I registered for the information session, Tuesday January 31st, regarding AP 355 procedure. At the last minute I was unable to attend due to the physical location of the meeting, but would have been able to attend if the meeting was online. I would like to communicate my concerns regarding your procedure. Even though my children are not in your district, other districts and parents are taking notice and your procedure has wider implications for other school districts to follow with similar procedures.
My concerns include the following:
- Potential for misuse. People in positions of power can use policies such as this as stepping stones for wider implications and inferences that leave vulnerable people even more vulnerable.
- Age. Other districts who have an exclusion policy have an age minimum of 16. However, this administrative procedure starts at kindergarten. That means some children being impacted by this procedure will be as young as 4 years old. This becomes enforceable on DAY 1 of kindergarten. The “spirit” of your procedure is very different than the other 3 policies I found online.
- Costs. There are financial costs to this procedure on families that are not being addressed by the school district. Will parents be reimbursed for their lost wages due to not being able to work for 3 days at a time? Due to systemic issues that are created and maintained by the Ministry of Education and how the public service of education is delivered in this province, it leaves parents shouldering the financial responsibilities and not the school district. Districts can be held financially responsible for human rights violations, lost wages and the cost of outside school programs. What happens here?
- Appeals. I have concerns that there is not already an established separate appeals process that is not a very cumbersome time consuming section 11 appeals process.
- Delivery. I have concerns in which this information night was delivered. It could have easily been on zoom so that families with disabled children could access the information. The barriers were evident and did not go unnoticed by the families who could not attend. Due to the small number of people who were able to physically attend the information session, compared to the number of concerned members of the disability community who were interested in attending, the small “sample size” group who attended, you will be unable to make inferences to the larger population and feel that you fully understand everyone’s concerns. It fulfills checking off a box on your to-do list, but little else, and I implore you to consider further community consultation via online as well.
- Reporting. Will there be reporting expectations from the district admin to the board so there is oversight? How often will these reports be expected to be reviewed and is there going to be a public anonymous quantitative data reporting system for transparency and legitimacy of your procedure? If you say this procedure will benefit the families for accountability, how will you be demonstrating that to the public that with evidence?
- Vague terms. It concerns me that there is a lot of vague undefined terms in this policy with no reference. Acts have definitions. For example, What does “exceptional circumstances” mean?
- Legal consultation. Will the school district be accessing their lawyers for legal consultation during the implementation of this policy? Will parents have the same access to legal consultation?
- Human System. Education is delivered through the means of a human system, designed and maintained by people. It is flawed and socially constructed by people who don’t often experience oppression. We are also in a state of educational crisis with severe staffing shortages and untrained adults working in the system who are not trained teachers or EA’s. The stress level of staff who are working in a system of scarcity and desperation will impact the learning environment and employees emotional regulation. This will transfer to the culture and behaviour of those children who are also navigating this human system. Children are not the creators of the environment that they are entering, they are reacting to their environment. It is recognized that we live in a society that is ableist, racist, classist, and education is delivered through a colonized lens. The children who are struggling to adapt to this system and who are most vulnerable will be mostly affected. How are families supported as they navigate this system that they have no control over? As per the school act, final decisions are the purview of the board and not the parents. Parents are responsible for facilitating decisions made by the schools or they can be seen as not fulfilling their duty to cooperate in good faith and human rights complaints will be dismissed. If parents disagree with the methodology that is being forced on their child, what is their recourse that will not risk their employment or make them homeless as they cannot pay their rent due to extended exclusion? There are bound to be cultural and/or philosophical framework disagreements as professionals who work in disability education cannot even agree on appropriate approaches for specific disabilities and these disagreements even within these professions can lead to fierce emotional debate. For example, Autism and Dyslexia.
- Diagnosis. Not all disabilities are even identified or screened by education staff, therefore many children are not even appropriately diagnosed. The mental health profession is understaffed and extremely stretched very thin with many people not being able to access supports until they are in extreme crisis, and even then the needs are just to high. In a failing system, with so many children falling through the cracks, how does this policy ensure that the education system is adapting to the needs on a macro systemic level? Does the Ministry of Education support this policy and do they plan on providing the school district with funding to ensure that children are accessing education in equitable ways? Will the Ministry of Education ensure that TOC’s will be provided so staff can have time to meet and consult with the appropriate professionals? And on that note, is the BCTF on board with this policy and 3 day cap? If the expectation is meetings are to be taking place and plans designed within 3 days, in the union on board with ensuring their staff are aware of their expectations? How will further professional training be provided to reduce the need for this policy to even exist?
Your responsibility in creating a procedure that doesn’t cause harm is very heavy. Please do not speed along the process. Please take into account the very community that you think this policy will benefit and that means a lot more consultation with community and collaboration with external non-profit organizations who advocate for vulnerable families.
If this procedure is discriminatory or harmful, external organizations will end up being involved in the process eventually and it will cause more harm and stress for everyone involved: school staff, parents, and most importantly the children. As young as 4 years old, on DAY 1 of kindergarten.
Here is a link to their information and admin procedure link