Wednesday, March 21, 2007

BC Government, Christy Clark, NPA all push for segregated schools for special needs children

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday March 20, 2007

Segregation's return?


The highest result of education is tolerance.

- Helen Keller

Long ago in B.C. our children with special needs were put in segregated schools away from their neighbourhood friends and sometimes far away from their families.

While well-intentioned at the time, it was completely the wrong way to help special-needs kids. We learned the hard way that they should have been included with all the other children in our classrooms and given the extra help they needed there.

Both kids with special needs and those without benefit from inclusion, experts around the world have concluded.

But for some children, those with autism, mental illness or deafness, it was more than wrong - it was horrible.

We later heard terrible stories from the Woodlands School and the Jericho Hill School for the Deaf of students sexually assaulted, physically beaten and mentally abused.

And so the idea of segregation of children with special needs was thankfully put to rest.

Until this year, when the B.C. Liberal government suddenly re-opened this widely discredited approach and tried to make it sound new and progressive.

The Feb. 13 Throne Speech said the government would establish "provincial schools" and Education Minister Shirley Bond later talked about "model schools" for children with autism.

Then - surprise, surprise - Christy Clark, the former education minister, said in her Feb. 25 Province newspaper column that critics shouldn't attack the government idea and that: "Segregation didn't work as a general rule. But rules have exceptions..."

That would be the same Clark whose party in opposition promised to help autistic children but in government went to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn B.C. court rulings in favour of funding special programs for them.

Another surprise - four days later Clark pops up again to say that now she and businesswoman Wendy Cocchia want to start a separate school for special needs kids.

And - imagine that - Clark and Cocchia have already met with Education Minister Shirley Bond, who - surprise - is receptive to the idea!

And then a few days later - surprise once more - Ken Denike, the right-wing Non-Partisan Association chair of the Vancouver School Board, announces that hey, this is a good idea, we should try here!

The question that should be asked is: Why? Why is an orchestrated effort being made to once again start segregated schools?

One answer is money. The provincial government has never adequately funded school districts to provide the assistance special needs children require. Centralized, separate schools could be cheaper.

A wide range of groups, from the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities to the B.C. Association for Community Living to the B.C. Teachers Federation have all raised their concerns, as have many B.C. academics.

But will this government listen?


Gölök said...

I saw nothing of racial or sexuality or gender or any other segregation that usually pulls out liberal punches (leftist Liberal, little l).
Clarke said in some cases and Denike essentially the same. There is Math 9a or something or a class I got sent to the Americans call it remedial. None of it dealt with my bordom syndrome caused by already reading and learning this stuff myself, Hard Knocks; not to mention Learning Disabilities, in Calgary a decent teacher in regular class was suited but the NDP and General Left will crawl up their ass if vouchers are brought up or teacher testing for future firings. In Calgary I got sent to Colonel Sanders and the idiot teaching the "Special" Ed didn't know a star fruit wasn't an apple carved and reskinned to look that way. I did.
This segregation is also not too specific, LD the Stupid and Mentally Restrained or Retarded were all mixed and not all are called Special and Gifted even the genious or prodegy who never had these issues. I am not Autastic but I was with Autistic. Not in a chair with a young version of ALS but taught as they were. Where is the space to segregate all of that. Oh and thank god my parents said no to Ritalin.
My Aunt however let the Mental Health Team ignorant of my Learning Disability and Creative Personality to force resperidal and I can get Free Heroin thanks to these right wingers. Hey I want my safe Strip Club Zone!
That's good for my Super Ego and ID issues.

It's my first time here, be gentle.


Gölök Zoltán Leenderdt Franco Buday
Former and Later Mayoral Candidate and MP Exploritory.
"Liberty is not collective, it is personal.
All liberty is individual liberty." -- Calvin Coolidge (1873-1933), 30th US President Source: Speech, 1924

Anonymous said...

Lovely, they hobble our Public Education system through underfunding and increasing demands on teacher time in the name of "accountability", then they accuse us of being "a public system that seems to value conformity over diversity". Teachers value diversity but we are having difficulty addressing the diverse needs under the current administration. We have a surplus budget and therefore tax cuts meanwhile our public services are systematically being starved rendering them less able to meet diverse needs and then open the doors to the profiteers. Lovely.

delta dawne said...

I live and work in a school district that still has segregated classrooms for students with special needs and THIS APPROACH WORKS...hold on, down boy, listen first. The students start their day in the resource room and then at the best time for the student (many have better times of day) and for the teacher, the student is integrated with his age appropriate peers for a block of time. That block of time is determined by ability of the student to maintain acceptable behaviour in the integrated class and the amount of time the Education Assistant has to devote to that child. In our cchool all the children that are integrated into typical classrooms go with an education assistant to support them. If the child becomes difficult to handle or his behaviour is not conducive to the typical classroom they can then return to a comfortable safe environment in the resource room.
Now, what parents don't understand is that when they choose to mainstream (full integration) little Joe who has severe autism, and he disrupts his class with noises and or behaviour HE IS SENT TO A BOOK ROOM OR BROOM CLOSET TO SIT WITH HIS EDUCATION ASSISTANT. Parents are never made aware of this. This is the "illusion of inclusion". It has been brought to my attention recently that these resource rooms are to be phased out and all incoming students will be placed in the regular classroom when they enter school. This will create a dangerous and needless to say crowded situation in our districts book rooms and broom closets.
My point is the students in our district, at the moment, have the best of both worlds. With creative timetabling and parent support students with special needs can be integrated and yet safe when integration proves not to be an option.

A. Teacher (formerly anonymous) said...

Those of us who work in a so called "inclusive" district actually run the system the same as delta dawn with inclusion being flexible based on the needs of the child we don't have the funding that would be required for full inclusion to happen. I am not convinced, at this point, if complete inclusion is the best option for our students in need of high support levels. The sad part is that the parents are told their children are completely included when there is no possible way to do so due to a lack of the necessary funding. I believe that true inclusion would be the optimum situation for all but I also believe that it would be far too expensive if it were to be done correctly.
What concerns me about the move towards segregation is the move towards homogenization and the move away from valuing differences in gender, needs, culture etc. and learning to capitalize on the strenths of the variety of perspectives. What concerns me is children who will need to work together in the workforce and in the world being kept apart when they should be learning how to work together.
For students with higher support needs, there are compelling arguements for inclusion, for specialized programs, and for inclusion on a limited basis. I would be concerned about a school specifically for children with autism, or other children who have needs outside the "norm" (though I have yet to meet norm) as this would provide no opportunities for them to learn together with their peers whenever it is appropriate -- to the benefit of both parties.