Arrests at school for deaf warning bell for Education ministry

MILTON, ON, Sept. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - The arrests of two deaf students who staged a protest at E.C. Drury School for the Deaf should serve as a warning bell for the province that there are major problems that need immediate attention at Ontario's five schools for Deaf students.

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union who represents support workers at the schools, said that the Ministry of Education has ignored the deficiencies at the school for too long. "When it reaches the point that two students subject themselves to arrest by police, it's well past time that the government starts paying attention" Thomas said. "These students deserve the same opportunities that every Ontario student enjoys, instead of getting a second-rate education due to a disability."

Also at issue is the reduction of hours for residence counsellors at the schools. Most students live at the schools during the week and go home on the weekend. Residence counsellors provide direct care in during non-classroom hours. Chris Cormier, a residence counsellor for 16 years at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville and Regional OPSEU Vice-President, said the union has raised a variety of issues including safety for the students and quality of care, which senior managers have ignored.

"Due to cuts to support staff there is hardly any continuing of care for students at the school," Cormier said. "Residence counsellors have seen their hours slashed which means there are no counsellors looking after students in the morning. We used to also meet with students in the afternoon, and those hours have been cut as well."

Thomas said he fears that the Ministry of Education is deliberately sabotaging these schools in order to justify closing them or handing them to the private sector.

"Inadequate staffing, a deficient curriculum and general disrespect for these students by those in charge all add up to a government who either doesn't care, or has plans to abandon these students and their families altogether. Either way, this is tragic for the students who are only trying to get a quality education in a province that continually boasts about educational priorities."

OPSEU represents 500 support services staff at the province's five provincial schools.

SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU)

For further information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas: 416-443-8888; Chris Cormier: 613-921-5346

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http://www.opseu.org

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