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Teachers court loss a win for students with special needs: advocate Faith Bodnar

05/04/2015 02:36 EDT | Updated 05/04/2016 05:12 EDT
A ruling from B.C.'s Court of Appeal that states class size and composition shouldn't be part of labour negotiations is being called a victory by the head of an organization that advocates for people with developmental disabilities.

"It's a victory because it takes the education and the question about the education of the students with special needs out of a labour dispute. That's not where it belongs," Faith Bodnar, the executive director of Inclusion BC told The Early Edition.

"Kids have a right to be in classrooms — particularly students with special needs. Their rights are no different than any other student to quality education."

In a 4-1 decision last week, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the province did not violate teachers' constitutional rights when it introduced Bill 22 in 2012 — legislation that temporarily limited teacher bargaining on class size and composition.

Bodnar said schools and teachers needs strong supports to teach students with special needs and their classmates, but she said programs and resources need to be developed at the policy level — not in contract negotiations.

Teachers have argued they are advocating on the behalf of special needs students by negotiation class composition, but Bodnar believes those students will be better served in light of this ruling.

"It hasn't done much good to have it in the labour agreement because we've seen a progressive un-funding of our school system. It hasn't done what it has set out to do, which is to get more resources in the classroom," she said.

The BCTF said it will seek leave to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court of Canada, and Bodnar said a win in Canada's top court will be bad for students with special needs.

"I think we're going to be back where we were a few years ago where we saw families getting form letters from their schools saying your son or daughter is now the fourth or fifth student and we can't guarantee them an education."

To hear the full interview with Faith Bodnar, listen to the audio labelled: Faith Bodnar on teachers' court ruling.

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