parentis?”
When you start quoting policy and law, things tend to take a quick turn. Your school district will have a tab on their main website with all of the policies and bylaws, sometimes under the Board section. The school boards are responsible for student achievement and MONITORING student achievement. Always be aware that each school district has a process to appeal decisions to the school board.
For those who are sad at the realization that advocating for your child sometimes require that you become a self taught lawyer, I offer you this….
I encourage you to look through my education advocacy pages and I have added a new Education Law page. Work in progress! If any parent reading this would like to send me more education law info or links, I will be happy to add.
The scariest situation for a school district, is a parent who knows their rights. Every time you advocate for your own child, you open the door for someone else. We are not alone.