COLIN MACKAY: Support for EAs needed, not reports


By Colin MacKay, Intelligencer Writers Group

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 1:08:52 EST PM

BELLEVILLE – Dressing Hastings Prince Edward educational assistants (EAs) up in protective gear more akin to an NFL linebacker, or SWAT team member, doesn’t really solve the problem of violence in classrooms.

After reading Tim Miller’s excellent report, ‘EA funding formula gets an F,’ most educational personnel expressed that money from special education grants was not being targeted efficiently or effectively, and this trend has been going on for 20 years. Typically, politicians, in positions of power, continue to study incidents and then write reports. EAs do not need yet another stupid time-wasting report to read or continue to fill out incident reports. As a former ETFO member, it’s obvious, EAs need solutions to get classroom violence under control — now.

If ‘Jimmy,’ a four-year-old JK student, throws a tantrum, empties paint on brand new carpets, threatens other students with scissors, and basically destroys a classroom, an EA’s hands are tied during the event. Touching a student is rarely allowed, yet, there are times when it would appear to be warranted. Usually, in a case such as this one, the rest of the class is removed until the unruly child has calmed down and it is safe for the remainder of the class to return. The EA is supposed to patiently let the student run roughshod over the entire classroom, and then attempt to remove the student. Then, according to protocol, will write an incident report within 24 hours that, supposedly, someone reads.

One solution would be to suspend this child for at least a day and return him to the care of his parent(s). In other words, there is a consequence for totally inappropriate behaviour. But, no, not now. Instead, Jimmy may end up in the office with a sucker, with coddling continuing. No doubt Jimmy is just having an off day will be the typical administration response. The trend for the most part, is that, for reason, principals are fearful of implementing any disciplinary measures.

Obviously, an attempt to contact the parent will be made, and the parent will be asked to come in for a chat. Far too often, the parental response is to deflect responsibility. The parent, in some form, will essentially question, “What did the teacher do to set Jimmy off?” Taking responsibility for Jimmy’s actions is whose responsibility? EAs shouldn’t have to take on the role of parenting. There must be consequences for this type of misbehaviour.

Is it the job of the public school system to delve into myriad social issues? If the answer is yes, then a special grant needs to be set up for ‘social issues’ separate from the special education grants. This way, the money is specifically targeted for behavioural specialists. An EA’s main focus should be to help the teacher with scholastic activities, not be society’s interveners for social ills.

Curtailing system-wide EQAO would be one way to fund additional, and apparently required, EA support in schools. Sampling from schools, rather than continuing to have system-wide testing, would free up additional monies, that would be far more useful inside the classroom. Once again, this additional money could be focussed on an EA grant, which would be a change from the current funding formula. Targeting the number of EAs needed within a school board, rather than attaching the money loosely via a special education grant, would be an improvement.

Solutions rather than needless reports are required for EAs in schools to help reduce violence in classrooms. Give principals the ability to suspend, as consequences are needed for unacceptable behaviour. Change the funding formula to target money specifically for EAs. Decide if schools are now responsible for society’s social ills. Solutions do exist.