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Educational Assistants and What ALL Parents Should Know

April 19, 2016

In February I blogged about lessons I learned the result of two workshops to Educational Assistants (EAs).

That blog went viral and as a result, catapulted me deeper into the challenges faced by those in the profession. I have since received numerous emails and messages from across Canada advising of the same issues throughout.

Educational Assistants feel like the second cousin the the educational system in a role where they work with students who otherwise could not attend school. They work with students who are not only developmentally and/or cognitively and/or psychically and/or academically challenged, but also other students whose issues include minor to extreme behavioral problems. Behavioral problems is actually code for violence and aggression.

Everyday in classrooms across Canada (and likely the US) EAs are hit, spit upon, crapped on (literally), punched, verbally assaulted, physically assaulted, sexually assaulted, and injured – at times emotionally and at times physically. As these incidents occur in the classroom, they are witnessed by the other students whose exposure to these events may either desensitize them to acts of violence and aggression, or alternately may traumatize them. The vast majority of parents have no idea what-so-ever as to what may transpire in a class that is co-served by an EA.

Not only are the other students subject as witness to these events, but the EA as the direct target is subject to personal injury, stress and mental health issues (PTSD).

Today I received a transcript of an appeal report of a decision made by the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). I was appalled.

You can read the transcript for yourself and form your own opinion, but I was struck by the fact that the incidents reported were not in dispute; that the EA was the target of ongoing violent attacks by the student and that the worker was diagnosed with a stress related disorder as a result.

What was disputed was whether or not such violence was to be expected as normal and reasonable and within the scope of acceptability for the role of the EA. Happily the EA won the right of appeal. The report is graphic and details the undisputed experience of the EA.

What isn’t addressed in the report was the experience and incidental learning by the other students witnessing the violent behavior over time.

If you are a parent and have a student in a class served by an EA, ask your son or daughter what they witness. Consider what they report and consider what impact that may have on your child, whether or not your child is aware of any impact.

If you are an EA, I suggest you read the report. It is instructive in terms of appreciating the need for reporting and documentation. The report is like a master class in conveying the absolute need for the EA to document all incidents of violence and aggression.

Some students with behavioral difficulties just may not be suited to the mainstream educational system. This is a very unpopular thing for me to say, but it is predicated on the knowledge and belief that any social policy, such as mainstreaming, that does not allow for exceptions, will create bigger problems than those intended to serve.

These are very expensive children to support and they will require considerable resources and typically more resources than are available in the regular community school. Until this is recognized and appreciated, the student with the special need is not properly served, the students subjected to the behavior of the challenging student will have their education and possibly their health and well being affected and EAs will continue to be injured physically and mentally. If a student with such extreme behavior is to remain in a regular classroom, then more resources are required there to make it safe and suitable for learning.

I think that as soon as parents of students without special needs take notice, then things may change. Read the report and then consider if you want your child in a classroom where that kind or level of violence occurs.

All the students and workers require better.

Consistent with this blog, is this news article.

Here is a news article from April 20017: Evacuations and Kevlar: parents raise the alarm about violence in Durham schools

And I am a social worker who happily works with parents of children with complex needs.  Let’s truly meet their needs and not inadvertently put others at risk of harm.

Do you know someone who might benefit from this information? Want to spread the word about this situation? Please scroll down and share this article.

Please also read the comments below and feel free to leave your thoughts.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

84 Comments
  1. Mary mallett permalink

    Thank you so much for acknowleding what we do we love our kids but no respect from our board we are second class citizens if we do take time off no one covers our shifts cause classrooms we work in are dangerous then EA in school have to shift around to fill spots board refuses to put more help in classrooms and children get exposed to the violence in classrooms from the violent children one child said to me miss m why do you come back to school every day when you know you get beat up I said I love my job child says but my mommy says no one should ever put hands on another person at least not in anger miss m you are being abused I never looked at it that way. We get paid least amount in school we are more like child and youth worker then EA I have decided I am going to change my job because my injuries from this job are getting more and more and our benefits are no good there are so many people I know are changing their jobs as their is absolutely no benefits of this job no respect we are abused people without any support in place for us I went to school for 3 years caretakers make more than I do no disrespect to caretakers but most have on grade 12 again thanks so much for bringing this to the surface best regards

  2. Steph S permalink

    I have a huge amount of respect for someone that persues this kind of work. That being said, you are making EAs sound like they were ignorant to what they were signing up for. One doesn’t spend the time in school to become a hairdresser not knowing they will be covered in other peoples hair at the end of the day. Your statement of some children not being suited for mainstream education is true, but what are the alternatives? The way you worded this piece makes it sounds like you are putting some childrens education above others. What about all the positives special needs kids teach their peers? Empathy, patience, gratitude for the abilities they take for granted day to day? It’s easy to write about things that are wrong with a system of operation. Harder to offer some ideas for solutions….

    • HI Steph. Good comments.

      I do question that EAs know what they are signing up for. Having spoken to a graduating class and having provided workshops for hundreds of EAs, many provide an alternate view to your own.

      As for the solutions, they include better funding and for extreme situations, specialized classrooms. To implement, there must be a will by those who control the funding.

      Hopefully you actually read the WSIB report with the links provided. The written report describes a situation that unfortunately many EAs tell me about regularly. Clearly this isn’t good for the student receiving the service and nor is it good for the other students, let alone the EA.

      • Steph S permalink

        The biggest problem in the report is section 15; her surperiors failed her and in doing so, they all failed the student and the family of the student. Having competent people in charge is key. I agree with you on funding for extreme situations and again, those in charge of funding and placements are key. EAs that went through the program 20 years ago are getting a lot more than they bargained for however today, in the time we live in with all the information and searching possibilities at our disposal, students can easily find out what a day in the life of an EA is like before they sign up for it. Either way, it’s a tough job that takes a certain type of very special person to do and do well.

      • Cheryl permalink

        I would like to address the idea that EAs know what they are getting into. I didn’t. They didn’t mention the level of challenge I would face, ever. I had a blessed practicum in an affluent school, while not everybody did, and believed the job would be like the resource room when I was in school in the 70s it was not! That being said there are a lot of wonderful days and wonderful children as well. But if I had known what I was getting into, that would’ve change everything.

    • Barb C permalink

      @Steph S: No young person can possibly know the extent of the abuse that they are signing up for. My daughter is an EA and she has a very violent student. She could not imagine in her wildest dreams that parents could send such violent unresponsive child to a normal school, refusing to acknowledge the child has autism in the lowest spectrum possible…. If you have done this, then you can pass judgement on the EAs….. otherwise, keep your “desensitized” comments to yourself

    • Reading about something and actually experiencing it are entirely different. NOTHING can prepare you for what EA’s are subjected to. We signed up because we love these kids and hope with all of our hearts that WE will be the one that makes the difference in one of their lives. Your comments are a slap in the face to those of us who are on the front lines everyday, working with what we have.

