Education and Early Childhood Development Critic Lorraine Michael is concerned about an amendment to the Schools Act that may disadvantage the inclusion of children with disabilities.
Michael (MHA, St. John’s East - Quidi Vidi) says Bill 10, which was debated in the House yesterday, will give the School Districts the right to refuse to admit to schools students whose presence is deemed to be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of students or staff. Michael says such powers in some other jurisdictions with similar legislation have led to children with disabilities being kept out of schools.
“I ask the Minister what plan does he have to ensure that such situations do not increase in our schools because of this amendment to the Schools Act?” Michael said in Question Period.
Michael says the inclusion policies for our educational system are supposed to ensure that all children can be accommodated in our schools. Some children have disabilities that may cause behavioural problems over which they have little or no control and that require extra human resources in schools for their own safety and the safety of others.
“I ask the Minister what is his plan for increasing resources in our educational system to meet the challenges of maintaining inclusion for children with disabilities in school facilities and activities as identified by the Premier's Task Force on Education?” Michael said.
Michael asked if these policies, to be put in place by the two school boards based on guidelines provided by the Department, will include a clear statement that the legislation and policies will not be used to deny admission to children with disabilities because human resources are not available for them in the school.
Michael says while the Minister insists that the amendment only pertains to outside events where suspension can’t be used, she says nothing in the amendment specifies this.
“What will prevent this amendment – Bill 10 – being used to force children with disabilities out of school when services are not available for them?”