Posts Tagged Ontario Politics

NDP Could End Up Winning Ontario In 2018

(Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath Could Be the Strongest Leader In Contention For 2018)

With the next provincial election coming into view in Ontario, have the Liberals made a fatal mistake on keeping Kathleen Wynne at the helm?  Recent polls put Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown up front, however many don’t know what he stands for besides opposing the current government, and the PC’s base in Ontario are widely viewed as far right Donald Trump supporters, rather than progressives. Could Ontario see a collapse of the right in 2018, and the NDP climb to power under a protest vote against, both the PC’s and Liberals?

The NDP in Ontario under Andrea Horwath have been pretty upfront over the past few years, including putting out some of their platform for the Ontario 2018 election which includes a universal pharmacare plan in Ontario.  The major voting demographic in Ontario are the millennials, which far surpass the aging boomer population and are more left leaning in their voting tendencies.  Over the past few months the Wynne Liberals have been trying to occupy some of the NDP’s platforms by instituting pharma and dental care for kids in Ontario.  They’ve also instituted free tuition for lower income students, and piloted a guaranteed basic income project, all of which come from the left side of the political spectrum to try and win over those votes.

Wynne is banking on a few things to secure her win in 2018.  The fact Brown is not a strong leader, and she’ll bring up memories of the health care cuts under Harris, which will be an attempt to move the aging boomer vote towards the Liberals.  Brown also has had to deal with issues over infighting for local nominations for the party, and has been tone deaf on a lot of the issues the people of Ontario are faced with until they end up in the media.  He often jumps on popular movements far too late, and takes credit for sticking it to the Wynne Liberals.  We saw this during the autism movement where Brown in question period for three weeks during the parent’s protests, not once brought up any support for that movement.  He recently claimed victory for parents stating that he fought for extra money from the province for autistic kids and won.  Over the past year, things have got worse not better for these kids, and we haven’t seen any new money flow from Wynne, instead we’ve seen cuts to support, funding for special needs education cut, and wait lists that have grown substantially from what seemingly looks like a “net zero” approach to pay off 2,100 families waiting for services in June of last year.

Wynne is also banking on making an argument that Ontario can’t afford Horwath, and bring back big bad memories of former premier Bob Rae, which is an argument that is pretty much mute since Wynne is trying to occupy the NDP platform, and to many millennials Rae is a Liberal.  Horwath is nicknamed the “Hamilton Scrapper”. Over the past few elections Horwath has had to deal with the ghost of Rae, which has overshadowed a lot of her strengths. Horwath when she sat on Hamilton City Council was a super star in her riding.  She fought vigorously for the people and businesses she represented, and got things done.  Not just done, but done correctly and fast.  If Horwath can shake the ghosts of leaders past, and come out swinging, she’ll be the only leader that will look strong from the three traditional parties on that stage come 2018.

Brown for his part will not just have an image problem because he is tone deaf, but will have a very hard time shaking off Trump when the failure of that movement could come to a head in the US during our provincial election.   With a lot of Canadians paying attention to how Russia was involved in developing fake news, and directing fake social media accounts to push the alt-right into the White House, it’s going to be very difficult for Brown to run an effective social media campaign.

For Wynne, this is a change election heading into 2018.  With the Liberals in power now for over 14 years, and the people of Ontario reminded almost weekly about mismanagement, its going to be a very uphill battle to sell that change isn’t needed and Ontario needs to stay on its current course.  For its part the Liberal Party in Ontario, may have made a grave mistake in leaving Wynne at the helm during a “change” election.

Jason Koblovsky is a freelance political and policy analyst, and syndicated political blogger commenting on Ontario, Canadian and US Politics.  He is also a senior writer and contributor to Mind Bending Politics.  If you would like to have your Op-Ed featured on Mind Bending Politics, send submissions to jkobopoli at rogers dot com

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Autism Parents Say They’ve Been Duped In Open Letter To Coteau

(Autism Parents Say MCYS is still cutting therapy from kids 5 and up)

In an open letter to the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, several parents of autistic kids say they’ve been duped by the province into thinking that funding was restored for intensive therapy for kids over 5.