    • Marilyn Stitch permalink

      Dear Steph: Yes we knew and were able to choose where we wanted to work as an EA. We could choose Behaviour Classes, Associated Classes, Multiply Exceptional Classes – usually for special needs, Learning Stategies Classes, and Academic Classes. Most of us chose Academic Classes and over the last 10 years, because of cutbacks and mainstreaming, many of the special classes have collapsed and our job has shifted. Without our input we were involuntarily coerced to work with Behaviour students, runners (running out and away from the school) and students with safety concerns.We now work with students who cannot talk, walk, feed themselves, toilet themselves, and precious time is taken away from students who were EA supported just a year ago. Our job changed completely, and we had no control over it. Instead we are sent to workshops to teach us how to defend ourselves on PD days, as there are so many injuries. We didnt sign up to be prison guards and policeofficers. We just wanted to help students. Thanks for your comments.

      • Andrea permalink

        Completely agree. EA stands for Educational Assistant. Not body guard, prison guard, security detail, kevlar wearer, riot cop, etc… sadly, the use of inclusion (including ALL students in mainstream classes, regardless of their needs) has allowed boards and those controlling funding to NOT fund programs and supports that meet the needs of these students. Instead, their strategy is to “park” them into large classes regular classes (which is ok for SOME..but not for others), say the teacher will handle it and then fund security details running around putting out fires..so to speak. The role of EA needs to be to meet their students LEARNING needs. this means funding for supports, designing of spaces to use (quiet spaces, programs, various tools, way lower ratios students to adults, flexibility in funding and space). Until we realize that differentiation of learning for all students also means that perhaps a different learning environment, smaller class size, less stimulation, alternate environments etc..etc… should be available and then fund that accordingly, nothing will change. Thank you for what you do even without the tools and environment in which to fully be able to do the job you set out to do. Us classroom teachers appreciate you and we all need to be on the same team to try and change the current Spec Ed model.

      • Joan Wissell permalink

        I can empathize with you completely. I’m a retired EA. I went back to school in my 40’s to become an EA after being in health care because I couldn’t do the physical work of my job. Until the government placed “all”” students in schools, the job was very enjoyable and rewarding. After the inclusion our time was spent with disabled students. Don’t get me wrong, I loved working with them and my previous background was very helpful in working with them, but it’s not what I went back to school to do. I wanted to help those students who needed that little bit of help to be able to excell but it ended up not happening. Therefore I feel these students were falling through the cracks because we were all taken up with the students who needed physical help. I even lost friends who didn’t want to do this kind of a job but because it was in our job description they were told they had to do it. And this is what I went back to school for??? It’s sad to say I feel the government and school boards are failing our children. This job should be filled by a PSW NOT an EA. Maybe they should have both working there then we could do the job we were meant to do. In my last school when Early Childhood educators where brought in to teach Pre Kindergarten we were told that we,educational assistants would be doing the toileting of these students. I thought Early Childhood Educators were like day care workers who changed diapers, etc!!!!! This was another slap in the face for us. I once had a teacher tell me that they wouldn’t even get up and put their socks on to come in and do my job. Even they knew how bad our jobs were. Needless to say,I ended up on stress leave.
        I am even seeing it now with my own granddaughter who is having a terrible time. She has anxiety but because there is more help for behaviour students they are wanting to put her in an able program. Last year she was on the honour role. What do you think will happen to her?
        As far as I’m concerned, .the government and school board have failed our students and us.
        It really upsets me when I go into a hospital and see signs saying that they will not tolerate any abuse from patients but yet we have to in the schools they can say anything to us and nothing happens. It’s about time something is done about this! There are no consequences for anything or anyone!
        Joan

    • Charlene Newton permalink

      when I had my training and started this work…it was a very different job than it is now. so, we didn’t know! And as some of us crawl closer to mid 50’s, we try to figure out how we can stay til retirement in the culture that is now. I am the first to love any child and meet them where they are at, but I also have worked with children who are violent and have asked the question, “when do the needs of the many out weigh the needs (and safety) of a few. The issue at this point seems to be painting all with the same brush, instead of each case on it’s own. It usually comes down to money, not really what is best for the child. Sadly!

    • Richard Seitz permalink

      There are solutions or at least something to improve the classroom behavior for all. The Pax Game is being implemented in schools in Manitoba and was highlighted on CBC News (Feb2013) and CTV News (Feb 2014). Not a gimmick, not a fad, and it makes life easier and school more fun. Google Pax GBG or go to paxis.org and watch the videos.

    • Jennifer Coventry permalink

      You are obviously not an EA in our education system, when I chose this job I was actually working one on one and making a difference. The violent students were 1 in a million when I started and now the system is being taken over with more violent students then before. Our role has changed in the last 8 years and we have no choice but to continue to work. Most of us don’t have education in another field to be able to jump ship and start something new. I am 40 years old going to Laurentian part time because I can’t afford on my little salary to quit and go full time. I am completely tapped out and need a new job but unfortunately going back to school part time means I will graduate when I’m 50. So what would you suggest for people that chose this job along time ago when it was t a violent job and has now become the norm, this year alone and it’s only January, I have filled out 30 aggressive incident forms, no other person in the work place suffers that much abuse.

      • Hi Jennifer.

        I am pleased you have a plan in place to take care of yourself as challenging your situation is.

        I do suggest that EA’s find a way to lobby and communicate to the public. Self-advocacy is key as no one else has a vested interest in your situation.

        This may be achieved through a local association if you have one or perhaps through your union.

        I encourage EA’s to also blog about their experiences and share their experiences on social media – while being careful not to release confidential identifying information.

        These are very different times from when many EA’s entered this profession and the public needs to understand this for things to change.

    • chrissie gardiner permalink

      I agree i am an EA as well.. I agree with everything you have said and more.

    • Susan Storseth permalink

      Thank you EAs for helping those of high needs students out everyday.
      I’m a mom of an aggressive 17 year old boy now in grade 12.
      I wish I didn’t have to send him to school. Most weeks he goes 3 days. Due seizures or we just know he will cause problems for staff and in turn tax his adrenals due to extreme stress.
      I’m not one for large schools having kids like my son go. He can strip off just to rebel.
      But I can’t even convince this school district to have my son attend school close to home 3 Kms away. They van drive him a longer distance. He is assigned two EAs.
      I feel for staff all around. I wish my boy wasn’t a burden. I wish he didn’t hurt.
      The situation is so complex.
      I’ve tried to lend support for staff. Advocating. It doesn’t go anywhere.
      I took one district school board to the Human Rights Commission because they had my son in a regular classroom going into grade one. I was able to convince them to open a complex needs autism for sensory issued non verbals kids. It cost my family 10 grand in lawyer fees even with doing most of the administration and meetings. By the time I left the area there was a waiting list of kids to get in. Parents were willing to taxi on their dime to have them attend.
      The province should have continued to give my son home ABA IBI therapy.
      We were able some years ago to get his dads company to fund for private therapies including ABA but to find available professionals was an impossible task. This was one of the very few companies willing to do this if not the only company at the time.
      BCBAs not many around and even less who want to do the front line work. So it didn’t work out.
      Diet helps. Love helps.
      We parents wish we could say more thanks to the EAs but we aren’t allowed to converse with them at all. I gave gifts out one year and then there was movement of staff.
      I have respite workers constantly in my home who are EAs. I hear the stories. It’s not easy sending my son into school.

    • Charlene permalink

      I am an EA and love what I do everyday. It’s not the students and behaviours that are the problem, it’s the system. These are children and young adults we are talking about here. Everyone deserves a good equality of life, no matter what that is. These children, not only gain education, socialization, behaviour management, coping strategies and life skills, but a chance to reach their full potienal. These children teach others patience, empathy, gratitude and so much more that is not always taught in the classroom. Yes it can be violent, stressful, mentally and physically challenging, but I knew exactly what I signed up for and will continue to do it everyday. I am there to advocate for these children, especially the ones that cannot speak for themselves.
      Under appreciated and definitely under paid,
      Charlene D

  3. I received the following emails, which I add here with permission of the authors:

    1) Thank you so much for voicing and sharing your concerns in this area. I’ve been an EA for nearly 15 yrs. This year I worked with a violent autistic 9yr old boy. I’ve been kicked and punched repeatedly. I have 2 WSIB claims at the moment and shortly after the last injury, I communicated with the Ministry of Labor (MOL) because we (EAs) are not well protected against these incidents. We are told to learn how to protect ourselves, we are on eggshells as to when is the appropriate time to restrain and consequences to actions are just about non existent. I had the principal with me at one point and he just let the student escalate in his rage for about 1hr instead of following his plan and intervening. As soon as I was left alone with my student I was charged at, in front of dozens of students and some staff.

    The MOL investigated… They came back with “all is fine, the school board has all the right policies in place”. I am so discouraged. I love what I do, especially for our peanut size salary, but it has come to a point where I’m not happy at work anymore. I don’t feel safe, we are not supported by the Board, and we have to keep our mouth shut and endure.

    That said… Thank you so much. I’ve shared your article in hopes of opening eyes and turning heads so people will talk and not accept this a normal. Something needs to give.

    —————

    2) I’ve been an Educational assistant for 15 years now and I’ve been beat up countless times. I have PTSD from a student that has mental illness who screams shh all day. This student is on meds only when at school so long weekends holidays pa days he doesn’t get his meds. Poor thing, I feel for him and I know it’s not his fault. The teacher and myself to this day, when someone uses shh to calm kids I cringe still. I have had a concussion from getting hit on the head just trying to tie his shoes. After that we had to get the Ministry of Labour (MOL) involved due to the fact admin wouldn’t help keep us safe. We called them (MOL) after there were over 100 incident accident reports in less than a month. They put in place orders to keep us safe although doesn’t really help unfortunately. I love my job but also have a family and can’t afford to be off work. I am a huge stickler for filling out forms it’s our own way to protect us. So sad really as well as taking away spec ed classes kids learned life skills to help them in the real world. You also talk about violence in class and what these kids see the abuse we take. I’ve had kids hug me and tell me they love me and can’t understand why we get hurt. There is violence in every class at our school and these kids see it everyday. It breaks my heart that I expect to get abused at work. Nobody should have to feel unsafe at their job. Thanks for letting me vent keep up the amazing work you do

    • Paperwork is the easy part for Boards! It is called “cover thine own ass” and don’t look bad! E.A.’s like me unfortunately live in a parallel universe called “reality”. When you can document over 800 incidents for one child to hopefully have the Board consider change; you don’t live in Kansas anymore, you are indeed in a place called OZ! In our area we indeed know what we signed up for! However, that does not include being a buffer for the violence in a classroom/education setting! If our Boards are considering us as such; they are sadly mistaken! We are imploring other E.A.’s in other settings to remember that schools are “not” mental health CARE facilities where we have other options, we are an Educational facility! How many times have we heard that routine is the most important thing for our students, only to have routines consistently interrupted by violence/phones/knocks at the door/announcements and a variety of other things! And why is it that numeracy/literacy are so important to the Boards. Reality is clear to me. For the most part in a life skills class it is much more important to learn social skills/ and that you matter to others as a person!
      We are not here to rush around to a school schedule that does not work for our students! Be with me/ share knowledge that will help me/ be patient, tolerant and kind but, show me what consequences are when my behaviors call for it. Stand by me when others don’t understand and know that it takes so much for me to just be here! Show me how things work and how to be safe! Teach me at a slower pace and allow me to be me! Our students are amazing; our Boards not so much. I as they are not capable of being what others think we should be! It is also amazing to me considering our administrators pay grade, that they just don’t get until that magical time In “OZ” where it directly affects them!?????????

      • Elisa Germain permalink

        Very well said ! Everything you spoke of I totally relate to! People do not understand how much violence against Ea’s and other adults there is in schools today.

  4. Please include CYW’s (Child and Youth Workers) in your information. We are expected to support the most violent and behavioural kids. If EA’s are the “second cousin”, CYW’s are the second cousin once removed. It seems very few are even aware of our existence. Thank you

    • Heather permalink

      We don’t see many child and youth workers in our boards. The few I have met have ran little groups at recess such as a girls group etc. Personally, there should be way more of you in the schools.

  5. Dennis permalink

    When one goes into a program to learn how to work with and teach developmentally challenged kids, they know that there may be times that there will be physical aggression. This is one of the reasons that the E.A. is present in the classroom–to diffuse and look after the student that is out of control. It is unfortunate that the E.A. may also be subject to a few hits and punches during his/her line of duty. HOWEVER, there must be consequences for the actions of all students, regardless of their diagnosis, autism included. The office and its administrators must have an action plan that deals with these incidents and adhere strongly to it. Too many times, as an educational assistant for 30 years, I have witnessed students physically and mentally abuse staff in and out of the classroom (including yours truly) with hardly any consequences when brought to the office. There were just too many excuses as to why the student behaved the way they did. Instead of consequencing the student with time out or a suspension for the really serious offences, the office will ask if there was something we could have done to prevent the outburst. ‘What did you do to encourage this behaviour’ is the attitude in today’s educational climate. An employee gets pretty tired of this lame attitude and then becomes more apathetic to the students in general. If nothing happens to the student when they misbehave, then why should the E.A., or teacher for that matter, intervene and place themselves in a position where they could become injured. This should not be happening, and it isn’t fair to the student, the staff and the parents. The E.A. is then discouraged from taking time off due to his injuries, and given a hard time if he/she does. The Boards of Education need to get their head out of the sand and give more clear directives to their principals. Employees are the backbone of the school system and they need to be supported, whatever the cost.

    • suszie permalink

      WOW I am sad for the students u work with if u r looking for punishment and discipline for children who often cannot control their actions nor gain anything whatsoever from a punishment but clearly it would make you feel better so I guess they should be suspended… you have been an EA too long and are out of touch with the current needs of the children who you are in place to help.

      • Dennis permalink

        Hmmm…I guess you just need to walk in the shoes of an educator for a few weeks.

