In the spring of 2012 I was contacted by the mother who had a chilling reminder of why it’s important to question the motives and sensibilities of our public service unions. She and her autistic son were going through hell at the hands of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Local 330 president Silvanna Petersen was waging war a on autism at the Simcoe County School Board by demanding that educators have the right to use martial arts equipment to restrain uppity children:
“They’ll use them as a blocker to just block the aggressor. It is just to protect themselves for the moment until they defuse the situation.”
A couple months later the Simcoe County District School Board cowered to Petersen’s demands and voted 11-1 in favour. Things weren’t looking good for Simcoe County’s autistic kids until PC MPP Rod Jackson stepped-in with a solution- Bill 102, legislation banning the use of “blocker pads”. The bill received unanimous support when I attended the second reading in August 2012. Things were going great, then the legislature prorogued and the bill disappeared.
So, how are things going for Ontario’s autistic kids now? Well, the good news is that Silvanna Petersen has moved onto greener pastures (though it may be bad news for patients of Ontario nurses). Unfortunately, there are still stupid decisions being made, and kids are still paying the price.
Ottawa parents Stephanie Huck and her husband recently shared their story of how her nine year old autistic son ended up in handcuffs at St. Jerome Catholic School in February. They explained to the CBC that their son was throwing chairs, a female police officer responded by restraining him with her cuffs. A spokesperson from the Ottawa Catholic School Board says that the school did the right thing, the parents question how the situation was allowed to escalate as far as it did.
I’ve spoken with number of parents of autistic children and one of the things I believe they’d all agree on is that the proper way to work with their kids isn’t to treat them as “the aggressor”, bang into them with giant blocker pads, or lock them up in handcuffs. One would think educators and school boards (worth their salt) would understand this – it’s Autism 101.
In November 2012, just a few months after the blocker pad incident, it was discovered that the Simcoe County District School Board’s Portage View Public School had a “calming room” – a space the size of a janitorial closet with no windows and stained padded walls. One boy’s parents claim that their 4 year-old son was locked into this space (without their consent) on several occasions.
It was exciting to watch so many members of the legislature all agreeing on Bill 102- like progress would be made. Three years later, there are more problems, and the bill they all cheered for got lost between the cracks. Perhaps, if some people took the time to tweet or contact Rod Jackson and encourage him to take the reigns again- it’s obvious we can’t trust the school boards to do the job.
Meanwhile, At OPSEU…
Meanwhile, in a classic demonstration of the labour movement’s appropriation of “marginalized voices” OPSEU leader Warren “Smokey” Thomas announced that if the province liberalizes beer and wine sales that it will result in Ontarians beating their wives more often. It’s a story so unbelievable I felt compelled to publish a screenshot of the story to confirm it’s true.
The good news here is that it appears the people of Ontario are smarter than Smokey, few people accepted his fish story, and he was forced to withdraw his statement. OPSEU members should take note of all this madness, their union’s leadership appears to be tragically sub-par.