NEWSTALK 1010 series on classroom violence raised during Question Period

NEWSTALK 1010's series (Today's Classroom: Under the Microscope) that examined violence in schools has made it to Question Period at Queen's Park.

Opposition leader and education critic Patrick Brown stood in the Legislature today, hammering Premier Kathleen Wynne on the state of the system.

"Mr. Speaker, NEWSTALK 1010 had a shocking week-long report that detailed the state of violence in our system that is putting students and educators at-risk," Brown began before being heckled and mocked by members of the Liberal party. "The Liberals may laugh at this, it's a very serious matter. I ask the premier if this is the education system our last two so-called education premiers envisioned for Ontario. Please take this seriously, it is not a laughing matter."

Premier Kathleen Wynne agreed it is no laughing matter. "It is, certainly, important to understand how critical it is that we have the resources in our schools that allow kids to have the experience that they deserve; that every child in our system has the supports that will allow them to flourish. That's why education funding in this province has increased every year, Mr. Speaker."

Wynne says there are more support workers, teachers, people with better training in schools to deal with integrated classrooms.

Brown pointed out last week's admission by Education Minister Mitzie Hunter that the province isn't collecting any data on exclusions, when a child is removed from class. "Mr. Speaker, as NEWSTALK 1010 asked - is violence in the classroom even on the ministry's radar? Are they ignoring the data so they can ignore the shocking results?"

"I want to thank the member for this question," Hunter began her reply. "Any incident of violence that occurs in our school is not acceptable, Mr. Speaker, for any reason. We want to ensure that students, teachers, educations workers, everyone in our school environment is safe. That's the focus. When an incident does occur, Mr. Speaker, we want to ensure that school boards have appropriate protocols and procedures in place to deal with that situation."

Unsatisfied with the responses, Brown once again stood to question the province. "They're working with education partners? Is that by closing schools? Pulling EAs out of the classroom? Is that by cutting special needs funding? There's another aspect that's at-risk. The Liberal government's attack on Autism services has reached a breaking point. The explosive report on violence in the classroom has revealed that students with Autism are being left behind. Those children aren't receiving the specialized help they need in overcrowded classrooms with overworked teachers. It's not fair to teachers, it's certainly not fair to students. Mr. Speaker, will the premier finally stop ignoring what is now being called 'Ontario's dirty little secret?' Will the premier do something to empower educators, support educators, and help students with Autism?"

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter responded by pointing out how the Liberals have been addressing needs over the past years. "Our government has increased funding for special education by 70 per cent since 2003 to $2.7 billion. As well, Mr. Speaker, we have increased the number of EAs (educational assistants) by 37 per cent; 6,300 EAs since 2013 to support students with special education needs."