      • Mary permalink

        I don’t believe in punishment I believe that a child shouldn’t make decisions regarding what they are going to do for the day they are children they are going to chose fun things nothing like lessons they are children it’s our responsibility as adults and educators to give them guidance stability and encourage them to want to learn

      • Andrew Francom permalink

        Though I agree some what that discipline for children who cant not really understand what they are doing would not work However the vast majority of student that EAs deal with are students who are violent for violent sake and need to understand that there are consequences for their actions Spec Ed in general is woefully under funded and understaffed
        Boards are more worried about law suits then developing clear and comprehensive plan on how to deal with violent kids Suszie please read the report and maybe if you can volunteer at a school with a behavior class BIC or BAC these are where I work

    • Debbie permalink

      I agree with you. I’m a lunch supervisor and I never see consequences. My daughter is an EA and a comment she made to me was she works at one school (she is a casual) and they are all on the same page students, teachers and administrators all have the same expectations. So, only one school out of several schools is on the same page? Obviously the board of education isn’t doing their job and there is one Great Principle that is taking things into his or her hands. I wish this was happening at my school. I personally don’t know how long I can continue to do my job because of what I witness. I wish the best to all EAs you are doing a great job!

    • Libby permalink

      Well said. Some people should spend a day in our classroom in our shoes before they think you are wrong.

  6. Kathy permalink

    As a former EA and parent of 3 kids who had very violent children in their classroom over the years this is not a surprise to me. Whenever I spoke up about this behaviour and suggested that a separate class or arrangements for these children was necessary people were quick to pass judgement on me, to silence me. To tell me that we need to teach our kids tolerance and understanding. What we are teaching them is how to be a victim and that their own needs aren’t as important as another’s. As for these children who have severe aggressive behaviour, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs they are not ready for education we need to help them with their emotional needs first. There’s a reason for that anger and it’s easier to ignore it than have some tough, uncomfortable conversations. Major changes need to happen and I believe that blogs like this are a good step I the right direction. Shed some light on the dark corners of the classroom. Thank you so much for giving EA s a voice.

  7. Kerry M permalink

    We are trying to integrate students on the spectrum who experience a lot of difficulty with change and who need to develop a rapport with those who work with them. Often EAs are shuffled around the school each month. Often students on the spectrum have 2 – 3 EAs that work with them in a day. That revolving door of personal is detrimental to the special needs student, to the EAs who have to learn what works for each child and to the class who witness the upset that such changes cause. There are things that can be done to make the situation better. I even question whether it is ethical to place some kids on the spectrum in a classroom with 20 kids without providing some transition from an environment with smaller numbers to the full class setting. The ideal of inclusion is wonderful, but it requires so much funding – funding that is not being provided. As well, there are some students where inclusion cannot work. There needs to be alternatives. A “one size fits all” approach does not work. EAs are dedicated and very special people who deserve respect and protection.

    • Tracey permalink

      Agree with you 100%! I’ve been an EA for over 16 yrs now, and what you say is exactly what our School Board’s need to hear! Thank you.

  8. Carol permalink

    Thank you so much for bringing this very serious issue to light. As a teacher, I can attest that we are very understaffed when it comes to EAs and CYW workers and something needs to be done with violent students in the classroom. Special needs students are certainly a benefit to the class, but when the safety of students and staff is at risk, a different facility with properly trained staff could be a solution.

  9. Bonnie Dineen permalink

    Thank you for helping to get this message out! EAs have been trying for years to bring attention to the safety concerns affecting staff and students in schools every day. Our School Board employers believe it is part of the job to be assaulted physically, mentally and emotionally and even blame us for being injured. Rarely is any kind of support offered.

  10. Emily permalink

    I teach in a segregated special needs setting and it is not necessarily easier for EAs (or any of our staff) to work with children who bite, spit, punch, run away, climb, kick etc. in a purpose-designed program. Our schools need a lot more resources to provide a safe place for children with extremely complex needs.

  11. Dennis permalink

    A previous person commented that I was out of touch of the needs of the current needs of today’s children. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I recently retired, not because I didn’t like working with the kids, but because of the laxadasical approach of administrators to adhere to a program to help these students. I have had a lot of success with my students over the years (high school), due to positively reinforcing these individuals and giving them the best of my professional abilities. There was a time when students needed a time out, or in extreme cases, a suspension to give the student time to think about his/her actions. But it seems that there is a new approach given by the school boards. Students can almost do anything in their school and not be reprimanded for it. They see the vice-principal, get a ‘warning” and then sent to class. Repeat. Meanwhile, they may call a staff member down to the office and have them shake the students hand to ‘make up’!! I’m sorry, but when two people make up, they are usually both at fault somehow. This indicates that the staff member did something wrong that needed to be amended by a handshake. Really? Common sense would dictate that in society, you get praised (rarely) for doing the right thing, and scorn for doing the wrong. What we are teaching our students today is that it is okay to do whatever you please, and that tomorrow all will be forgiven. It doesn’t take him/her long to figure this scheme out, as my colleagues and I quickly figured out But the staff at the school boards, sitting in their offices, can’t get it through their heads that real change is needed soon. Eg. I know of a case where a student can’t be stopped from banging her head on the concrete floor because it intervenes with her rights to do so…Pardon

    • Mary permalink

      I totally agree with you school boards seem to change their approaches ever time a new director is appointed in one of our meetings teacher made good point we where in training for CPS model for dealing with children she started laughing saying 5 years from now when this model isent working they are going to come back and say we need to change our approach again cause this one is creating children that have no accountability for anything their approach now is if they are getting upset about doing work they basically make the decision if they want to do anything if not they pick what they want to do what do you think they pick fun things no work at all they are not challenged at all it’s such a shame they are so capable of so much more but we don’t want to upset them they are not letting us push them at all we can encourage but only until they are ok whoever comes up with these things obviously very little experience with children with challenges they are capable same as all other children just in a different way

  12. Shirley permalink

    My daughter absolutely loves her job and the kids she works with. However, not a day goes by where she isn’t gouged, slapped, spit on (or worse) or punched. She has scars on her neck, arms and chest from her daily altercations. There is never any real warning of what is about to happen. Just the other day she had to have a root canal done because a student attacked her and she was trying to protect her neck and clenched her teeth and broke a tooth in the back and exposed the nerve. Off she went to an emergency appointment to get this very painful tooth fixed and then returned to the school the following morning. She is very attached to the kids she works with and gives 110% everyday. She is only allowed 11 days a school year if she is not feeling well, and then she has to go on unemployment assistance for the summer until the new school year with all its new challenges commence once more. She has difficulty making ends meet with the salary she receives due to the requirement for daycare for her kids and the rest of her financial obligations which includes her student loans for the courses she took to prepare her for this very difficult job. These courses should be paid for by the School Board once someone has been hired and not be viewed as something one has to pay for in order to get abused physically and financially. Not having a steady paycheque makes it that more difficult because there is a waiting period before the first cheque is deposited during the summer. My daughter-in-law is also an EA with pretty much the same challenges.

    • Susan Storseth permalink

      Sad
      Knowing people with good strong hearts won’t stay in the profession long.
      Why would they.
      It’s like they know you guys will burn out. The situation is horrible.
      They worry about liability.
      Love my son.
      Feel for EAs.
      Warm hug to your amazing daughters.

