By Nicole Kaler
Today, BCEdAccess is releasing the interim report:
I want to share my experience about how my daughter was subjected to discrimination, and discuss how retaliation affects advocacy.
“We had already discussed and agreed on the plan, so I was frustrated by the 3rd time I asked for follow-through on part of the IEP. I sent yet another email, including the whole school team, that sounded like this:
Hi staff member. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding because you are not doing what you agreed to and what my child needs. Respectfully
Next morning when we arrived at school we were greeted with an eye roll. I took a deep breath and had a pretend internal conversation with this staff member:
“Ok. We are not friends. Got it. I can’t care about much beyond taking care of my child anyways. Please just do your job. Thank you.”
The pretend exchange was all I needed to go home relaxed and excited for the day that my daughter was going to have. She was very happy to arrive and see her Education Assistant (EA), who she had a great relationship with. She deserved a good day and we were moving forward.
At pick up she was miserable. The notes from the school confirmed that she struggled most of the day. In confidence I was told that the EA had been sent to the office to photocopy materials several times, leaving my daughter in the classroom. That triggered a series of problems that compounded throughout the day.
I sent another email:
Hi. Just a reminder that as per every psych ed/professional assessment provided and as mutually agreed, M requires close supervision, thank you (with a smiley face).
And so it began. Everytime I forced my hand on one issue we lost ground on something else. The cause and effect were subtle and it messed with me badly. I was transformed from an informed advocate with a clear plan to meet goals, to an unwilling participant in a balancing act of adult emotional tolerance. I went forming partnerships to help the school take the best care of my child possible, to strategizing compromises to bank wiggle room for requests.
I am not naive. I know there are consequences to disrupting well established discriminatory practices. People don’t like having their authority challenged and retaliation is the tool of oppression. But I also knew about the experiences of other families: harassment, threats of being reported to MCFD, children restrained and locked in rooms. None of that ever happened to us, so who am I to talk about the stress and reality of retaliation?
This new report from the Exclusion Tracker reminded me that we cannot underestimate the power of microaggressions to control our behaviour and willingness to advocate. I encourage parents to read this report and never trivialise any action/experience that makes you compromise your goals for your child or youth because “it could be worse” or “at least they are not (insert one of the horrible things that happen to others)”.
Most of all please continue to use the Exclusion Tracker so that we can bring attention to the experiences that deny our children an education.”
Report the exclusion of your child/youth here: