Victoria school board’s stand on special needs students raises ire

On Feb. 20, parents concerned about a lower quality of education for all students spoke out against the Victoria school board’s position.

The government should maintain limits on the number of special needs students in each classroom for the sake of all students, say parents and teachers upset at the Greater Victoria Board of Education’s efforts to see those limits lifted.

Arguing that identifying students as special needs breeds discrimination, the board asked Education Minister George Abbott to remove the restrictions in place under Bill 33.

On Feb. 13 the board formalized the sentiment in a letter to the minister. It was backed by the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, a group representing several parent advisory council committees across the Capital Region.

On Feb. 20, parents concerned that an increased workload for teachers leads to a lower quality of education for all students spoke out against the board’s position.

Rachel Franklin, chair of the École Margaret Jenkins School Parent Advisory Council, made it clear her PAC is strongly opposed to the views expressed by the board and the confederation of parent groups.

“This is a very small group of parents with a very specific agenda that’s not very well hidden,” she said.

Families are going without representation by not being able to attend the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils meetings, added teacher and parent Nicole Strong.

“There are far too many students who don’t have a designation, but who struggle and need support,” said D’Arcy Wingrove, director with the Confederation.

“We need to work in partnership with the entire school community to ensure resources are allocated equitably, not necessarily equally.”

The Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association also spoke out against repealing Bill 33 and asked the board to rescind its letter.

“The reality of the situation is special education funding in the province is atrociously lacking,” Franklin said.