  13. Mary permalink

    I would just say to people that think we should be more understand please come walk a half a day in my shoes you will feel like a battered person it doesn’t mean I don’t want to help these children and I do start over of course every time it happens
    very low functioning autistic children after being told a few times learn to not hurt people
    children that have behavioural issues can very well change their behaviours we are doing no justice to these children by not holding them accountable

  14. I enjoyed this article because of the truths in it. I didn’t go to school to become an EA, I went to school to be a DSW. When the opportunity arose for me to be hired by the board I work for I was hired to work with a kindergarten child with CP. He was a delight to work with and my main focus WAS integration in the classroom. This child’s experience was a wonderful positive experience. He moved to a SC classroom as he got older so he could have a very specific personalized program which involved communication, OT and PT. I was the biggest supporter of integration and was upset when my student moved to a SC classroom. My next assignment was with a behaviour student who really wasn’t aggressive at all. His needs were primarily academic support and someone to m
    Help him maintain focus and to remove him when he required a quiet work space. Over my 18 years I have found cutbacks in EA support, to the point where an EA will support more than 1 student in a classroom at one time. I have been punched in the side of the head several times by a student who was a foot taller than me (teenage male). I was told that a) I must expect this with my job and b) I should be trained to de-escalate him before it happens. The problem was the subtelty of his mood change made that difficult. Currently I am hit, scratched, licked, have had several pairs of glasses broken, am kicked and have had urine rubbed onto me from my student’s hand after toile ting. I have had shirts ripped and snot rubbed on my clothing. I currently support 2 students in a primary grade (both runners) and a student in another primary grade and we pick up where needed. I ride the school bus everyday to provide support for bus behaviour. I don’t get paid extra for this and I am told lieu time isn’t an option since I’m needed for the full day….the board doesn’t want to pay the extra. I do it because it’s my job. I grab onto any piece of joy I can get in my day but I’m exhausted. I have a terrible rash on body that won’t go away and my doctor says it’s from stress. I can’t take time off work due to attendance management. I come home from work and often can’t make it through supper with my family because I’m so exhausted. I work 2 jobs as do most EAs because we only get paid for 35 hrs/wk and our pay rate is less than a factory worker earns. (No offence to factory workers) I do this job because I truly love watching that light come on the moment a child learns something new but I do not recommend young people go into this field. We are constantly cut back and overworked let alone the abuse and mental strain. I now believe after all my years of experience that EAs are treated like second class from the boards we work for and the governments (this is also the attitude of many teachers). Thank you for your article and support!!!!

    • Kathy Van Beest permalink

      Jo, you are obviously a very flexible employee and go above and beyond for your students…….something to be commended. I have to say that as a fellow EA, I can relate. These concerns desperately need to be addressed for the good of us all. I really think that you doing bus duty (unpaid) is a detrement to the system as a whole…….until they see things falling apart (ie, parents complaing/advocating for there children) they will NOT provide more funding. As a group we need to stop making it look like everthing is okay. You are obviously on your way to not being okay. Please take care of yourself and maybe start by only working the hours (minutes actually) that you get paid for.
      .

    • Susan Storseth permalink

      Yes the mood can change very quick.
      Weather, digestion, head aches, confusion, being asked once again to respond to a fight or flight situation when no thought resources are available.
      I get what your saying.
      I wish I could gives hugs all around.
      Dam hard.
      Thanks for sharing.

  15. Paul permalink

    I have been an EA for 4 years now, and hope to continue for the rest of my work career. Being a male in working with kids, it’s one thing. Being a male EA, that’s a different beast…

    First to come in for aggression, can’t toilet females yet females seem to be encouraged to toilet males (can’t figure that one out), parents question why a guy has kids hanging off of him, being the only male in a school leaves me as an outcast among us professional outcasts… we do what we do because we love to help. Jack of all trades, filler of all roles. I can be a father, brother, doctor, priest, and if need be, mother, sister, aunt, whatever. We push daily to help those, often at a cost to ourselves, our physical, and mental well being. Every single person deserves a chance, and we are those who give up the most to make sure that it’s available.

    Also, can we as professionals, please remember, it’s children with autism, or whatever, vs autistic child? Lets not label the kids.

  16. Jane Buntain permalink

    Please do not forget about the substitutes for these EA’s. We are often “thrown” into a situation without proper knowledge or training for the student. When an EA gets hurt, physically or mentally, and takes time off from her job, it is a sub who is called in to take their place. It may be for a day, week, month or longer. The school boards need to acknowledge us as employees and provide better training. It has been my experience that some school boards have a hard time keeping subs because of this. IWith a rural school board which includes 3 counties you never know what your day will bring. Many of us travel quite far to get to our different schools each day.

  17. Sheena Hagerman permalink

    Thank you for saying what so many of us would like to but don’t:( I have been an EA for almost 20 years. I love my job and the students that I serve. All of what you wrote is so true! Again thank you!

  18. Sharon white permalink

    Dear Gary, I have been an SEA (now called EA) who has overcome but remembers very violent acts caused by some of the students I supported in the classroom. Everything you say in yr blog has happened to me. I also have been punched in the throat- that was the only incident where WORK SAFE BC was concerned about my well-being. I have often thought that if these incidents have happened to me and how I’ve coped with them, how the students who have witnessed these events have coped? I agree with you, some are not suited for the inclusion into a classroom. But what do we do? I am under the instruction of the student services department and the classroom teacher. We are allowed to refuse unsafe work but how does that help solve the violence? We definitely need to do better. Not just for ourselves but for the students and their needs. They have the right to an education. I’m sure there is a way to serve them and bring out their potential even with their special needs.

  19. She permalink

    I find this article offensive being a parent of a special needs child. I am also an educator in childcare for the past 30 years, and have special needs in my own classroom. But I will say, EA’s are amazing and deserve more recognition for what they do. It takes a very special person to do this job. It’s definitely not for everyone.If they need help and more resources, they should have it available. As a parent, we have no other alternative, but to send our children to public school. My child’s EA is phenomenal and has done amazing work with him. He has bad days but I am a very hands on parent and work with his team on a daily basis. Yes he can be aggressive at times. But he has also come along way. His peers now talk to him, they aren’t afraid anymore. They have learned what sets him off and help him. When we are out, for example, his classmates will come up and say hi and call him by name. Daily, he is teaching his classmates to be compassionate, understanding and patience. I didn’t read the transcript, but just didn’t like what this man was saying😞

    • Kathy Van Beest permalink

      Hi, Your son sounds like he belongs in the public school system, it’s wonderful that he is making progress especially regarding his peers, because deep down this is what we as human beings need. I have to ask though, if there was an alternative, do you not think that some children would benefit? Imagine a program where there was quiet spaces, sensory spaces and spaces for movement and resources geared specifically for them? Currently in most of our schools almost none of these exist.

