What Does Ableism Look Like in Schools? It Looks Like This!

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?

Top 10 Shocking Education Advocacy Discoveries

  1. 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 .
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The Ministry of Finance will block all Freedom of Information requests related to information connected to your child and the risk and litigation department.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10.  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.

Letter to SFU

January 13th, 2022

Hello President Dr. Johnson and Vice-President Dr. Dauvergne,

I am communicating to you regarding the decision that SFU confirmed to return from online learning to in-person learning January 24th.

I understand that you have many stakeholders to take into consideration, and I am pleading with you to take a lead in our society and consider the marginalized often discriminated against community groups. The people most affected by this decision to return to in-person learning is going to be anyone with children, grandparents, disabilities, and anyone with medical conditions and immune concerns. That includes your students and faculty. Anyone who, for financial or culture reasons, comes from a multi-generational or shared home situation, single parents, disabled students or anyone caring for a loved one experiencing medical care is not going to want to be in a 400 student lecture hall, elbow to elbow, vaccination status unknown, wearing lose hanging off cloth masks, during the most contagious time of our pandemic. A return to in-person learning is catering to those who are in positions of power and privilege.

I am in my 40’s and this is my second degree. I have two children at home. I am not the only student/faculty who is attending your school who is a parent who is extremely concerned about the position you are forcing us into. I refuse to attend lectures. My grades will suffer. I am not comfortable attending tutorials, and you are forcing me into a situation I don’t want to be in. How is this decision meant to foster healthy mental health? I don’t ever remember receiving a survey, asking me my preference or asking my concerns for a return to in-person learning.

I am asking for an extension of the already online classes to continue to Feb 7th, and for the decision to be reviewed again at that time. You already have a functioning online education system. At the bare minimum, there should be a hybrid approach for those  who are in high risk positions and the option to stay online. At least it will decrease the numbers in the lectures and tutorials. By enforcing the in-person approach and not allowing the already community groups prone to discrimination to access their education online, I question the motives of this university. This feels like a human rights issue to me.

Take care,

Kim

Do you Trust me?

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?

How much?

100%?

50%?

0%?

Do you trust the school district and the administrative staff?

How much?

100%?

50%?

0%?

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…

They are asking us…do you trust me?

IEP Meetings in Public Education

Tis the season…

For some people there are four seasons in the year. For parents of children with disabilities we have a fifth season. It’s called IEP season.

An IEP is a lifeline to your child’s education. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. The IEP has been undergoing some changes in recent years and the role of what inclusion means for all children has been evolving due to very passionate education advocates with very high disability literacy skills.

We live in a social stratification system. That means that our social structure is layered, a hierarchy, like bricks layered to form a wall. The layer you are in, will dictate your access in life. Not everyone has equal access to information, choices, safety, health care, education, relationships, etc. The list is a long one. Social stratification is almost universal, in all cultures. Those who have privileges don’t really notice it. It is weightless. The people who are not part of the privileged layers do feel it. It’s felt every single day. Heavy.  Taking up space in society when you are not part of societies cookie cutter pop out shape, can feel like a protest.  Advocacy is a part of daily life.

Parents play a key role in their child’s education. Ableism is blended into our society and chasing the dream of true inclusion in the classroom is often a dream that parents spend years chasing. The expectation of inclusion and anti-ableism is changing.  Parents and students have had enough of being excluded from the classroom, either physically, mentally or emotionally.  The struggles are real. There are wonderful stories out there and there are also horror stories.  The pandemic has brought to light the inequities of society even more and the inequities in education are no different.  To say this year has been stressful for many families with children who have disabilities is an understatement, while other children have flourished with the adaptive distant learning options.

It starts with the IEP, and in May and June, IEP meetings are all a buzz to review the year.  Emotions are high and advocates are in full swing. For those of you who are busy getting ready for this year’s seasonal planning, your advocacy efforts are a puzzle piece of a much larger picture.  You may not realize that your individual fight for your child’s rights to access an education, are part of a larger cause. The movement is growing. Anti-ableism is part of the diversity movement, and the movement is building, one IEP meeting at a time.

Expectations of Parents Behaviour

Why are so many parents losing their shit?

I have heard many people admit that they have sent emotional emails, or that they are labelled as “rude” or a “tense advocate”. I have heard of parents being banned from schools or they have had to pull their child out of their school or even the district because they are viewed as too emotional. When parents admit that they have “lost it”, and sent angry or emotional emails, it’s admitted as if its some shameful act. I will admit that I too have sent my share of emotional emails. So why are so many parents losing their shit?

This is a symptom of a much larger problem. This is what happens when there is no accountability for decisions made from district administration or Boards of Education. It’s when administration have all the power and don’t need to do anything they don’t want to.  It’s when parents are bullied, have fear of retaliation, or are served emotional abuse on a plate with a smile. When there is a fish flapping around and behaving strangely, we all point at the fish and wonder what is wrong with them. No one looks at the pond. Let’s take a look at the pond, shall we?

Parents are legally required to send their child to school.  Parents need to work and fit in daycare schedules to cover their working hours.  Transportation from home to school comes into the decision-making filter and everything needs to fit perfectly. Now let’s say school is turning into a disaster, and as a parent you need to advocate. This is not a minor issue you are dealing with and you feel that your child’s physical or mental health is being severely affected. The stakes are high. This is after all your child.  However, you are being ignored by administration. You are being lied to by administration.  The problem is not being fixed, and they don’t have to do anything about it. They are gaslighting you. You feel you are an ant under a magnified glass and they are just watching you squirm in the sunlight. And. There. Is. Nothing. You. Can. Do. About. It. And now you send an email and lose your shit.

Parents, don’t feel bad. Your reactions are normal and given the situation, one could argue even healthy.  The amount of self-regulation that I have had to go through to send emails to the district, is intense. There are times, I literally need to leave my home to get myself away from a computer. They are getting a fraction of my true feelings and intensity.  It’s normal that one squeaks through, every now and then.  It’s not you. It’s the pond.

Now, you have sent your emotional email. I have heard stories that as part of their strategy, parents have experienced the districts using their emails against them as emotional blackmail.  I have never had this experience, thank goodness. I would snap. I’d think you would see me on the 6 o’clock news looking like I popped out of a zombie movie ranting about the education system. There is a definite abuse of power and toxicity about the lack of protection vulnerable children and families have in the education system.