Some of the issues at the heart of the teachers’ strike are similar to the problems faced by the police and the general public in dealing with people with mental-health issues.
Years ago, people with mental-health issues were cared for in specialized institutions, such as hospitals and group homes. Government policies then dictated the closure of these facilities and the dispersion of those in care into the general community. Although promises were made to provide the resources needed for their successful integration into community life, those promises were never kept.
As a result, many have fallen through the holes in our social safety net, and have ended up living on the streets. Police officers are now required to be social workers. The financial and social costs associated with homelessness, addictions, prostitution and crime are huge.
In a similar way, years ago students with special needs were taught in specialized schools or classes. Once again, government policy dictated the closure of these facilities and the dispersal of special-needs students into regular school classrooms.
Although promises were made to provide the resources needed for their safe and successful integration into the general school population, those promises have not been kept.
When teachers today talk about class size and composition, they are talking about the problems caused by the failure to support a policy of inclusion with adequate resources.
Guidelines from the Ministry of Education state there shouldn’t be more than three special-needs students in a class unless the teacher has been consulted. As almost any teacher or student will tell you, the behaviour of only one student who needs, but does not get, adequate support can disrupt an entire class.
Morally speaking, inclusion is the right thing to do, but like many morally right things, it comes with a cost. Improperly implemented and inadequately supported, it is an economic and social disaster that creates problems far more costly to fix than prevent. Just ask the police on the Downtown Eastside.
Donald Fleming, White Rock