  20. Tanya permalink

    As an E.A I have been pretty lucky with not having to deal with a lot of violence, however I have seen those who have and I am sure they did not sign up to be physically abused or did I. Abuse should not be tolerated…

  21. Pam permalink

    I was violently assaulted 6 years ago by a 15 year old autistic student. Up to that point I had been an EA for 15 years and truly loved my job.
    I was not offered first aid, nor was the incident treated as anything more than ” just another day.” I drove home from school and later asked my partner, how I had gotten home, changed clothes etc…. It was later revealed that I had disassociated and lost 6 hours of time. I was later diagnosed with PTSD. The student had grabbed my hair and was yanking me backwards then forwards and then finally snapped my neck to the right. At that moment I thought that he had broken my neck. As he was snapping my head around he was forcing me to the ground. I truly believed at that moment that I was going to die! My student was 6’1″ and 200 + lbs and I was not the first EA/ person he had assaulted.

    Unfortunately, due to my PTSD and the lack of support from my employer, I cannot return to the field. I also underwent reconstructive surgery on my shoulder, due to the assault. During a meeting at school the EA’s were told that if you don’t like the violence, go find another job! Amongst other things implied and said by my employer, somehow, it was my fault that I had been assaulted.

    Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safe. Every person has the right to education. My question is, do others, including students that are violent, have a right to hurt me?

    My case was finally heard at the WSIAT in December 2015 and violence is not an accepted part of the EA’s job. Decision # 369 15

    I won for mental stress, but I lost the job that I loved and truly made a difference in student lives.
    My pain is real and does not simply go away….it has changed my life forever, all because one day I went to work, and was violently assaulted.

    Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge that this is occurring and EA’s everywhere need to document each and every incident and refuse unsafe/violent work. Preventative measures need to be in place, not reactionary measures.

    EA’ need reminding that this threat is real and it can happen. I am the last person who ever thought that by working with “exceptional students” that one day, I would be violently assaulted at work and that it would forever change how I interacted with the world around me.

  22. Anne Schlitt permalink

    As an EA, I had to share.

    Sun, Apr 24, 2016 at 2:37 PM

    Hello All Educational Assistants,
    I could have cried when I read this man’s blog…I also think I love him. [lol]
    Please copy this into your favourite search engine and have a read…if you have not already.

    https://garydirenfeld.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/educational-assistants-and-what-all-parents-should-know/

    Anne Schlitt

  23. Diane Zarnke permalink

    Underfunded…. Understaffed……. That is the core of the problem…… Society wants all children in school, all children, Some are required to have one on one workers but the school board allows one EA then for two or three of these kids. Society wants certain standards etc., but does not wish to pay for it…….. You want these special needs kids in school in a safe envirnment…. And a safe work place for EA…….we must be willing to pay for it.

  24. Richard Seitz permalink

    There is hope. Get Pax GBG into your schools. Manitoba and Alberta are implementing Pax. Pax works! It works with all children, but especially the most aggressive, those who need help the most. If Manitoba can do it, why not Ontario and all the others. My wife taught K-6 phys ed for 30 years and worked with the ARC nights and weekends for 20 years. I am 33 years in a juvenile detention center and 9 years teaching. I now run school-based programs like mentoring and anti-gang/drug programs. We started offering pilot programs in Pax GBG five years ago as an alternative to Stranger Danger and train about 30 teachers a year. Here is an email from a principal who had about one-third of staff trained at the time.
    As an administrator, I see a big difference in my school environment. It is calmer and the students have been more respectful of each other. We use the harmonicas and the PAX 2 fingers sign throughout the building. All special area teachers use it also because the classes that they teach have the program implemented in their own classrooms. We have implemented it in the lunch room and what we do is raise our 2 fingers and speak in a 1inch voice and the whole room quiets down. Again, during a fire drill yesterday, all we had to do was raise our 2 fingers and everyone quieted down. We were thinking of implementing it during our practice safety drills too.
    The really good news is that my discipline referrals have gone down since my teachers have implemented the program in their classrooms and the administrators support the program throughout the building.
    Let me know if you need anything else from us.
    Deborah Giannuzzi
    Principal George J. Mitchell Elementary School
    950 Route 539Little Egg Harbor, N.J. 08087

    Google PAX GBg and CBC news and CTV news.

    Richard Seitz, rseitz@co.ocean.nj.us, feel free to contact me. Lots of research on this.

    • Anne Schlitt permalink

      As a matter of fact, the 3 year EA course does nothing to prepare students for the reality of the violence they will face. I believe that most of the public have no idea the violence happening.The course is based in learning the different disabilities and how to modify curriculum.
      I have been an EA for 17 years and watch new EAs collapse into a pile of tears after their first day.
      Today, I was taken down to the floor by my hair, [girl 14 yrs old] and had my hand wrenched so badly, I was taken to my doctor to make sure it wasn’t broken. I had the assistance of 2 experienced Youth Care Workers and this incident still happened. I also had on safety equipment.
      Recently, school boards had to submit their violence incident reports for the year. They were too low. Then we realized that the incidents reported had to fall under a PPM120[?] memo, and violent incidents by spec. ed. students are not included in this report. The memo was written in a way too exclude these incidents. So, not an accurate report.

      • Susan Storseth permalink

        No surprise there.
        So frustrating.
        Ignore the issue. Hide the data. Isn’t that becoming the Canadian way.
        Suppress the argument for more funding or dramatic change needed.
        We parents advocate and it does little.

  25. Marisa permalink

    My son dropped out of high school because of this! He did not feel safe and the teacher’s time and energy went to the multiple special needs kids in his class – only one EA for a few kids – and in shop class and auto class he said working on dangerous equipment the special needs went around pushing buttons should not and he said working under car on hoist fearing for life cuz special needs push buttons to release hoist! Just one example there are many more! Why should my A student be forced to drop out because special needs deserve education too – yes went to principal she stood on side of unteachable special needs saying they deserved education and my kid should deal with it – sorry not when he doesn’t feel safe – so my taxes did not even pay for my son to get an education but pays for unteachables to get education will never use! Something needs to change!!!! He was not the only one to drop out of high school for this reason.

  26. Maggie Winsor permalink

    This is utter craziness. These children should absolutely NOT be in the mainstream until they can control themselves. I have heard these same events too many times from someone I know who is an EA in the same situation. It’s deplorable and dangerous to her and the other children not to mention the damage that is being done to school property and more so to the other children’s mental states.

  27. sharon permalink

    EA’s are definitely not paid enough for the responsibilities they have during the day. The administration does not back us up. I was asked why I had so many Violent reports filled out by a teacher who the admin addressed should he not have spoken to me directly? We are treated like the low man on the totem pole.

