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Kelly Lamrock is New Brunswick's child, youth and seniors' advocate. Image: Submitted

Districts illegally stopped teaching hundreds of kids: advocate

By Brad Perry May 30, 2024 | 2:52 PM

New Brunswick school districts have illegally stopped educating hundreds of vulnerable children, according to the province’s child and youth advocate.

Kelly Lamrock, in a new report released Thursday, said the practice of placing children with behavioural issues on partial days has gotten out of control.

“Placing children on partial days – that is to say, sending children home without an education during the school day – is a form of giving up on a child,” Lamrock wrote in his 40-page report.

The provincial advocate said the practice of partial days used to be “extremely rare,” even up until about a decade ago.

But his investigation found there are now more than 500 children being denied an education for most of the week.

That is illegal, Lamrock noted, because the Education Act says that educational services must be provided to children meeting the age requirement.

“It is allowable to provide different services in another location, if it is temporary, targeted and effective. It is not allowable to send the child home without an education,” he said.

The advocate said in many cases, they found that schools were placing conditions on the child to prove themselves fit to educate, but took no responsibility when the child continued to struggle.

“There were no additional services, no change in techniques. To this day, districts do not track the impact of partial days on the children or whether or not children placed on partial days succeed or just disappear,” said Lamrock.

“It is bad practice, it is illegal, and there needs to be accountability and oversight,” he said.

Lamrock’s investigation also found that children in care were nearly 20 times more likely to wind up on partial days and be told not to come to school.

The advocate’s report includes several recommendations, including:

  • creating a fund for appropriate services for children who cannot be accommodated in the common learning environment
  • better teacher training on inclusive practices and policies
  • better co-ordination between government departments to ensure a wider range of services to help high-needs children; and
  • stronger oversight and reporting rules to keep districts from simply putting the most vulnerable children on never-ending partial days.

Lamrock said his office will begin doing spot audits in 12 months to see if the situation has improved and will look at legal options if necessary.

However, the advocate noted he is hopeful there will be a positive collaboration with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

“I think there is a shared understanding that the practice of partial days has gotten beyond what should be happening. And I do believe that the leadership knows that we need to support teachers and schools with resources, training and clear direction,” he said.

“I am letting the legislative assembly know that the department will need support and resources to make sure that our most vulnerable children are not just sent home when they need an education.”

Our newsroom has requested comment from the department and is awaiting a response.