Last year Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne decided to cut funding for intensive behavioral intervention therapy for kids over the age of 5, which sparked heated protests from parents, and support for parents concerns from both opposition parties, experts and the public.  After months of  tremendous public pressure, the Wynne Government “backtracked” and “restored” funding stated that all kids would get the therapy they need regardless of age.  Parents are now refuting that, and almost a year later, evidence is starting to emerge that only a some kids have received funding from the government with many over the age of 5 still being denied.

What’s also in question is the transparency around a committee set up by the Wynne government to look at implementation of the Government’s new autism program set to start in June of this year, leaving many questions parents have with respect to this new program and what is currently taking place with therapy for kids over 5 unanswered.

A full copy of the open letter can be found here, and displayed below:

Hello Mr. Coteau,

Surely you are aware that the autism (ASD) community has been closely following the progress the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) has made in regards to the implementation of the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), since you, Mr. Coteau, were named the Minister of Children and Youth Services this past June.

Your initial commitment to improving the roll out of the new OAP and including the ASD community in the process, feels like nothing more than an exaggerated attempt at manipulating parents into believing we have a reason to celebrate, a reason to be hopeful. Many children are simply being forgotten, the public is still left without crucial information, non-disclosure agreements remain in effect on both the Advisory and Expert Committees, and many families are feeling as though their child’s services are about to be taken away. We are not hopeful, we are terrified.

In June of 2016, you had committed to removing the 5 year age cap and ensuring that all children with autism, regardless of age, receive the clinically recommended, individualized services that they need, including those currently receiving services and those removed from the Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) wait list. You did not announce this as a short-term offering, but a long-term solution. As we approach spring of 2017 and are just a few months away from the anticipated start of the new Ontario Autism Program, things clearly aren’t going as planned.

Some things have remained consistent, in contradiction with your commitments. Regional providers are still suggesting and moving forward with plans to reduce services for those over 5; many families were delayed in receiving or simply not told that they qualify for the one-time funding payments, others face great difficulty reconciling funds though spent appropriately; wait lists continue to grow as services are not being offered to families any faster than before; Children 3-5 years old receiving new diagnoses’ are not only continuing to age out of IBI eligibility, they do not qualify for any interim funding or continuous ABA; and parents continue to be left in the dark about how the new OAP will affect their children’s lives.

Though you assured parents that all children would receive individualized therapy at the level of intensity that they need, every contract, letter, and even the Ministry web page make it very clear – when the new OAP begins in June, as spots become available, children 5 and older can not continue their DSO/DFO IBI, those removed from the wait list can not continue their currently funded private therapy or continuous ABA treatment from their regional provider. The age cap for intensive therapy? It will very much still exist as IBI will remain in place for those under the age of 5. How can we rely on the notion that the new OAP will offer children the same intensive services, when it belongs to a separate stream that they do not qualify for?

With no insight into what the new OAP will offer, committee meeting updates lacking great detail and nobody answering questions, all we are left to know is that in a few short months, regardless of whether or not our children are currently receiving exactly what they need, it will all be replaced with something different, and it appears, something less. If children were going to receive exactly what they need, many of these children would not be ripped away from their current services, or continue to be denied access to services they have long awaited – due to their age.
You should understand that after the Government’s misinterpretation of the expert committee’s recommendations last year, there is very little trust left within the ASD community. Any apparent attempt to refuse the release of essential information is seen as an attempt to prevent parents from opposing it before it is implemented. What issues do you anticipate will arise if you inform parents in a direct, transparent manner on decisions regarding the development of the OAP?

We can not take a chance on our children’s best interests and sit back until June in hopes of a favorable outcome with the ever-growing list of red flags and uncertainties. It is time that the Ministry explain itself, and provide detailed information in regards to the services & intensity options that children over 5 will receive in the Ontario Autism Program. Will you be keeping your promises, Mr. Coteau? Or are you balancing the budget on our backs once again?

