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Halifax mom forced to keep her son home from school during CUPE strike

By Joe Thomson May 11, 2023 | 11:58 AM

It’s day two of the school support workers strike and one Halifax mom says she is struggling.

Samantha Boyce has an eight-year-old son who attends St. Joseph Alexander MacKay Elementary. He has severe ADHD and relies on different support systems to keep him on track throughout the day. He’s part of the learning centre and has a personal support worker who monitors him and helps provide the best learning environment for his specific needs.

Yesterday, Boyce was informed that her son can’t go to school because of the strike.

“My kid was at a birthday party, and I get a phone call from the principal stating that her higher up told her to call me and [she said] my kid can’t go,” said Boyce.

Boyce said she was very frustrated and tried to discuss potential solutions with the principal. She offered to accompany her child inside of the school but was shut down. She offered to sit outside of the school all day to be on standby if they should need her help dealing with her child but was shut down.

She asked what would happen if she sent her son to school anyway, and the principal told her he would not be allowed into class and that they would call her to come pick him up. Boyce then asked what would happen if she didn’t pick him up. The principal said that they would have to call child protective services.

“It’s not fair to him. He works very hard and has been working very hard… He’s had a whirlwind through the education system the last year. So, this added on top of it after he worked so hard, it’s damaging him,” said Boyce.

Boyce says that her son doesn’t understand why he’s not allowed to go to school with the rest of his friends. She says he’s been making strides in the classroom and worries what being sent home will do to his progress.

“My son said to me when we were driving to the grocery store this morning, ‘Why can’t I go to school? I’ve been doing so good. I’ve been having good days, Mommy,’” said Boyce.

Samantha Boyce and her son on their way to join the picket line at Sackville High.

Nova Scotia NDP leader Claudia Chender says that the provincial government needs to come back to the bargaining table and give the workers a fair deal. She acknowledged that the other CUPE locals across the province were able to have their deals ratified across the provinces but says it’s not a mistake that Halifax is the lone holdout.

“The cost of living is highest in HRM, and I think what we hear from these workers is that they continue to struggle, and we know from a larger perspective that people in the wage band that these CUPE workers are in, are struggling to find housing and are struggling with food security,” said Chender.

Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development Becky Druhan said in an email statement , “The Province is very disappointed that CUPE has entered a strike. We know that this is disruptive for students and families, and we want to assure families that Halifax Regional Centre for Education is making every effort to minimize impacts.”

Boyce agrees that the province needs to properly recognize the work done by support staff. She admits that it can be difficult to supervise her son in a classroom setting. She says that the EPA who works with him every day is extremely proficient at her job.

“She gets him. She notices all of his little warning signs or quirks when he’s getting too wound up or sat down for too long. She is amazing with him,” said Boyce.

She says the sooner a deal gets worked out and workers are properly compensated, the sooner her son can return to school.


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