We are expecting our newest addition to our family on Tuesday, February 21st. Therefore, I will be updating on our journey afterwards. We have a lot of information to share since my last post and I’ve been jotting down all the juicy details!
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The Principal might as well have said that today when I went to ask some hard questions. As you may or may not recall, A came home from school yesterday with cup hook screws. It was difficult to sleep last night let alone maintain my cool this Morning when I spoke with school administration about my concerns. While I will never send A to school in bubble-wrap, it all boiled down to lack of supervision in the classroom of which I maintained I felt was unacceptable. I toured the classroom again looking for the fire alarm A spoke of and found that it was within a child’s reach. Said fire alarm was also on a wall beside the door.
The principal, D.F., was quick to sympathize but the notorious “there are over 30 students in A’s classroom” line reared its ugly head. It was irritating to hear but better than the “we have 1.5 Special Needs Assistants for 800 students” line we usually hear from E.S., Vice Principal. I maintained that while I sympathize that teachers have to pay attention to every student, it is imperative that children with Special Needs get adequate amount of supervision and an inclusive education – there was no excuse for A to come home with scratches from other students with no written explanation or even worse, coming home with dangerous objects he found in the classroom.
“We will look into it when N.A., teacher, returns on Monday and I will contact you sometime next week.” It was the response I expected. I hate to sound pessimistic but I have a feeling the school will blame A rather than placing the blame where it truly belongs:
At Board level (TDSB) for knowingly delaying families from receiving the supports that they deserve and are mandated by Provincial and Federal law – support that can enable the teacher with more skills to truly reach A and take pressure off
At the Provincial level for failing to invest more in hiring qualified teachers to reduce class sizes and truly ensure that every child is reached
Children are our future; education and keeping them safe at our schools should be our priority.
Cup Hook Screws in their hand? Mine did this afternoon. We recently hired a walking buddy for A so that I can rest for the two weeks remaining in my pregnancy. His walking buddy dropped A off as usual and handed me two screws. By that time, A’s behavioural therapist had arrived for a scheduled block therapy appointment. I thanked his walking friend profusely and we said our goodbyes.
A told BT and I that he found them on the fire alarm and that N. A. (teacher) asked him not to touch the fire alarm but didn’t take it away. I asked him if he pulled them from the wall and he said no. Observing the thread area of the screw, I could not see any evidence that he did either. I rephrased all my questions and asked new ones to see if his answers would change. They had not.
This is not the first instance where A has not been supervised. On Feb 1st, 2012, N.A. asked me where he got the scratch under his eye. I responded and stated firmly that A did not leave the house with any scratches and did not enter the classroom with them either. A told me that a specific classmate scratched him and stated that they were both being mean to each other.
Other instances occurred in January as I personally observed A outside his classroom door. I made a few unannounced visits and peeked through the window to see A playing with a green train or other objects near the bookshelves while the other children sat in the circle. I noted that the teacher had not been using ideas given to her by us such as giving A a special place with his name on it, a cushion or having the EA redirect and sit on the carpet with him. In fact, the EA was not in sight for most of my viewings. A’s gym teacher Mr. O also admitted in the Behavioural Logs that he gave A a train to play with on several occasions so that he can teach Phys Ed to the rest of the children.
Class sizes in our province need to be reduced so that teachers have more time to focus on our children and reach every child. Parents should not have to fight to get Special Education supports that will assist their children in receiving an equal education. Nor should they have their children bringing home screws that could have harmed them or other children.
I’m not sure. I wrote back in A’s Behavioural log tonight for the third time about the class’ Borrow a Book program. Essentially, your child chooses three books and gets to read them at home for two days. Afterwards, they return them and receive three new books from the classroom. It’s a great way to get kids reading alone and with parents as well as an excellent way to teach responsibility (that they can grasp).
A has not received his books or the book bag since the Holiday Break. Our family has been borrowing books from the Public Library and consulting our own library to compensate for the lack of books. Friday night, I inquired about the program and why A was not receiving any books. I had to ask my spouse to read the notes sent home today because it was illegible and clearly written in a rush. We gathered that he had a “bad” day according to the School but no mention of the Book bag.
From the Behavioural Logs being filled out minutes prior to dismissal (and backpack being completely open) to A not being a part of the book program, I can’t help but feel like A is being left out.