Sincerely,
Brenna Bloodworth, Tanya Corey, John McArthur, Angelina Palmisano, Jenn Masonovich, Dennis Madge, Anne Jovanovic, Steve Cannon, Candice Shaver, Kate Dudley Logue, Ashley Sturgess, I Yu, Jenny Sturgeon, Jacques Sturgeon, Robert Shalka, Elena Gudyrenko, Jordyn Lee, Venette Gerden Purcell, Rhonda Allaby-Glass, Etienne Glass, Jason Koblovsky, Nicole Roy, Amy Hackett, Julie Ding, Hubert Wong, Angela Wong, Jenn Lalonde, Ross MacLean, Nisha Kapadia, Robert Orbegoso, Martina Pietracupa, Trish Dennis, Jennifer Stehlik, Omar D’Angelo, Pat McKenna, Julie-Anne Duncan, Stephen Chartrand, Marimuthu Ramakrishnan, Bobbie Arbuckle, Mike Arbuckle, Anne Mason, Rebecca Haight, Gwenny Seymour, Sara Haight, Lily Mondesir, Roberson Mondesir, Veronica Savage, Olen Boynton, Anne Burgess, Jillian Tweedy, Lesley Adams, Lina Khouri, Shannon Charlebois, Sarah Jones

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Ontario To Axe CCAC In $50 Billion Health Care Overhaul

(Nothing to see here: Federal Health Minister mum on Ontario Closure of Community Care Access Centres)

The horror stories continue for the people of Ontario, with the federal government still very much on the sidelines.   Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced today that the government will be closing all Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) in favor of cost cutting measures, and moving the home care services to Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN).  These measures come on the heels of Ontario doctors filing a charter challenge on the cuts to the funding to their services, and reports that Ontario’s hospitals are now running over capacity.  Ontario hasn’t seen such regressive policies since the Uncommon Sense Revolution of former Primer Mike Harris in the mid-90’s which saw many Ontario patients die unnecessarily while waiting for care as a result of cuts to essential health care services.

In recent months, money has been cut from educational services, autism therapies, special needs kids, and now a critical part of home care for the province will be lost.  Money saved from these essential services is going to pay for green energy, free tuition, and keeping teachers unions at bay.  With an aging population, shouldn’t more money be spent on health care?  With a growing number of kids being diagnosed as special needs, shouldn’t more money be allocated to ensure they get their therapy?  Where are the priorities of this Ontario Government?  Free tuition, and filling union pocket books, seems to be a heavy price to pay with the cuts to essential services to help fund those priorities.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Autism, Teachers Unions, and More

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(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Still Talking Down To Parents Not At Parents)

 

Yesterday Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne appeared as a co-host on CFRB 1010’s drive time talk show, where she discussed a wide range of topics including the autism protests, ABA and IBI therapy and the fact that she has been listening to parents.  The autism conversation starts at 13:58 min mark on the below embedded podcast:

 

The first thing I want to say in response to this is that Wynne’s only concession through the #autismdoesntendat5 seems to be direct funding.  Wynne is still talking down to the people of this province not to them.  She has not been listening at all to parents, and her own expert panel on IBI therapy.  In fact we are now going on month 3 of these protests with another scheduled for June 6th at Queens park.  Consistently throughout the past 3 months in question period at Queens Park Liberal MPPs, Ministers, and herself have openly mocked parents concerns.  Police have been called on parents by MPPs and half assed apologies offered as a result.  The Ontario Liberals are showing signs of regressive policy, not progressive policy.

Readers should also pay attention to Wynne’s comments at the 17:57 mark as well on teachers unions. Apparently these unions have been calling their members during provincial elections and asking them to vote Liberal.  I have a feeling that issues with these unions and school boards mis-spending money, isn’t over yet.  I think we’re going to hear a lot more on that in the weeks and months ahead.  I’ll be covering any breaking news regarding this on mindbendingpolitics, and also on my twitter feed.  In the mean time, you can read more on the issues regarding school boards and teachers unions and my comments on the current crisis here.