  28. steve permalink

    EA’s do not get the respect they deserve.I have had a stroller shot at me than having to restrain until the police came.been punched in the face,stomach.had feces shot at me.marbles shot at me,spat upon and sadly this is the norm and more children are coming into the system than there is help available.|There is at least 2 behavioral children per class so all children get to see these situations.The norm whatever that is ,is getting much ruder and think swearing at staff is the way to go and sadly parenting and common sense are out the door. The school boards refuse to let a teacher fail a student regardless of there poor work or behavior ,so everyone gets pushed through and they hit high school and teachers say”I cannot believe this child got here,he has been failed by the education system “this is the new norm not to tell kids they are wrong,teach 25 different ways because it is your fault if the students fail…………this system is broke but has amazing staff that are willing to try new things bu tthe education system has to swing back the other way a little

    • Mary permalink

      Hi I’m not really just replying to steve there is no clear cut solution children are all clumped together in schools and diffrent diagnosis etc all treated same which is great but when dealing with them they say best model is CPS collaborative problem solving this great for some not for all needs to be diffrent solutions for diffrent children there lies the problem we have deal with them all the same a aggressive child will not understand reasoning at the time they need to be handled differently then autistic, adhd,FASD etc but CPS team comes in says no this is the way this is the biggest crock of dodo I have ever experienced in my life it gets EA, teachers and other children hurt because we use this

  29. Danielle permalink

    I am an educational assistant I am also the Health and Saftey rep for my Union. I see violence everyday an I try everything in my power to help but the Ministry of Education and the Boards feel it is a normal part of our jobs. I sorry but police, nurses, doctors etc. do not go to work to be abused so why is it OK for an Educational Assistant? It’s not. People at the Ministry level need to open there eyes an have a better look.

    • Susan Storseth permalink

      They feel you are sharing the violent load of the parents or caregivers at homes. The job is not touch and go like nurses and police. On to the next. Get praised for the ten minutes of intense work.
      They need to take on that violence.
      The problem can not be controlled by a simple measure or funding put in place so they clump you together with us parents.
      Parents are front line workers and so are you.
      Idk what else it could be.
      And you are judge like us too. Violence is ugly and intense.
      That’s why I can relate to prison guards. Under funded programs hiding the violence in the work place.
      Idk what’s going to happen.
      I spend my days keeping things calm here at home.
      Feel for my typical developed children.
      So not a good situation.
      Yes I love my severely disabled son.
      I was ignored by the province til I told them to take my son at 14 years old CAS. Then and only then did they get me respite help in the home.
      Cost to them half. They did the math.
      To have my son looked after in a group home $180,000 a year
      This is huge money on the tax payer.
      Still as a family we do not drain the system.
      We carry our own. Always have.
      We have kept our shit together for the most part lol.
      Thanks for what you do.

  30. chrissie gardiner permalink

    I worked with a student that couldn’t be in the classroom we set up a room for him and I to work in and followed the teachers daily instructions. I would get hit daily some times chairs or other objects thrown at my head. He would destroy a room. He even kicked in the principals door. One day I called for back up. There was myself an another EA and he threw us both across the room he was a big boy at age 12. He put both of us off work with torn rotator cuffs. Both us staff had to go to physo and was off work for at least 3 months. I took it upon myself to call the police I had him charged. His parents backed me. He was removed from the school. The judge had him put in a special behavioral home in our local city.. This home was only for temporary students and slowly integrate back into the schools. But the staff at this home said how on earth did this boy end up in the regular school system he never should have been.. Apparently he had gotten worse and he couldn’t even return to his own home. How sad is this.. This student was very bright. he has 5 different disorders that the dr’s had said he was border line with.. they didnt even know what meds to put him on. So to me wouldn’t that tell you that if this child is boarder line with 5 different disorders that this would be a whole new disorder to deal with.. Oh no so called professionals said because he is board line he is classified as normal and it is all him and he can control his behaviors.. Well I know he is in control of these behaviors i have seen him turn them on and off in situations. But there is still something he is lacking and needs help beyond the school system.. I am not with him any more and have lost contact to find out how he had made out. But honestly we as EA’s do not get paid enough to be put off work injured as we were. On the plus side I find my job very rewarding. I love seeing how the light bulb goes on and you see bright wide eyes when the student finally gets the task your trying to teach.. I love all the warm hugs and the I miss you’s when your not there. I love my job. You have to take the good with the bad.. But we don’t deserve to be beat up.

  31. I was an EA for 10 years. Left due to stress and depression 5 years ago. Never got long term disability even though I fought for it! I would never go back! I loved the children….but EAs get very little/no support. We were paid less than caretakers even though we went to school longer. Treated like the bottom feeders. Beaten up by the students (and there was always more than one we were assigned to). It’s very difficult because you put all of yourself into the job. Seeing even the small changes in students was very rewarding. Yet…with no support from administration/board….you start to dread going to your job everyday…even though you love those kids! I definitely would not put myself through it again. Positive changes need to be made! It’s been going on for too long!

  32. Ann permalink

    Hello. Let me start by saying how refreshing it is that this is being talked about. I have been an EA for roughly 15 years now. My experience echos those of others who have posted here.

    I have been kicked, bitten, gouged, spat on, punched, head-butted, have suffered extremely violent physical attacks where my head has been grabbed and neck wrenched about in all directions. I have been grabbed by the arm and thrown across the room, etc. As a result, I have received many injuries including multiple bruises, deep gouges causing infection and scarring, head injuries, concussion, a fracture to my face, black eye, whiplash, nerve damage, injuries to my back, rotator cuffs, deltoids, and various muscular and ligament injuries to various areas of my body.

    I have been trapped in a room alone and violently physically assaulted.

    Added to this, and equally important, is the constant stress of trying to protect other staff, and students from this violence.

    I have been diagnosed PTSD and am under doctor’s care. I am still working. I was refused my WSIB claim for mental stress. The letter of rejection that I received stated “Although these incidents must have been upsetting, it does not qualify for mental stress.”

  33. Melanie mccreadie permalink

    Yes I agree with this information! I have been a EA. For 35 years and a former child & youth care worker! I have worked with behaviour boys mainly. Over years we as EA.’s were one on one or two to one in the HWDSB . But the last ten years it’s just become extremely worst for EA’s or ECE’s. I don’t find the board has handle the behaviour’s & now more violence are occurring. The elementary level seems to be the worst especially when it’s hands off the child. I think more private schools will be opening with smaller classes and the public education will be going down the drain. Desperately, there has to be changes and the govt. & school bds. Need to put their heads together to home up with s solution fast!

  34. lynda permalink

    Ministry cutbacks are the problem, Not the children and there disabilitity and or difficulties. Cut backs !!! Cut backs!!!! No funding , less funding= less help , minimal assistance!!!!! I don’t like this article, I get what you are saying but not fair !!!!!

  35. Thank you for writing and sharing information about what it is like to be an Educational Assistant today. I have been an EA for 15 years, and the first several were the very best and I loved my job! Slowly, things changed, funding was cut, and EAs were spread very thin. The last few years, the job I loved had changed greatly and we only provided support to students where health and safety were at risk. Parents don’t realize what the school environment is like today. I have worked in many kindergarten classes with students who displayed aggressive behaviour towards other children, as well as staff. 3 year olds come to school and are not safe, and they see violence in their classroom on a regular, sometimes daily basis. I have been bitten, kicked, hit, spit at, swore at and spend my days chasing students who were trying to leave the school. We are not to intervene physically but at the same time, we work with students who we have to be right beside, no personal space, holding their hands, at all times, leaving no option of personal safety. Most special needs students are not in small class placements, as these classes are reduced and eliminated each year. So we work with students who have challenging behaviours in mainstream classes with 30 students. I have been told outright by a teacher that I need to “keep (the student) quiet, I have a class to teach”. Keeping a student quiet, when they are in the absolute worst possible environment for their needs, is not realistic, nor is it ethical. So then the only option is to take that student out of class and take them to a separate room, hopefully where other people are available for assistance and backup, but usually alone. Day after day, year after year with no signs of change. Education is also one of the top 3 vocations for workplace bullying. High stress, no control over the job. Recipe for burnout. I am off work on long-term disability right now, and have not been able to work on a regular basis for 2 years. My health has been impacted greatly.

