Promoting Inclusive Education

A mother and an advocate for inclusive education is taking a stand in terms of classroom violence. Her thoughts are that violence in the education system is having repercussions outside the classroom. It is pitting parents against administrators, and parents against parents.

Those whose children struggle at school and have violent outbursts are being confronted by those whose children are witness to what is happening and feel the effects.

MacQuarrie is a mother of three adopted children in Halifax, ages 8, 9 and 11, who cause disruptions at school. She is also a human rights consultant for Inclusion International.

She agreed to risk speaking publicly as part of the program's continuing series on school violence. It began with Alisa Siegel's documentary, "Hard Lessons," about the rise in violence against teachers by elementary school students.

Following that, a panel of three specialists with decades of experience in education weighed in. The program also shared input from parents who are frustrated and angry because their children are being affected by violent outbursts. Many of them are questioning the value of inclusive education.

Schools have adopted the principle of inclusive education, welcoming all kinds of children — including those with learning difficulties, behavioural challenges and mental or physical disabilities — into age-appropriate, regular classrooms.

MacQuarrie has stated that she is frustrated by the continued questioning of whether inclusive education is worthwhile. She firmly believes it is a right. MacQuarrie has argued that the issue isn't inclusion but integration and that part of the issue is that there needs to be more support to integrate students so there are less instances of frustration that leads to violence. MacQuarrie describes her children as amazing, funny and clever, but they are easily overwhelmed with anxiety due to "sensory issues."

McQuarrie believes much more can be done to support children who see violent outbursts in the classroom and feel traumatized. She said it would be worthwhile to reflect on how a child is having a hard time using their words and having a hard time staying calm and in control. Then, we should try to identify what can be done so the child isn't having to communicate in a certain way in the first place.

MacQuarrie adds that it is also important to be empathetic with parents of children who feel stressed by violent incidents and to apologize, but they need to work together as a community to find a solution.

Situations like this always pose a challenge but, as MacQuarrie states, by working together to find a solution as a community is what will help all children excel in their lives and experiences.