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News Release March 23, 2007

COPE Vancouver School Board Trustees to move motion demanding public consultation process after BC Education Minister Shirley Bond holds closed-door, invitation-only meeting in Vancouver on plans for separate “provincial” schools for special needs children

VANCOUVER – Three Vancouver School Board Trustees will ask the Board to pass a motion demanding the province hold a full public consultation process after Education Minister Shirley Bond’s staff held a closed-door, invitation-only meeting in Vancouver last week about creating separate “provincial” schools for special needs children.

The Coalition Of Progressive Electors trustees say it is totally inappropriate for the Education Ministry to be holding private meetings like the one held at a Vancouver hotel last Friday March 16 with a carefully selected audience to discuss setting up a separate provincial school.

“Where is the public consultation on such a fundamental change in education policy – and a change that is opposed by so many groups representing those with special needs?” asked VSB Trustee Al Blakey.  “We are deeply concerned that a government which has never provided adequate funding for special needs students now wants to privately set up separate schools.”

Trustees Blakey, Sharon Gregson and Allan Wong say they will ask the Non-Partisan Association majority on the Vancouver School Board to join them in demanding public consultation with the parents of special needs students, organizations representing children and adults with disabilities, teachers and staff in the VSB and the general public.

“If Education Minister Shirley Bond wants to make major changes that will affect every special needs student in British Columbia she should have no problem consulting the public and respecting those who are raising or teaching those children right now,” Blakey said.

Added Gregson: “Research has shown for many years that inclusive teaching of special needs students in local public schools is not only the best approach for them but also benefits other students. Minister Bond has not explained why she thinks education experts around the world are wrong and she has not explained how separate schools would be funded, who would teach there or how they will be governed or monitored.”

Wong said that these are among the many questions that need to be answered and answered in public, with the people most affected.   “Rushing into a new system that is contrary to everything we’ve learned and is done without public input makes no sense at all,” Wong said.

Wong pointed out that a large number of organizations have sent an open letter to Bond expressing their concern, including the: BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, BC Paraplegic Association, BC Teachers' Federation, Lower Mainland Down Syndrome Society, Moms on the Move, Parent Advisory Committee on Inclusive Education, STEPS Forward — Inclusive Post Secondary Education Society, Vancouver Autism Parent Group, Vancouver District Parents' Advisory Council and Vancouver Parents for Successful Inclusion.

The next Vancouver School Board meeting is April 2.
For more information: Call Al Blakey at 604-433-6844 or Sharon Gregson at 604-505-5725




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