I haven’t blogged in a bit, but with all the political talk now-a-days surrounding the teachers strikes in Ontario, I wanted to share an exchange with an union member I had recently. I’ve written a lot about education issues on this blog over the years, and felt the need to pipe up now.
Photo’s (not the one used in this post, and this photo is of an actual classroom that the teacher allowed the kids to mess up) have surfaced by education union members of trashed classrooms citing the need for more funds and adequate support. I did a lot of advocacy around student safety over the past decade and I wanted to share this particular response I wrote to a teacher defending the need for more funding for supports in the classroom to deal with “workplace violence”:
In 2009 kids from Keswick High School walked out on mass due to an Asian student being wrongfully expelled. I worked along side youth advocates to find out exactly what was going on in the education system. I’m a systems analyst.
What happened at Keswick High was a complete breakdown of the system. Legislation wasn’t properly followed, and funds earmarked for “student safety” never seemed to materialize at the school level despite having traced the funds from the province to the YRDSB.
Our local news paper wouldn’t hold our trustee to account for any of this because she had political and community connections and they were worried they were going to lose advertising dollars. It took this trustee shouting “nigger” to a black parent seven years later before she was held to account. This trustee also suffered from dementia. She was the lead psychologist on the YRDSB’s student disciplinary panel. The YRDSB and her family tried to cover her illness up to avoid the board getting sued.
Shortly after the Keswick High incident I started questioning the boards budget. They withheld any information regarding the breakdown of the budget and refused to provide any details on money allocated towards student safety from the province, citing privacy laws. When questioned about policies surrounding student safety and trying to obtain documents from the board in that respect, they gave me a $900 quote for that information. In 2016 the province sent investigators in due to systemic racism, and fiscal mismanagement.
On the policy side of things when trying to tighten up the language regarding student safety and staff accountability in legislation your unions first agreed with the language, supported parents, and then took great exception to even the definition of student safety and having their members being held to account for NOT REPORTING instances of student violence in the classroom, once all landed in committee. I would provide you with testimony your unions provided to committees studying this, but the current government has recently removed that testimony from the parliamentary website. Legislation was introduced through Bills 13 and 14 in 2012 if you’d like to do more research on that.
To sidestep this, I was the lead advocate advocating for the Ombudsman to oversee the school sector. I eventually won that argument with the province only to find that office handcuffed, not able investigate systemic issues, and pretty much doesn’t investigate anything after this office received it’s expanded mandate to the education sector from Wynne.
When you speak of student safety this is just the tip of a very big iceberg, and no amount of money is going to fix this. Your union leadership knows this, and if this was truly about student safety and the lack of resources, your unions would be taking a greater issue with board accountability then they are right now, and they won’t because it exposes the lack of accountability at the staff level as well, which would become a part of the conversation if they take the boards to task on this. So the best thing they can do is fight for compensation and sick days citing a non-existent problem or lack of evidence to support because they refuse to allow their members to report on student violence, endangering all of you.
As a union member you hold voting power, and up an until union members hold their own leadership to account and not afraid to speak up against them, than you’re all in the same boat to me, and your credibility means very little when measuring facts against talking points.