If you were following my articles back in the springtime, you will probably remember my stories about how the Simcoe County District School Board approved the use of martial arts blocker pads against autistic children. The incident created quite a stir, and the articles got a lot of attention. By August, the problem was brought to the Ontario Legislature and a private members bill was voted on and advanced to the committee stage. Unfortunately, when McGuinty shut-down the legislature, that bill was lost.
This week things got worse in Simcoe County when it was discovered that the Portage View Public School had, without parental authorization, sent a 4-year old child into a ‘calming room’- the elementary school version of a rubber room used in the mental health field…
The calming room is a small space, about the size of a janitorial closet, with padded walls (with yellow stains on them) and a small window that was too high for the child to look out of. There were also two rubber balls for the child to play with- one red, and one orange. The room was totally soundproof too, which apparently was quite scary for this 4-year old child.
According to the school district’s policy, calming rooms are not to be used as punishment. More importantly, calming rooms are not to be used unless the parents have signed-off on having their child placed there. In this case, the parents had no idea their child was put into a calming room until after the third time it happened. The school’s logs indicate that the child was placed in the room on Sept. 18, Oct. 2 and Oct. 11- but, there is no indication in the logs how long the child was kept there.
Needless to say they were far from impressed…
There are a couple big problems here. First, the parents weren’t notified- this was not only against the school board’s rules, but it is a violation of the trust parent’s place in the school they send their children too. The next problem is that the school’s logs don’t record how long a child is kept in the calming room- making it impossible to properly audit how they are being used.
I’ve been in regular contact with one of the parents who I interviewed about the martial arts blocker pad issue- and, I must say, listening to their stories, it has been clear to me that something is seriously wrong in Simcoe County. They tell me that there is an almost adversarial relationship between them, their child, and the teaching assistants in the school. Each time I’ve got an update on the situation it leaves me wanting to cry.
This is not an isolated incident- what we are seeing here is a pattern of abusive behaviour and a cavalier attitude towards the welfare of Simcoe County’s children. This is the same school board that refused to vote against the blocker pads- only one member of the board, Caroline Smith, was sensible enough to vote against blocker pads. And, now, this happens.
It’s time for the members of the Simcoe County School Board (with the exception of Caroline Smith) to immediately resign. There’s no excuse for this sort of thing to happen, again, on their watch. They have been sleeping on the job, and playing politics over the needs of the children they are supposed to be supporting. There are no more excuses- it’s time for a change….