The mother of a special needs child says her son is being squeezed out of his classroom by the school's staff.
Nine-year-old "Jim" (not his real name) had already been the subject of peer bullying when he was partially segregated due to his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the boy's mother said. She also refrained from identifying the school.
"If it's happening to my son, it is happening to others, this is a problem across the district," she said . "I get calls from the school almost every day to pick him up because of his attention span. They want the funding but they don't want him to be there disrupting their routines."
She said school staff have had arguments with her about the medication he's on.
"They've told me to increase the amounts or change the schedule he's on. They don't hear me when I tell them he is on a plan designed by a pediatrician."
Due to personal privacy issues, School District 57 superintendent Brian Pepper could not speak of this particular family but did issue a lengthy public statement about the general issue of special needs children in the local school system.
"Why doesnt the district accept the diagnosis of out-of-district agencies or medical professionals? It is the school districts responsibility to deliver educational programming to students. We are the experts in this regard. The assessment and categorization is done to support learning in the best possible way," he said. "We believe that everyone can learn and that all students have the right to access a broad, individually challenging education in a supportive, caring school environment," he said.
He said SD57 services were based on the following core principles:
An integrated system of support and resources for all students
An inclusionary model of school attendance
Shared decision-making and collaborative problem-solving
Functional assessment procedures and outcomes criterion for decision-making
A proactive service delivery that focuses on prevention and early intervention
Home / school collaboration in educational decision-making and delivery of services.
A long list of partner agencies works with a long list of district staff, including special-needs specialists, to maximize the chance of academic success, Pepper said, and SD57 hosts provincial programs targeting special-needs children in different ways.
"Although collaboration is always our preferred method of operation ultimately it is the school principal who is responsible for placement and programming of every student in the school. The School Act expects this," said Pepper.
Jim is successful in most academic ways, his mom said. His math skills are average for his age and his literacy level is ahead of his age, she said, but he has a hard time concentrating and sitting still in the classroom. She understands the disruption this causes other students and the extraordinary attention he needs from a teacher trying to share it around the class. She wondered why designated teacher aids, in-class staff especially for the special-needs students, were not more plentiful.
"What they are suggesting is, one-on-one tutoring at the school every morning, then send him home at lunch for the rest of the day," said Jim's mom. "So he would almost never be in a group classroom setting. I am concerned about his education value and I'm concerned about his socialization, under conditions like that. It is hurting his learning and it's breaking my heart."
Numbers were not provided as to how many special-needs students are in local classrooms.
Pepper did say that extra resources could be allocated to any such students "at the discretion of the principal. It goes without saying that the collaboratively developed IEP provides direction and guidance in this regard. Some schools have a greater ability to provide supports above and beyond the dollars provided."