Parents group pushes for inclusion in schools for children with disabilities

NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Following a presentation from a concerned parents group, North Vancouver School District has started tracking ways students with disabilities and special needs are being left behind in schools.

Parents group BCEdAccess says children with disabilities and special needs are being excluded from classrooms, field trips and special events. For instance, Tracy Humphreys with the group says some parents were told their children needed to stay home for the first week because schools weren’t ready to receive them.

The group has been taking its findings to different school districts, encouraging them to record their own data on this issue. So far, North Vancouver and Victoria are on board.

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Humphreys says she understands that schools don’t set out to exclude these students intentionally.

“Exclusion is not an option that schools should be going to,” she says. “We recognize the challenges, these are systemic challenges, and these are not individual people that want to exclude children…It’s a systemic issue, it needs systemic solutions, and the solution is not to exclude those kids, the solution is to find other ways to allow them to be included.”

And so far, she says school districts have been receptive to the message and to the group’s presentations.

“Reaction of the trustees when we present this data: it’s quite genuine. They’re very shocked, and they usually have a lot of questions,” she says. “They’re very keen on finding solutions and making change.”

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So far the group has presented in Victoria and North Vancouver, and there’s been some progress made since then: both districts have started collecting their own data on exclusions in schools.

But more work is still needed, Humphreys says. She hopes the province will put more resources into hiring additional educational assistants.

Now she’s hoping to do additional presentations for school districts in Squamish, Coquitlam, New Westminster and Vancouver in the near future.

“I do really hope that other districts will get on board and pick it up, because I think it’s at the district level that change can really be made for these students,” she says.

– With files from Taran Parmar

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