BC parent group dismayed by number of times special-needs kids excluded from school

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A group of B.C. parents say their kids with special needs are being let down and left out at school, and they’ve got the numbers to prove it.

Advocacy group BCEDAccess launched an online survey a year ago where they invited parents to document how many times their kids were excluded from classroom activities.

“It could be anywhere from kids not being in school at all, or routinely missing an hour, two hours, three hours, half days, because of their disability and not getting the support they need to participate,” explains the group’s Nicole Kaler.

The survey received nearly 500 reports and captured 3,600 instances where students were excluded from school last year.

They published the results Tuesday.

“We’re dismayed–but not surprised–by the numbers in the survey,” says Jenn Newby, a parent and one of the authors of the survey.

Some 70 per cent of the students captured in the report had autism.

What is perhaps surprising about the findings is that in half the cases, the child’s Education Assistant was not absent. Kaler says it’s a more complicated problem than a lack of EAs.

“We know that our Education Assistants aren’t getting the support they need. We know because there is a shortage of teachers, the people who are supposed to be supporting individual children are being pulled away to man a classroom.”

The numbers will now be used for the group’s advocacy work.

“What we found we need to do is when we speak to power, when we speak about what’s happening for our kids, we have to have something concrete show them to prove our case,” says Kaler.

“The results confirm that every school district and the BC Ministry of Education should collect and examine their own data on exclusions of students with disabilities. It is their responsibility to determine the cause of these exclusions and eliminate those issues.”

The group points out the School Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms make it clear education must be accessible to all children in B.C.

The “exclusion tracker” will continue receiving reports from parents for this school year.

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