I contacted our Ward Trustee’s office this morning. I can’t say I was expecting an answer straight away; I ended up having to leave a message. Called the Area Superintendent’s office to request an Interview and wondered if I had the wrong number. The Receptionist who answered made it sound like it was her office, not quoting the actual name of the office. Again, not much professionalism.. When we had clarified whose office I was really calling, I asked to have a phone or in-person interview with the Superintendent. After sharing the juicy details – name, child’s name, school and reason for calling, she finally told me that C was out of the office for the week. Delightful. The Receptionist also asked for my phone number and said she would have C call me back directly. OK.. that’s something. Let’s see where it goes.
As soon as I hung up, the phone rang. It was the Trustee’s office returning my phone call. I began by thanking the individual I spoke with for returning my call so promptly. We talked for approximately 25 minutes where I shared some of my major concerns while she listened and paraphrased. Her statements to my concerns sounded authentic. She came up with objective solutions such as having the Special Education department call me personally and detail where A is on the list and the date of IPRC meeting. She also said that she would have the Trustee directly deal with E.S., VP and D.F. about their conduct. For the first time in months, I felt like I was heard! While this was not what I expected, I welcomed the progress.
I will be asking for any dates, times or quotes on places on wait list in writing. TDSB violated Ontario Legislationby not providing certain documentation related to IPRC and continue to violate A’s human rights.
And there it is.. the Toronto District School Board website. What is supposed to be a tool for parents, students, members of the community and media is a maze even for the most resourced individual. I spent approximately an hour and a half trying to find where I could file a complaint about School Administration (VP, Principal, Area Superintendent). After spending quite a bit of time this weekend putting my thoughts to paper, I decided to file a complaint through the appropriate channels before taking A’s story to the media.
I found their website to be difficult to navigate and not forthcoming. The search engine on their site has kept me waiting to no avail for the last three days. I eventually came across the Human Rights Complaint process for students which seemed to be more detailed than the Special Education section of their website. However, it did not discuss filing a complaint at Board level but rather provincial level. After spending 50 minutes at this point reading and navigating, I viewed the Ontario College of Teachers website for their complaint process but am referred to talk to a Board official. Who is the official to speak with if you have talked to the School’s Principal and Area Superintendent? (TIP: You can file a complaint not just against teachers but principals, including vice principals).
Nevertheless, I returned back to the TDSB to find more pertinent information. According to TDSB’s Steps to Address Your Questions & Concerns, my concerns are not listed under the general umbrella of issues. However, the Board’s website does state that a Trustee (elected official) can be contacted as a third step in any issues. Very vague for a concerned parent who already is frustrated with the lack of information made available to the public. After some more digging under our Ward’s Trustee page, I found a slightly more informative version of Steps to Address Your Questions & Concerns. Trustee’s role may include facilitating a resolution between myself and the School Administration. I feel somewhat apprehensive to that idea after being so open to everything and getting nowhere. The media option seems to be a sure fire way of ensuring that the School Administration pulls up their socks (and exposes what may be happening to other parents)
I found a link called the Special Education Report entailing different objectives, SEAC contacts and much more. It was hard to find on their website (after many times of searching for information), therefore somewhat inaccessible. From Page 17 and onward, you can find more detail regarding core beliefs of the TDSB for Special Ed, policies of early intervention, timelines, etc,. It is available for download in .PDF format. This is a must read for all parents with children in the TDSB system.
I’m amazed at my findings:
Parents with children starting JK should register their children up to 9-12 months BEFORE entrance to the TDSB JK program
Early Intervention programs and placements include: Diagnostic Kindergarten, Kindergarten Intervention Program, and Kindergarten Early Language Intervention
Three pages dedicated to IEP information
*Within 15 days of a written parent(s) request for an IPRC, the principal must provide
parent(s) with a copy of the Parent(s) Guide to Special Education and a written
statement of approximately when the committee will meet*
**Principals must inquire in advance of the meeting whether the parent(s) have any
additional documentation for the consideration of the IPRC. The principal must then forward this
documentation to the IPRC to be received at least five days prior to the meeting
*To date, I have not received a copy of the Parent’s Guide to Special Education or a written statement of approximately when the committee will meet.
**Must monitor this once I gain knowledge of A’s IPRC meeting date. I am eager to submit documents from physicians, various community agencies and many others who have been involved over the years. I will not allow any more delay in using my voice to provide input into crucial steps such as the IPRC meeting.