Teachers are condemning comments made by a Liberal candidate in northern B.C., who says that "grief" in the classroom caused by special needs children has caused public school enrolment to decline.
"When you've got special needs children in classes with other children, it does create some issues. I know that I've heard that across the province. It causes some grief," said Peace River North candidate Pat Pimm at a recent all-candidates forum.
"'How do you deal with that?' is a really hard question," Pimm said.
"It's causing the teachers extra time and trouble and it's certainly, I think, is causing some students to move into other areas in the private sector as well," he added.
The claim was flatly rejected by special education teacher Mary Tremain, vice-president of the Peace River North Teachers' Association.
"If you talk to the parents of any child in school, most of them would be more supportive of having all those little kids there. I can't imagine who Mr. Pimm has been speaking too," said Tremain.
Pimm says he fully supports integrating special needs students in the public school classroom, and was simply reflecting concerns he has heard from parents.
"Some parents have expressed concerns that teachers have to work too hard, extra hard with special needs kids," Pimm told CBC News.
Tremain agrees that teachers are strained, but says that's because of a lack of resources for special education.
"He referred to issues, grief, extra time and trouble. And quite honestly, I think that those things stem from the fact that teachers and the whole education system is just not supported well enough," she said.