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She's my golden girl, the poster child for All-Canadian, like cheddar cheese and hockey. From collecting the eggs under her heritage breed chickens to driving her ATV to check on the newest calf to diving off the platform at a swim meet to finishing her school work early, my 10 year old gives every fibre of her being into doing.

But not earlier this month. Earlier this month she'd been benched because of a broken finger, injured playing soccer during physed splintclass. I don't blame the child who kicked her hand with such force a bone fragmented. With appropriate supports this child would have processed the fact that the ball was out of play and inappropriate to kick. That a student's hands were on the ball putting them in danger of being injured. That indoor soccer requires less forceful kicks because the game play area is much smaller. You might say well then, sit the kid out if these concepts aren't understood. But that goes against the entire principle behind accommodations. Accommodations, if done correctly, put the individual at the same level as those not needing accommodations so that they may participate fully rather than watch life pass them by.

I don't blame the teachers or educational support personnel. They are trying to create an inclusive environment as is the right of every student but without the supports, or funding, required to truly meet the needs of children with accommodations while ensuring the safety of all students and staff.

I don't blame the principal who follows ministry guidelines and best practices while restrained by financial limitations. They are working within a flawed system as best they can, as are boards of education.

Inclusion itself is not the problem. I have an intimate understanding of accommodations as I return to work needing them after a physical illness. But inherent in inclusivity is dignity and respect and acceptance of differing types of functioning. There is no dignity to be found when your peers fear and despise you. There are no positive lessons to be learned from students seeing their peers and support staff hit, spit upon, kicked, and verbally tormented. What they begin to accept is that school is about anxiety and boundary violations. What they are learning is hopelessness, helplessness, and ultimately apathy. If you can't escape something you must endure it and to endure it you must shut it out or shut yourself down. Our children, both with special needs and without, deserve better than this.

A flawed funding model used by the ministry of education put my daughter in a position of risk, and she is paying the price. Fortunately, she did not require surgery and no longer needs a splint, but still has pain and achiness in her hand. Because the needs of students with risky, unpredictable, impulsive, and frequently aggressive behaviours are not being appropriately met, classrooms, hallways, and buses have become rife with acts of violence. Right now all across Ontario, students and staff are afraid to go to school. They are afraid of classrooms where the toxic atmosphere is reminiscent of domestic violence because adults and children alike walk on eggshells knowing something awful is going to happen, just not sure when, how, or to whom. This daily trauma, this stressful strain of anticipatory dread, interferes with learning. And all children deserve, and have a right to, a healthy safe learning environment.

I'm calling you out, Mitzie Hunter, for failing my golden girl. For creating an environment which has inhibited her ability to reach her full potential. For not keeping her safe. It's on you, Mitzie.

Kathy Bell







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