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Ontario’s Education System in Crisis: Proactive Change Needed in Youth and Education Services

As a parent with a non-verbal autistic kid, one of my worst nightmares is to have to deal with a teacher that isn’t qualified to ensure the care of my child. We’ve been pretty lucky. The teachers and staff taking care of my son in the school system are extremely caring, professional and have been a huge support for my family. The vast majority of the education system is like this, however there seems to be a growing concern in Ontario’s school system when issues with bad apples arise, and with developing meaningful policy at the provincial level to insert accountability in order to deal with these bad apples. Ontario faces quite a few bad apples.

Last month CBC’s marketplace did a special on problem teachers. CBC has found that in Ontario, teachers who have been found of misconduct continue to teach for years until the College of Teachers gets involved in dealing with stripping those teachers of their license to teach. In one case, an Ontario teacher was found to have been sending suggestive sexual messages to the kids in his class. It took 4 years for the complaints to reach the College of Teachers which allowed this teacher to continue his behavior thus increasing the amount of victims of it, and later he moved to a different country to skirt accountability, where he is still teaching. What’s worse is that teachers found of misconduct are often “recycled” to different schools until matters can be heard years later at the College of Teachers allowing for more abuse to continue and increasing the number of victims of abuse.

 

For me as a parent, let alone one with a non-verbal ASD kid, this is unacceptable. If a teacher is found abusing kids with special needs, they are continued to be allowed to teach. The strength of the education lobby is of great concern in this province. Too often than not, parents voices are drowned out by powerful unions and school boards during committee and policy processes. When complaints arise from parents in the system, this lobby more often than not, dismisses any concerns from parents, often bullying them with threatening behavior to protect their own interests rather than those of kids.

Remember that parent that vented out on facebook? The facebook post went viral about her special needs child being ordered to do over 80 crunched in one day. Mindbendingpolitics as learned the York Region District School Board did their investigation into the matter. They completely exonerated the teacher of any wrong doing, and blamed the child for lying due to issues at home. The parents called in the Children’s Aid Society to investigate which found the teacher was guilty of misconduct but no child protection issues in which they could legally intervene. With the current situation this teacher will be allowed to teach other special education students for years to come. The York board in this current case is also refusing to provide transportation to this special needs child to her new school further adding stress to this family as a result of coming forward with their concerns.

Granted that not all teachers are bad, but the few that are, are being protected by their unions and boards and recycled to different schools. Parents concerns are often set by the way-side and bullied into silence. This is creating an epidemic of child abuse in our school system in Ontario as a result, and should not be tolerated by our law makers.

Youth advocates for years have been fighting to make the system better and more accountable only to find unions and school boards hijacking policy too further protect their own interests over that of even basic human rights. Politicians for the most part gladly oblige due to political donations. An example of this I followed was through the introduction of two pieces of legislation in 2012. Bill 13, and Bill 14 which had to do with creating a safe environment for our kids. After heavy lobbying by youth advocates, the Ontario PC’s adopted a bill with a lot of recommendations to define issues such as bullying, and accountability of schools and government to ensure our kids remain safe bill 13. The Liberals supported by the NDP introduced their own legislation Bill 14. As a youth advocate it was nice to see non-partisan support for keeping our kids safe, but a close inspection of both bills revealed a lot of union influence with a lot of anger from parents. This spilled onto the committee floor with parents testifying regarding their concerns. Particularly from Owen Sound parent Joe Grieco who testified in 2012:

Having carefully looked over both bills, we have grave concerns that, although there appears to be a desire to reduce the impact of bullying in Ontario, the proposed additions and amendments to the Education Act are not comprehensive enough and will not lead to the necessary outcome: safer schools, safer students and improved learning success for all Ontario students.

What’s even worse is that after bill 14 became law and new money flowed into the system to keep our kids safe, the Ministry of Education in 2014 felt it necessary to divert $1.6 million allocated to safe schools and autism services to protect school boards across the province from a lawsuit. All the work to keep our kids safe and previous efforts by autism advocates was pretty much to help fund the Ministry of Educations slush account for school boards and unions.

Fast forward to 2016 – youth advocates are again engaged over the debate of autism and safe schools funding. I’ve approached York Region District School Board a month ago to find what programs are in place to ensure student safety, and requested a breakdown of the boards budget to show money flowing to each school and what programs that money is being spent on. I was told this would be provided to me. Now the board is stating that information isn’t available to the general public due to “confidentiality” reasons.

