British Columbia

Victoria school district tracking how often special needs students are asked to miss class

The Greater Victoria School District is starting to track how often special needs students are asked to miss school after parents raised concerns about a lack of inclusion.

‘Even one child being asked to leave is is unacceptable'

The Victoria School Board has begun a review into how often and under what circumstances special needs students arrive early or late or miss school entirely. (CBC)

The Greater Victoria School District is starting to track how often students with special needs are asked to miss school after parents raised concerns about a lack of inclusion.  

The school district is looking at why special needs students arrive late, leave early or miss school entirely as well as how frequently they are asked to do so.

"We're just really at the beginning of collecting the information," said school board chair Jordan Watters.

"We're certainly not seeing high numbers … but if it happens once, that's too much."

Being asked to miss school goes against the idea of inclusion, Watters emphasized.

"Public school is for everyone," she told Khalil Akhtar, guest host of CBC's On the Island.

"The only reason a child would be asked to miss school is if we're not able to meet their needs and obviously everybody in the school building wants to meet that child's needs."

Different levels of inclusion

A recent survey by the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that 132 students in B.C. were being scheduled for less than half a day of school on a regular basis. Overall, more than 370 parents reported their children missed some school during the last academic year. 

Watters pointed out that some cases where a student doesn't attend a full day at school is voluntary.

"Inclusion looks different for every child," she said.

"For some children, inclusion might mean attending a half day, because that's what works best for them with their complex needs."

The district is only tracking classrooms exclusions that are outside of the student's individual education plan — namely, when there is not adequate staff or school support to be able to include the child fully.

"We need to put more supports in place, there's just no two ways about it," Watters said. "Even one child being asked to leave is is unacceptable."   

In addition to tracking the number of cases, the school district is advocating at the provincial level for more funding.

"This is a systemic issue around the province, meeting the needs of all children as it is a challenging proposition," she said. "We face major challenges around funding levels that make it difficult."

The Greater Victoria School District is starting to track how often special needs students are asked to miss school after parents raised concerns about a lack of inclusion. 7:24

With files from On The Island

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