Sunday, April 14, 2024

Children being sent home due to educational assistant shortage

First Published:

A shortage of educational assistants (EAs) at a Hamilton elementary school means some kids are being sent home because there isn’t enough staff to support their needs. This is leaving parents frustrated and looking for answers.

READ MORE: CUPE education workers vote to ratify contract with government

4-year-old Desmond has autism and requires support at school. He is non-verbal, not toilet trained, and needs assistance when eating. Usually, support comes from educational assistants.

Desmond’s mom Amanda Strong says his school has been calling her more regularly to bring him home because there is no one available to support him.

“They had said that he couldn’t be here. There was no one to change his diaper, they could hold him for about an hour until I could get here,” Strong said.

Strong says she’s concerned about what her son is missing out on, “Yeah he can’t talk, he’s not toilet trained, but he still deserves to be here. He still deserves the right to his education.”

READ MORE: Ontario fails to meet goal of funding 8,000 kids for autism therapy

Amanda isn’t the only one dealing with this issue, other parents outside Cootes Paradise elementary school told CHCH News that they’re frustrated.

The president of the union representing Hamilton educational assistants (COPE Local 527) Susan Lucek says schools across the board are dealing with the same issue and that there is a shortage of all support staff not just EAs.

“We have seen a mass exodus of our members this year. Since September, we’ve had 44 resignations. The violence and the pay are a lot of the reasons why our members are leaving,” Lucek said.

READ MORE: Staff injuries hike in Hamilton public schools from student attacks

When it comes to violence against support staff Lucek says the system is the problem, not the kids, “kids are lacking the support in the education system that they need… we need more funding allocated to the school boards, this is from the provincial level, and the school boards need to start allocating their funding properly, as far as I’m concerned.”

In a statement sent to CHCH News, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) said in part, “this is a provincial labour shortage. We acknowledge there may be impacts on students and families, but everything will be done to support the student’s participation in school.”

Parents say they are going to continue to call for more support.

READ MORE: McMaster professors show support of teaching, research assistant strike

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