As recently as February, the York Region District School Board was called out by the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner for not collecting important data too target social programs in schools. I have to question even the existence of safe schools programs in York Region as a result. The board has been unable to provide any information detailing these programs, when this information and break down presumably should be publicly available via the boards website as it relates to the boards budget.

The province has recently stripped needed support to autism services in Ontario. This as prompted concerns from the province’s youth advocate Irwin Elman on what impact this will have on the school system, stating:

One also has to question how the school system will fit into this plan. How is the role of the school and the classroom integrated into plans for service to the school-aged children? Parents of children with “special needs” know that the gap between the promise of the school system and the child’s lived experience at school is a chasm. The Ministry of Education also appears absent from this important discussion.

Enter the teacher unions and school boards. The NDP has been leading the fight with autism services in Queens Park. Members of the NDP are showing a tremendous amount of passion (even members of the party being ejected from question period) to bring forth concerns to Wynne’s autism policy. The biggest financial donor of the NDP is the Ontario Secondary Schools Federation, who has donated more than $249,350 to the party over the past 3 years. I have to question whether this passion for parents concerns is legitimate, or an attempt to politically position their top financial donors at the front of the line with the applause of parents when discussions inevitably turn to the education system. I have concerns over not just current funds but any future funds allocated to autism services in the education system as a result, and whether they will actually reach kids, while parents groups applaud the efforts of these unions and boards.

The Ontario Autism Coalition has been a great support for parents in this political battle; however this organization has been actively seeking the support of teachers unions and boards. When questioning Bruce McIntoish (one of the lead advocates for the coalition) on policy, McIntosh suggested that Policy Program Memorandums (PPMs) be modified to ensure ABA services in the education system.

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PPM’s are essentially non-binding statements and as independent youth advocate and founder of the York Region Anti-bullying coalition Karen Sebben stated in an interview with mindbendingpolitics:

The language used in PPM’s are vague and open ended. It creates the illusion that the Ministry of Education is pro-active.

Sebben continued:

The language used is for the sole purpose of continuing to allow administrative discretionary measures, lack of transparency and continued autonomy.

What’s even more horrifying is the fact that these unions appear to have infiltrated a parent led movement, which now is restating support for the very cause of the issues present in the education system. That is that we have to protect union members in order to protect our kids, when it is precisely that situation that is creating an in balance and lack of accountability.

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We need accountability injected into this system as a result of the amount of protection union members and boards currently enjoy. The lack of accountability is creating an environment where money isn’t reaching our kids to ensure their education is a safe one, to ensure human rights and dignity of our most venerable are being protected, to ensure that kids with special needs get the proper education by qualified staff and thugs are fired rather than recycled.

It’s not just one political party to blame for this. It’s all of them. There may be a need now as a result to have the Ombudsman or Auditor General reappear on these files to inject that accountability, since advocates and parents voices are continually being drowned out regarding the problems our school system and youth face and a lack of concrete systemic solutions being presented due to heavy lobbying efforts by these unions and school boards.

Parents seeking meaningful change should focus their support on independent youth advocates rather than union lead parent movements. When you make a deal with the devil, you always set yourself up for failure, and I think the current problems the education system faces is representative of too many bad deals made with groups who have no intention in being held accountable for anything, and will do whatever they need too, to ensure that continues. Balance needs to be restored, and a massive injection of accountability ordered to ensure our youth have the right to proper, safe and enjoyable learning experiences, and the services they need.

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Ontario Set To Terminate Needed Therapy for a Vast Swath of Autistic Kids

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(Parents Upset At Recent Changes To Autism Services In Ontario)

The Ontario government recently announced changes it is going to make to the services autistic kids receive in the province.  The Ontario government is looking at terminating intensive behavioral intervention therapy (IBI) for kids 5 and over, and pump more money into the controversial applied behavior analysis (ABA) program in its place.  Those currently on the wait list for IBI will receive a total of $8,000 to cover a few months of IBI therapy as compensation.

