Boy’s schooling up in the air

Bonnie Belec
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Mom says officials being unfair by limiting hours

The treatment a little boy is receiving at a St. John’s elementary school is nothing short of emotional abuse, says his mother.
And now the family will have the whole summer to think about it.

Zachary Adams hasn’t been attending full school days due to behavioural issues.  His mother doesn’t believe that’s fair. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

“They said he’s staying on reduced days (in September),” Christina Adams told The Telegram Thursday after a meeting with officials from St. Andrew’s Elementary.

Over the past five months, her son Zachary Adams hasn’t been attending full school days and has been unable to participate in field trips and outings.

During free time, such as recess and before classes start in the morning, she said he has to sit in the office because they don’t want him around other children.

“They said he’s a safety risk. I understand where they’re coming from, but it’s not always his fault and, when he’s having good days, why can’t they let him stay and learn with his friends?” she said, becoming emotional.

Adams said she’s the first to admit Zachary can be difficult and hard to handle, having been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and other behavioural issues during the past couple of years.

But she’s adamant that keeping him out of school is the wrong action to take.

“He’s not learning as much as he should. He’s missing out playing with his friends. He’s such a good little boy and nobody sees it. I don’t think the school is doing what it should be doing to help us,” Adams said.

She thumbs through a journal that contains messages sent home about Zachary on a daily basis.

“Refused to come to sit on the floor and participate. Refused to write in his agenda. You know children with ADHD find it hard to sit still and write. To me, all I see is emotional abuse towards my son,” said Adams.

“I said that to them at the meeting and they weren’t very happy, but I don’t know what else to think. He’s not getting the help he needs.”

While Zachary has had his moments, she said it all came to a head in January when he was suspended after an aggressive outburst towards a student and staff members. A letter says he pushed a student and was running “uncontrollably around the classroom.”

Once in the office, he threw chairs, hitting and injuring a teacher and punched staff.

Again, Adams said she understands the safety issue, but she questions why is it happening.

“I don’t know. I’m not there. What is causing him to do this? This is what we need to look at,” she said.

Schools and board officials aren’t permitted to speak about individual students and their circumstances.

However, Lucy Warren, assistant director of programs for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, said suspending students is a last resort for schools.

“It is a punitive measure, and that is not where our first choice would be,” she said in an interview Friday.

“We have positive behavioural intervention supports in our schools and suspension is only for the most extreme cases and then we  put supports in place for the student and a transition to return to school,” said Warren.

She explained the use of reduced days or partial-day programing is a strategy schools use in extenuating circumstances for students who have challenges with being in school full days.

For those students, Warren explained a team puts together an educational plan, but only after a long list of other interventions have been tried and proven to be unsuccessful.

“When we put it in place, it is reviewed every two weeks by the team who looks at how the child has responded while in school,” she said.

“Our goal is to always increase the amount of time a child is in school. As soon as we see progress, we would increase that time, and it is ongoing. The intent is to increase the partial day as soon as a student is able to function for longer periods of time,” said Warren.

Zachary’s mother said she hasn’t seen any of that going on with her child and has since sought the help of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.

When contacted by The Telegram Friday, advocate Carol Chafe said she is unable to discuss individual cases.

However, she did say concerns about educational issues is an example of the type of calls her office receives.

“We get contacts and calls on different issues that can relate to education, health, justice or housing,” she said.

“For school issues, we will assess what the situation is and see what our role can be in terms of helping parents and schools come to a resolution while always focusing on ensuring the rights of the child are the focus and they receive the services they need,” said Chafe.

She said if a child is experiencing any type of health issue and/or behavioral issue, parents should consult with their family doctor who can refer the child to the appropriate health professionals.

And parents should work collaboratively with health professionals and school officials to develop a plan that focuses on the needs of the child, while also ensuring the safety of all involved.

Chafe said if a parent or professional is concerned that the rights of the child are not being considered, or that services are not meeting the child’s needs, they can contact her office by phone at 709-753-3888, toll free at 1-877-753-3888 or via email at office@ocya.nl.ca.

bbelec@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Office of the Child

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Recent comments

  • T grant
    June 25, 2014 - 10:48

    my son attended St. Andrew's and they would also send him home too. He has Autism and comes with behaviors!! This not good enough for the children who cannot help what their brains do. Heads up there are other schools in the st. john's area that send kids home for the behaviors too not just St. Andrew's!!

