Yes, there was an in camera meeting before the public meeting.
McNally: That the Board of Education SD61 Greater Victoria direct the Superintendent to report by category, monthly in the public Board meeting, aggregate numbers of exclusions of students with special needs outside the students’ IEP and / or daily plan, including: 1. being asked to stay home 2. being sent home 3. being dropped off late and or picked up early busing service 4. being excluded from field trips(s) 5. being sent out of the regular classroom to the resource room, sensory / isolation room, or other space.
Motion to amend (Duncan): In doing so, the Superintendent will adhere to the Ministry of Education Policy on the Protection of Personal Information when Reporting on Small Populations which applies to all school, district and ministry staff responsible for reporting or otherwise publicly releasing personal information and any other organization reporting information provided by the Ministry of Education. The Policy is intended to prevent the possibility of associating statistical or aggregate data with an identifiable individual.
For: Duncan, Hentze, McNally, Paynter, Whiteaker Against: Ferris, Leonard, Painter, Watters
Motion as amended: Defeated.
For: Duncan, McNally, Paynter.
Against: Ferris, Hentze, Leonard, Painter, Watters, Whiteaker
Debate summary (Meeting agenda and video here. The motion was second to last on the agenda, so debate and the vote is near the end of the video.)
A report from the province-wide parent organization BCEdAccess says key issues behind the exclusions include a lack of education assistants, insufficient training for support staff, and the effects of a lack of continuity for the children themselves. The report says many parents are agreeing to keep their children home or pick them up early, not knowing that it’s an option to refuse. This places obvious financial strain on a group of parents that is already under considerable strain. Education Minister Fleming said he’s heard from BC Ed Access, and other parents and advocates for children with disabilities. He said “We need to get better together. We certainly want to hear from this organization and others about where there’s further room for improvement.” The ministry is also collecting its own data on where and why children are being excluded. So is SD61. Making this data public in the broad categories in the motion will help parents and trustees work together to advocate strongly for students with high needs for support, needs that are not being met.
This reporting will not identify individual students. The Ministry of Education has guidelines for reporting on small populations. A small population is defined as a population of 9 or fewer. Clearly, there are more than 9 students with special needs in SD61. I have never heard one parent of a child with special needs express any concern about the possibility of identifying their child in such a report. Exclusion is not some kind of shame for the child. Its an identifier of a gap in the public education system. We can use public data to be better advocates for a vulnerable population of children and their often exhausted parents whose lives have become endless advocacy for their children. I hope my colleagues will agree to join those parents by publishing this data in the spirit of transparency and solidarity with those parents and students.
This motion first came to the Board September 10, 2018 on the agenda of the Education Policy and Directions Standing Committee. At the time, pre the civic election, Trustees were Leonard (first elected 1996), Ferris (1999), Orcherton (1999), Loring-Kuhanga (2011 – not standing for election), McNally (2011), Nohr (2011 – not standing for election), Paynter (2014), Watters (2014), Whiteaker (2014). Debate is at C.5 The motion carried unanimously. My intent was not that the report go in camera. But it’s public knowledge that in camera meetings is where the report wound up, after Whiteaker commented that she “understood the reports would be in camera” at the September 2018 Board meeting (D.1 ii) .
But no motion to take that report in camera has been recorded in the official minutes of that meeting.
Continuing December 16 debate:
- Hentze: Mixed feelings about reporting out. How are we getting the information? Might not be coming forward in a complete fashion. We’re not going to get good enough data.
- Whiteaker: Great deal of empathy for this group but this is not going to achieve the end parents want. Parents need to advocate for their child in the IEP meetings. This is how we change things. [I wonder if any parents have tried this.]
- Ryan Painter: What is the “why” behind the numbers? This is data without context and doesn’t get us more equity.
- Watters: Data reported in aggregate in June.
- Duncan: We are already collecting this information.
- Ferris: This would be a lot of work for no result. I don’t need this information.
- Rob Paynter: Won’t solve the problem but it’s an issue we need to have in front of us to keep our awareness high.
- Watters (second time speaking): I don’t need it on a public report. We get the context in camera. [We don’t.] This motion is making a political point on the backs of students. May have a negative effect on the quality of data. [Chair asks Superintendent for comment]
- Superintendent: Still have serious concerns with student privacy. [More on video record, though difficult to hear.]
- Jodi Whiteman (VCPAC Chair): Would like to speak to this motion.
- Watters: Too late. Debate has occurred. [VCPAC leaves the table, public seats, and the Board room before the vote.]
Bylaw 9360 General Meeting of the Board: In addition to the opportunities to present at Standing Committees, employee partner groups including the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 947 and Local 382), the Victoria Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC), Esquimalt and Songhees Nations, Youth Representatives Committee, and the Victoria Principals and Vice-Principals Association (VPVPA), are able to provide comment on specific motions prior to them being voted on by the Board. The Board Chair will ask stakeholder representatives whether they would like to provide comment on motions prior to the Board of Education considering the motion. Each stakeholder representative will have up to two minutes to provide comment through the Chair.
See you on January 6, 2020.