Last week, the RSEKN team met to discuss the progress made over the last year and Year 2 plans as of September! As a team, it is exciting to celebrate the successes and reflect on challenges in the first year of the network since the November 16 and November 17 RSEKN Launch.
What systemic barriers to equity exist in your school communities? By explicitly naming system barriers, our team can strategize and act with intention to promote and support equity for marginalized and racialized students. We strive to take a systems-approach to equity, so here are three examples our team named:
- Representation: Seeing racialized and marginalized groups represented in society
- Accessibility: Equitable opportunities for access to resources and inclusive spaces
- Beliefs & Behaviours: What biases, assumptions and attitudes do stakeholders in education have about equity?
In 2014, the Minister of Education published a document entitled “Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools; Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation”. This document outlined systemic barriers to equity in education, with the goal to action plan on how to remove systemic barriers, discriminatory biases, and power dynamics that limit students’ learning potential and to promote inclusive education, and respect for diversity.
Students across Ontario continue to encounter discriminating barriers to learning. One barrier to learning involves suspension and expulsions. In June 2018, RSEKN’s Southern Regional team chose to focus their work on examining equity issues in the area of suspension and expulsions. As a PhD student in School and Applied Child Psychology, I observe barriers for children with disabilities; specifically, children with learning disabilities and ADHD experience frequent barriers in school. Evidently, their learning, attention and consequential behavioral issues impact their learning. However, in their latest Executive Summary, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) identified that these children also experience frequent suspensions, or suggested “school breaks”. In fact, students with these special needs are twice as likely to be suspended than other children. Parents have approached me with stories about receiving calls to pick up their child part way through the day, or told to keep them home for a week or two so that the school can “have a break”. But, how can this approach support a child’s success in learning?
Click here to access full resource – Disability in Canada: A Complete Profile
Well, to say the least, it doesn’t. The NCLD identified that frequent suspensions and “school breaks” lead to less time in class, disrupting potential learning success. Consequently, these students are more likely to dropout of school or are forced to repeat a grade.
The classroom is a place of learning. When you remove a student from the classroom, you remove them from the possibility of learning. This is even more troublesome for students who require additional time and support to achieve success in learning. Frequently removing students from the classroom also affects their emotional and social well-being, and disrupts their peer relationships. Further, suspensions may cause psychological and emotional damage to an already sensitive student with disabilities. This punitive approach is not the answer, and only further deepens the problem.
Finally, we must consider the impact of suspensions or “school breaks” on parents, a group oftentimes forgotten when it comes to education stakeholders. Requiring parents to be available to pick up their child from school part way through the day, or to be home with their child for a week or more, interrupts occupational success and can breed financial instability and familial disruption to name a few stresses. Because of this, many parents are unable to hold a job if they are placed in this position. The punitive approaches produces more problems, than solution and, ultimately, more barriers to inclusion.
Are you a parent or educator? Have a look at the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario for educational resources.
“The disability is not the problem. The accessibility is the problem” – Mohamed Jemmi (TED, 2013).