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.

Rally Speech

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.

You are just not Disabled…yet!

For people who think policies on disability don’t affect them, if you are lucky to live long enough, this statement will be true: you’re just not disabled yet.

Let’s think about this…

You will eventually need glasses, or hearing aids, or canes or walkers. You will eventually be using closed captioning and have issues with accessibility getting into places that don’t have ramps. You will eventually have more doctor’s appointments to maintain your body. People may need speech therapy post stroke or deal with dementia or other age-related health issues.

If you are lucky enough, your goal in life is to get to a place where you are disabled. People who pay attention to their healthy eating, exercise regularly, reduce their stress, their goal is to reach and experience disability.

I guarantee you, when you arrive to that place in your life, you will absolutely still believe that your life has value and you will want to live.  Your family members will not love you any less.

As reported from others who reach this stage in life, they are shocked at the system they now need to navigate through and the barriers and oppression they suddenly find themselves or their loved ones in.

The government funds the education system for children with disabilities from a place of scarcity.  There are never enough speech-therapists, occupational therapists, assessments and learning supports. These are children with all of the potential in the world laid out in front of them, and this is what the government thinks of investing in them and their families. If kids are treated so poorly you can just image how you’ll be treated at the end of your life.

Now….who is interested in disability issues??

1 out of 4 Canadians identify as having 1 disability or more. That’s just the individual. Now let’s include the family members who are involved in support or advocacy. Why has the government not taken this on as a platform issue?

Well, for all those in government who don’t think disability is worthy of their time. Just wait…. you’ll get there eventually.

With Long COVID, the disability rate is going to rise. The time is now. Disability issues are everyone issues.

Let’s give all kids a chance. Fund schools and systemically design them for inclusion and success.

We will all benefit from anti-ableism policy development at the government level.

https://www.ldac-acta.ca/canadian-survey-on-disability-reports-a-demographic-employment-and-income-profile-of-canadians-with-disabilities-aged-15-years-and-over-2017/#:~:text=In%202017%2C%20one%20in%20five,aged%2075%20years%20and%20over.

Systemic Impacts of Scarcity in Education

I’d like to bring up the subject of scarcity and the concept of applying the impacts of limited resources in the education system. It could be physical, social, emotional, or mental scarcity.

Limited resources change how people interact and behave at the most primal survival levels. There are already many scholar reports on how scarcity affects decision making and neuropathways.  Scarcity is when there are limited resources and people are not getting what they need.  Animal and human behaviour will change in these environments. When something is scarce, people will put a higher value on it. People will use social capital, aggression, secrecy or whatever strategies they can to obtain those limited resources for their own unfulfilled need. This is evolution and not a personality deficit.

Whittling the education system to bare bones and creating an environment of such limited resources will turn Mary Poppins into Cruella Deville in just a few months. Work environments can become toxic. Communication and information among staff can be used as a source of power.  Confidentiality among staff can be used as a social manipulation tool to build a sense of belonging or exclude.  Subgroups become even more exclusive. People are being set up to fail. It’s not personal. It’s systemic design. Evolutionary instincts will kick in, and not the kind ones. Stress bubbles will burst. People will snap. Children included. Recruiting and retaining quality educators for any length of time, will be challenging. This will have more of an impact on students with disabilities and those in marginalized communities. I repeat. This will have MORE of an impact on students with disabilities and those in marginalized communities.

Understaffing is a form of scarcity. When there aren’t enough people to fill the job duties that are required for functioning, and people need to step over their own job description boundaries to fill in for other people’s work, that has multiple direction points of impact. If it’s chronic, then you’ll see the ripple effects of scarcity.  Work environments will become “unhealthy” and over time people will become very dissatisfied with their work, ultimately pushing them out of the system and creating a deeper wedge in the cycle and it just goes on and on.  Underqualified staff just filling “the body” in the role, is not the solution.  Take a look at the number of job postings for school districts and take a look at the ones that are just continuously on repeat.  The districts are all in the same basket. They are even competing with each other trying to coax staff out of each other cities with advertisements.

School districts are extremely complex human systems. The number of connections and moving parts is overwhelming to me when I try to put this system into a visual representation. It looks like a large spiderweb post wind storm. Not only do I look at all of the individual parts when I look at a system, but it’s the connections and relationships and what is generated out of those connections that also makes my head spin. Now put this very complex system in a situation of scarcity. This has disaster written all over it.

The alarming fact is that the direction the current climate of education in this province is heading, will require people to become even more competitive over the limited resources. Money won’t solve all of society’s problems; however, chronic underfunding is definitely the fuel to this education fire…amongst other things.

Brainstorming exercise:

Let’s list all of the resources that someone seeks in the education system. (I will list a few, but really, I am hoping to encourage the conversation and for people to start making their own lists)

Resources in education. (Staff and students)

  • Social relationships- support, sense of belonging, attention, power, purpose
  • Mental stimulation, communication, information, choice, adequate training, knowledge, context & meaning…blog about context and meaning for students coming in the near future!
  • Physical space, food, water, access to washroom, fresh air, safety…and yes all of this applies to staff too!!
  • Access to tools to complete tasks/goals with success
  • Time to process, time to complete work, alone time, enough sleep – proper work hours (homework or class planning)
  • Currency – (staff) to access resources in their personal life and avoid scarcity

Now take all of those resources to function. Put someone in the situation of abundance. All the time in the world, lots of attention, all the communication and information they need to understand their environment. Now take the minimal of what you need and cut it in half.  Survival mode kicks in. You will have very different people on your hands.

If people have options, they will leave the system. We all have our breaking point.

Who is controlling the resources to this system?

It’s not the school districts. They may be managing…I mean struggling, with the system, but they aren’t the Wizard of Oz at the end of the road. The Ministry of Oz is hiding amongst ambiguous unanswered questions in their huge castle.

Provincial systemic issues, are going to need a provincial intervention approach, and will require a provincial response.  Let’s start with some resources, shall we? Adequate funding please.

The Impending Education Tsunami

This year has been hard for the education system and everyone in it. I’d love to tell you that there is great news ahead, but there isn’t. There is also an education tsunami out there on the horizon. I can see it just starting to show itself, but it is still far enough away that it hasn’t caught the attention of too many parents. Some parents though are starting to notice it while standing on the beach.

For other reasons than budget and capital projects, I have been attending monthly Board meetings since Nov 2019 and committee meetings since they started up during COVID.  Without purposefully seeking to understand the education system more, I have been exposed to some educational realities that I would not have normally been exposed to, which has led me to see the oncoming tsunami.

At these meeting, I have become a witness to some of the workings that school districts and Boards of Education allow the public to witness.  Meetings always feel to me like a show. I wouldn’t even describe them as the tip of the iceberg because even what is discussed or presented on, I don’t feel is a true reflection of what public education is. When you attend meetings over time, patterns start to emerge. Themes will cycle. Personalities of the Trustees will unfold.  (At least in my district, it is comforting to see that care for the children from our Trustees, is not the issue.) When attending meetings, you need to look at not only what is being discussed, but also what is not being discussed.  What I also find very interesting is comparing Board of Education pages on the different school districts websites. It would be fascinating to have a provincial connected team of parents, that shared information about Board meetings across the districts. Got a monthly snapshot of what was happening on a provincial level.

I was doing some research months back and I came across an archive picture of a school Board meeting in my district in the 1970’s. It was incredible because it was standing room only. It was packed with people! I can tell you that when Board meetings were in person pre-COVID, I could count on one hand how many parents showed up that were not part of a delegation, for the whole year.

The financial situation that my school district is in, concerns me. It concerns me a lot. Don’t let the most recent financial drop intended to be spread out provincially from the Ministry for “pandemic related” recovery fool you. It’s the temporary pacifier meant to sooth you. The next few years are going to be very interesting. The kind of fascination of watching a building topple over when they take a wrecking ball to it, but with the added layer of fear.

I expect staffing qualified people is going to get much harder and based on the budget and capital realities, public education in every way shape and form is going to slowly deteriorate. We are frogs in hot water with the dial creeping up. The correlating factors affecting education are all linked to the changes that have been occurring in our society, on top of a foundation of chronic under funding.  Because the government has a reactive approach to education, they are always years behind, playing catch up.

I’d like to throw out a consideration for people to think about. I am asking for people over the summer to consider either themselves to start attending their school districts Board meetings, or get a group of parents together to take turns and take notes. We need to have our eyes on the tsunami.  School district’s need to know that the public is following, and the Ministry of Education needs to know that the public is aware. When governments think people aren’t watching them…that’s when they start to turn up the dial. They’ll find their sweet spot of what they can get away with, and what will create public outcry. They are testing us. What are parents begrudgingly willing to accept?

*** This blog, most of it, was posted as a letter in the Burnaby Now local news.

https://www.burnabynow.com/opinion/letter-not-enough-burnaby-parents-watching-as-budget-cuts-happen-3885761