Advocates for students with disabilities call on Ontario to stop school exclusions

Posted
January 8, 2019
Article Source
The Globe and Mail

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal's power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.
 
A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days. Most school districts don't formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.
 
The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an "outdated" provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.
 
On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson's are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board. Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is often done at a principal's discretion; and it can last for months.
 
Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parent-run group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she's seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.
 
"We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that's being used now is we'll just throw the kids out," she said. "Our kids are not disposable. They're not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution. But neither is full exclusion."

Read more: Advocates for students with disabilities call on Ontario to stop school exclusions