IBI therapy is one on one therapy with specialists for the kids, meanwhile ABA sets to train the parents to become their child’s specialist and the parent is then responsible for applied therapy.  The Ontario Government is committing $333 million to transition IBI to ABA.  This transition could end up having a profound impact on parents who are working full-time on top of many other stresses they have to deal with. This change in policy puts applied therapy directly on the parents’ backs, which could create another crisis as a result of the time off of work to commit to ABA in which most parents in the know feel hasn’t produced satisfactory results compared to IBI.

Autism Ontario in its press release seemed very supportive of the new changes. Marg Spoelstra, Executive Director, Autism Ontario stated:

Families today can give credit to the parents who have been continually advocating on behalf of the thousands of people with autism and their families for many years about the importance of investment into timely, early, evidence based intervention, even at a time when they and their children were or would not be eligible for the intervention services announced today.

One quick look at the comments section on the Autism Ontario facebook page suggests something completely different with respect to parents concerns on this policy.  One parent stated:

The transition period might feel devastating. How about every phone call. Every meltdown. Every injury to not only our children by themselves, but to other family members. Every therapy strategy implemented, while waiting. Every tear. Every day, from wake, to sleep … If we’re lucky, while waiting for the already promised hope of IBI. The faith that one day … It’s all been a devastating disappointment.

Other comments include criticizing Autism Ontario for their support of this policy:

Beyond disappointed in Autism Ontario in being part of a process that offers up to 2,000 sacrificial lambs in order to support this ‘new’ program. Why is it ok to abandon these kids before they were given a chance? Why wasn’t a plan made for these kids & why couldn’t the plan have given them the same chance that kids before them got & kids after them will get (at an earlier age) ABA services are NOT as effective & in fact are very hard to access for single parents or 2 working parents.

One comment that has stuck with me being a parent with an autistic son, and political blogger:

Two words. Human Rights. This a step backwards, now we have an age five cut off, once upon a time Ontario agreed and removed the age six cut off for IBI. Huge gains can be made by children over five, especially children who are non-speaking. Developmental gains are slower for children with a developmental disability, too bad they are being written off for a chance at appropriate early intervention. Being dumped into a waitlist for ABA services that are inadequate and do little to provide the extent of intervention that children need. All of this to be delivered by bloated transfer payment agencies, instead of direct funding to families to purchase services at a much lower cost.(it’s been proven in multiple reports) I hope that parents will find the strength to come forward to speak out about what is really going on here.

Upset parents have already stated a petition to get the Ontario government to reconsider this policy approach.  I’ve reached out to Autism Ontario to get them to clarify their support for this new policy the government has put forth.

More to come soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more details as they become available.  You can subscribe by e-mail through the subscribe section on the upper right hand section of this blog.  You can also add me to twitter.  I’m @jkobopoli.

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Parent’s Plea To Stop The Bullying In Her Child’s School Goes Viral

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(York Region District School Board Still Plagued With Accountability and Bullying Issues Seven Years After High Profile Rally)

 

Back in 2009, over 400 students walked out of their classrooms denouncing staff at Keswick High School’s decision to wrongfully suspend an Asian student who was the subject of bullying.  This incident in 2009 took the York Region District School Board [YRDSB] off guard and continues to be a black eye on the board regarding how not just Board Trustee Nancy Elgie handled the case, but how the bigotry and blind eye towards victims of abuse ran rampant in York Region Schools.  It wasn’t until media was involved and a public outcry, that Trustee Elgie (who’s profession is a clinical psychologist) and higher ranks at YRDSB actively got involved to correct the situation.  The Keswick High protests brought forth change in YRDSB policy, however not the attitude of the board to listen to students and parents.

Fast forward to 2016.  Seven years after the Keswick High boondoggle, there have been several reports that a school just blocks away is displaying again intolerance around bullying to the point where even the staff seem to be taking an active role in it.  Keswick parent Robin Legault took to facebook in horror, and desperation after feeling nothing was being done to correct her concerns by school staff and the YRDSB.  Legault stated in her facebook post, that she had complained to the school several times regarding the bullying, and staff gave her the cold shoulder:

My fiancé and I have repeatedly complained to the school about these issues in hopes the school staff would rectify this, but it seemed they would just ignore the problem and tell us they were “looking into it”.

