Group meets with Minister Broten, concerned about use of shields in Ontario schools
’Blocker shields don’t maintain dignity of students’
Wednesday May 23, 2012 -- Michelle Strutzenberger
A group held a press conference at Queen's Park last week regarding the use of blocker shields with students who have a disability.
Social justice lawyer James Lockyer, Angie Bridekirk of Integration Action for Inclusion and chair of the Simcoe County District School Board special education advisory committee (SEAC), self-advocate Kelly McDougall and Laura LaChance representing Community Living Ontario, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and Simcoe board SEAC, presented Wed., May 18.
As a result, they were able to meet with Education Minister Laurel Broten, who heard their concerns inside the legislature.
The media conference was sparked after Barrie MPP Rod Jackson raised the issue in the legislature several weeks ago, following CTV breaking the story March 26 on the use of the shields at a Barrie high school.
LaChance says the message the group wants heard is that there must be a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of everyone.
The concern is that the use of these blocker shields does not promote that climate and in fact infringes on students’ rights.
“Even though we understand and support that there must be workplace safety, there needs to be a way to align all the different legislations in a way that maintains the dignity of students,” says LaChance.
She notes the group highlighted to the minister that the use of these shields in public will unfairly increase public misconception around people who already face a strong social stigma because of their disability.
The group and parents have asked that the use of blocker shields in the Simcoe board be stopped, and that some other way be found to work with the students.
They are hoping the minister will step in and support their request.
The Simcoe board is currently undertaking a consultation, with plans for a report on June 13.
LaChance says the board had hoped the issue would be resolved more quickly, but there has been some contention slowing the process. Some of the politicizing is that people feel it must be blocker shields, "or nothing," but that’s certainly not the case.
She says it’s been shown the use of the shields is not an evidence-based practice, and may in fact worsen a person’s behaviour.
The group has received many letters of support from families and individuals. Some community agencies have also offered to help school boards create personalized support plans for students that would help them self-regulate and at the same time ensure workplace safety.
People can help bring awareness to the issue by contacting their MPPs. They may also want to review what is happening in their own schools, to ensure the proper paperwork and discussions have been worked through, says LaChance, particularly with regards to how children who have a disability are managed when they have a meltdown.
LaChance notes it has not been possible to document to date how many Ontario schools use blocker shields.
To learn more, feel free to contact LaChance at laura [dot] lachance [at] sympatico [dot] ca.