  • Jason Adams
    June 23, 2014 - 18:56

    This is my nephew. As I see it. He needs more one on one or even put in a special program. Schools aren't equipped with the knowledge or expertise to deal with children different types of behavioral issues. Schools should be better equipped but they aren't. And the children with behavioral issues just get swept under the rug or labeled as a problem child. More should be done and it doesn't like much is being done.

    • T grant
      June 25, 2014 - 11:09

      You are so right Jason. The same thing happened to my Autistic (16) son when he attended st. Andrew's. The Government doesn't give enough money to hire more supports and education processes for teachers and others to learn how to deal with these Children! Bravo to your sister to voice this in the media! This is hurtful, stressful and families this day age should not have to worry about a childs education! I hope Zachary's school hours change for the better!!

  • Bob Yetman
    June 22, 2014 - 08:01

    So much for inclusion. Hire more student assistants to be with this young man.

  • Tee
    June 22, 2014 - 06:17

    Sounds like the school is doing the right thing. Has this mother even thought about how her child's acts are affecting the other children at school. This is not a decision that the school would make lightly.

  • Taylor
    June 22, 2014 - 00:36

    Just wanted to let you know, you are not alone. My son was reduced to 30mins a day, and not even that time was "educational." He only acted out in school, and we have official diagnosis and a team of medical professionals - however the school board has a soft cap ratio of 24:1. THINK about that, in your office, with 48 feet, moving chairs, dropping pens, tapping their pencils, whispering, open and closing doors. Our children TRY to keep it together as long as possible, and sometimes the only way for them to get a break is for them to run, hide, cover their ears and get away from the distractions around them. The sensory input being thrown at them on a day-to-day basis is OVERwhelming. In Feb, when our soon came to the point of shaking getting ready to go to school, at EIGHT, saying to himself "i can make it through the day"....we decided enough is enough. We pulled him, we discussed home-schooling, took a leave from work and got him the education he DESERVES...but WE DID it - not the school board, not the zoned school, no one from there has even BOTHERED to return phone calls. My son will finish grade 2 on Wednesday coming, and I am CONFIDENT that he understands the curriculum, the outcomes, and the standards. He would NEVER have gotten that support through the English School District. A good motto for anyone teaching: ""If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn"

  • BOB
    June 21, 2014 - 15:13

    I always shake my head when reading stories like this when all the facts aren't know. I'm not saying this isn't a true story. However, when due to privacy issues, only one side can tell it's story, I always question the validity. I'm surprised media outlets even pick up these stories. I hope for the sake of this child and the teachers, something is worked out.

  • Michelle
    June 21, 2014 - 11:40

    Yeah, sure, they'll put this poor kid on half-days, but if you have a bully in the classroom or in the school who's torturing other kids, it's next to impossible to get them out of the school. Honest to god, the educational system in this province is ass-backwards.

  • Penney
    June 21, 2014 - 11:15

    This boy is falling through the cracks in the education system and while he clearly has issues, as his mother states, neither the school board nor the administrators of the school he is attending are making any efforts to accommodate his needs. Sounds like they have placed a target on his back and have determined that his disorders are too much trouble to contend with. I appreciate the concern for safety and the needs of the other children but it's not okay to sacrifice one child for the good of the others. This boy deserves an education too and not to be treated like an outcast while he is in school. Alienating him and segregating him doesn't sound like correct steps to take and I think would probably have a very adverse affect on his behavior. I hope the school board takes a good hard look at how this situation is being handled and takes some very direct actions to correct the wrongs against this boy.

  • fay
    June 21, 2014 - 09:17

    I watched a program once about children with these medical issues. there was another school having the same problems but suspending or keeping them away from others is not the answer. what one teacher did was before she would start classes, the children would work out on tread mills and other equipment before sitting down to start their work. They found that the children worked out all their built up energy and they were able to focus and learn more. I can't remember which program it was, but it was a show like W5. Maybe if the teachers and schools would work together with the parents instead of just causing more stress on the child , they would benefit more children in the same situation. I hope this helps and best of luck.

  • Sheila
    June 21, 2014 - 08:33

    Special needs children deserve the help and support of the community at large and especially the education community. If it can be determined that full days are too much for this child then 1/2 days would be best. If it is a medication issue then that needs to me addressed. Providing this child an education is most important but also is the need to protect students and staff from violent outbursts. Being distracting in class is one thing assaulting people is a different matter and cannot be allowed.

  • Gerald Vaandering
    June 21, 2014 - 06:15

    Yet another child plastered across the front page of the newspaper demonstrating a controversial issue. No sense of a right to protect the boys identity or his integrity as a person. This will follow this boy for a long time in his life, especially locally.

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