  36. Jennifer Embury permalink

    While it is good that these issues are discussed openly and with thought, I was disheartened to see your message convey the constant worry of how the ‘normal’ kids would be adversely affected by the ‘special’ kids. I understand that this was one of the main topics you’re choosing to discuss here, but not once did you offer the other point of view which is that the ‘special’ kids have many important, worthwhile, life giving lessons to teach the ‘regular’ kids as well. Your message of worry to protect the non-special students could create an atmosphere of noninclusivity in our schools and communities. It is rare that a student with such special needs will impact the classroom with detriment – the students that remain in mainstream classrooms are vetted and supported as best as possible given the government circumstances.
    A whole and healthy community is the one which accepts the special needs folks as worthy of inclusivity, because every soul has a place and a message that we all need to hear as whole.

  37. I feel one of the biggest issues , that you did not mention , is the administration do not appropriately train their EA’s . Not only are they not ready to face these types of challenges , the ones that might be , are overlooked due to seniority and the “old boys club” attitude that the education system still participates in . EAs are not trained In mental health , they are not privy to specific trainings pertinent to their clientele , yet they are expected to carry out the task of immediate caregiver to these children , 7 hours a day.
    And when they end up injured , as you have articulated , they get blamed .
    I have come across EA’s with higher qualifications then the teachers or administration , yet they choose this position to be close to the children . When they shed light on how a situation might be bettered , they are ignored . The issue does not just lye within funding , it also lies within the attitudes of those in higher positions within the school .

  38. Nancy Cyros permalink

    Thank you for your insights and awareness to this topic. It brings to light key issues that must be addressed for children, EAs, the educational system and all who work collaboratively to ensure safety in the school setting.

    Behaviour is communication.

    Students with special needs are being failed everyday by the educational system and in turn, it affects their sense of self: confidence, self-esteem, belongingness and overall — mental health. They are in survival mode in the classroom, the foundational pillar of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs due to endless waitlists for accommodation and therapies should they be getting help. Others go unnoticed. Our system is failing them and year after year, they are shutting down mentally, emotionally, academically.

    One strategy proposed by @StuartShanker is to promote Self-Reg Havens: Schools that offer the feeling of safety to all by promoting self-regulation principles to each and every student. (See article here: https://self-reg.ca/2016/05/31/self-reg-view-schools-self-reg-havens/ )
    This creates self-awareness in young children and how to recognize and de-escalate before it’s a problem. The early they learn, the better it is for the learner, the teacher, the EA, the principal, the parent and in the long-run, society/ the community.

    We need to begin proactive conversations and realize how important messaging is in improving the outcomes. EAs play an important role in our children’s lives – but more importantly is mindfulness in a curriculum that ultimately teaches ones to care for self and others, reduce stressors, focus and increase attention and most of all, aid in coping and resiliency.

    I’ve seen this first hand in implementing mindfulness corners in schools, not just for special needs students, but for all. It’s inclusive. We all need to be understanding and understood.

  39. What is scary is that the govt is trying to defund and justify less intensive treatment for these kids entering school and in the elementary years and not funding and providing these supports in schools. It is not enough to give a regular classroom teacher minimal ABA training and cut EAs and expect a good outcome.

  40. Len permalink

    Great read and thanks for sharing. My daughter is an EA2 with Durham Board and hear the horror stories weekly. I too will be sharing. Thanks

  41. Cheryl permalink

    Finally the truth is coming out. This is why I quit. My life was in jeopardy everyday. (14 years of violent behaviours) Also teachers would not help if they saw you getting beat up. They just did NOTHING!! Sad to say but true. They were untouchable literally. Heaven forbid they were touched by a child who had behaviours. (Bunch of pansies) For measly $20 per hour it was not worth it anymore. Teachers constantly got raises and we got nothing. (One 50 cent raise in 14 years)

  42. Mary Jane permalink

    Years ago students were in special needs classrooms in regular school . They got the education they needed and the school experience. My sister was one . System worked . Integration into mainstream has caused many problems . Regular students do not get the help they need because of the interruptions in the classroom by special need children. Vilolence and abuse should not be tolerated . I work in Heath care psws are put in the same situation with violent seniors in LTc orhime care settings . Family members put the rose coloured glasses on , that couldn’t happen , who caused it ? Solutions need together found and I applaud the EAs . They should not have to deal with these situations Cz the parents certainly aren’t . Just my opinion .

  43. Jennifer permalink

    Thank you for bringing attention to this issue! We have been dealing with violence for years. I have been hit, punched, scratched, kicked, pushed, spit on, had objects thrown at me, been threatened and swore at on many occasions. I have filed at least 20 incident reports because I been physical assaulted. There seem too be more and more students who need EA support but fewer and fewer EA’s being hired. Many EA’s have 2-3 students at one time to try and manage. It is a very difficult job to do but also very rewarding! I love my job and my students but I’m afraid I will not physically be able to do my job until my retirement. Something has to give.

  44. M. C. A permalink

    This is so well said, we all live it every day and it gets harder and harder because they do not hire enough help. What other kids wirhness is horabke, the verbal, physical and mental abuse is awful. This needs to be address and parents need to be aware of what cut backs are causing in our schools.

  45. Debra Lewis permalink

    As an Educational Assistant who has worked for 30+ years I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. For many years I have been exposed to the trauma of “equal education for
    all”. The physical and emotional abuse that E.A.s are exposed to on a daily basis would not, and should not, be tolerated by today’s standards of abuse. The E.A. profession is poorly recognized and respected. It is also extremely underpaid considering the risk of personal peril, physically, emotionally and psychologically. E.A.s facilitate the inclusion of students who could not, and maybe should not, be in the regular school system, at the expense of their physical and emotional safety. Often there is no recognition from parents or the staff we work with. Our efforts to facilitate inclusion creates disharmony within a structure that celebrates success and social norms, leaving us to advocate for students at the expense of our respect and acceptance of the people we work with. If it was a personal relationship we would be advised to leave the abuse A.S.A.P.

  46. Laura Zulak permalink

    As a retired elementary teacher, I have witnessed all that you describe. The learning curve for inclusiveness is negatively impacting on our children when it means they live in a hostile, volatile environment. When children are subjected to violent assaults on caring adults, they are not preparing for the real world of life. These attacks are assaults. Children should be protected, not subjected, to this violence.
    Social behavioural needs away from the mainstream… integrate judicially.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Educational Assistants and What ALL Parents Should Know – TheEACafe
  2. From poor soil, children in the education system. – EduMomma

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