Legault goes on to say that as a result of the relentless bullying her daughter tried to take her own life, not once but twice.  Legault was horrified to find out recently that school staff seem to be taking an active role in the abuse of her child.  Legault stated:

On Wednesday March 9th 2016, I was expecting my daughter to have had a really good day at school. I never had any phone calls or anything and was hopeful she had a rare, but peaceful day. Quite the opposite. When she arrived home, she told me that her special education teacher had prevented her to leave the classroom at all costs and also asked another teacher to “make sure she didn’t leave”. Her special education teacher was sending her down to the office and as my daughter asked why she was being sent, the special education teacher demanded her to do ten crunches in front of the class. Every time my daughter opened her mouth to ask what was going on, another ten crunches was added to make a total of eighty crunches that my daughter was forced to do before she left. She was escorted down to the office and remained there for the day. She was not allowed to read, do her schoolwork, or even draw while she was there. When my daughter was finally allowed to return to her special education class, my daughter was terrified to speak, as she didn’t want more crunches. In addition, her teacher told her that something must be wrong with her head and using anxiety and depression is just an excuse.

The facebook post quickly shared by thousands on facebook produced comments from across the country of support and similar issues with other school boards and staff.  Legault, is planning on a rally in front of Jersey Public School Monday March 21st, 2016 at 7:30am to denounce bullying problems at this school with the support of several other concerned parents. She is asking those that plan on attending to wear pink.

Legault has since approached Trustee Elgie, and the superintendent of the school only to be met with threats of a lawsuit from YRDSB, and dismissal of her complaints on staff.  According to YRDSB spokesperson Licinio Miguelo, upon a complaint from a parent on the conduct of school staff the board is supposed to initiate an investigation on the incident at the school.  There has been no indication or documentation provided to Legault that any investigation is ongoing regarding her complaint, just threats of a lawsuit against Legault’s family by the board, nor did Miguelo provide any indication of an ongoing investigation into Legault’s concerns.

Under safe schools legislation YRDSB is supposed to implement anti-bullying programs board-wide.  Miguelo wouldn’t comment on whether in Legault‘s case proper policy was followed citing privacy concerns, and did not have any specific information regarding what anti-bullying programs were in place at Jersey Public School at the time of the interview.  I was told the board would provide that at a later date. In 2010 the Ontario Auditor General found a total of $30 million $50 million in tax payers money earmarked for anti-bullying programs unaccounted for by all school boards across the province.

I spoke with Legault’s Trustee Nancy Elgie today on the record.  When questioning Elgie on the threatening behavior of the board, Elgie acknowledged that the board provided “legal advise” to Legault, and essentially called into question Legault’s story on facebook as being not truthful.  Elgie provided nothing to counter Legault’s claims, nor did she elaborate. Upon questioning regarding the bullying problems at Jersey Public School which is well known in the community, Elgie stated that she hasn’t heard of any systemic bullying issues from parents at this school, meanwhile there is documentation that shows Elgie was e-mailed by the superintendent showing systemic issues being investigated by the board on Legault’s daughters bullies in 2014. Legault stated that Elgie refused to get in contact with her in 2014, along with the superintendent that was copied on the e-mail thread.

When questioning Elgie if she would be willing to meet with concerned parents regarding the bullying issues at this school, Elgie agreed however offered that she would only be there to listen to concerns, and would not offer up any solutions to the systemic bullying issues at Jersey Public School.  Elgie did state however that she will be attending the rally on March 21st.

What saddens me from following this story, is that we just had a national discussion on bullying, to the point where the Federal Government in 2014 tried to address the issue through federal legislation.  The Ontario Government passed safe schools legislation years ago, that seems to be rather voluntary regarding the boards implementation of it.  The country, it’s people, and elected representatives are all on the same page regarding bullying, so why aren’t educators and trustees?

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