Special Report: Education

Parkview Students Need Some of the HWDSB's Support for Mental Health

If the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board truly takes mental health seriously, it will reverse its decision to close a dedicated school for students with mental health issues.

By Christine Bingham
Published January 28, 2014

If the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) takes mental health seriously, why are they experimenting with an 'inclusive' school setting that has never shown merit of actually functioning properly anywhere in Ontario or even across Canada?

The HWDSB has decided to close Parkview Secondary School without a single plan in place, dismantled its 'inclusion' and are forcing students with mental health issues into anxious, fearful and negative situations.

It is not just a matter of 'time to adjust' - they don't have time! While the rest of the high school students get all the support they need to graduate and continue on with post secondary education, our students are being mentally and emotionally set back, which in turn affects their learning abilities.

Parkview Secondary School is already inclusive.

To put them into another school that is established is segregation. Will 700 individual students actually 'be nice' when Parkview students act as they do on a daily basis? I know my son will be an easy target.

I have spoken to parents of students at Delta (yes, parents talk to each other) and they have admitted there is a good amount of bullying at the school. What is being done about the bullying that will keep our students safe?

Who is going to make sure that my son is not going to be beaten up in a washroom or sent outside as a joke to cross a road? (By the way, he doesn't know how to safely cross the road!)

Today, HWDSB tweeted, "HWDSB takes mental health seriously! #BellLetsTalk owl.li/t2zJL" and retweeted: "Mental health isn't a one day topic. End the stigma 365 days a year #BellLetsTalk"

Why have our students been forgotten? It is as if they have not even existed until the Board needed their school. They did not get the proper support before, and now they are being forced into situations that will cause their mental health to become worse.

It is not essential that these students be in this large, regular school setting. They are being told to fit into a school with 700 other students, and then in two years put into another school with 300 more students who don't know them.

They need stability with the teachers, educational assistants, principal and programs they know best, not in new schools, spread out, anxious, scared and 'adjusting with time'. They take years to adjust to basic things in life.

If their mental health and well being are as important as this Board says it is, this whole situation needs to be reworked so that these students have the opportunity to reach their full potential. A separate school has proven to be inclusive to all students and that should be what is most important.

There are many students who could benefit from a regular high school and some who benefit from schools such as Glenwood. But there are hundreds of students in this Board who could benefit from an inclusive high school that allows them to work at their pace and not from several high schools in hopes that maybe they might one day be truly included in everything a high school has to offer.

They can all be productive and vital members of our community by continuing in the manner they have been taught. What the board believes is standard for regular or 'typical' students not learning disabilities and behavioural students.

Our students of Parkview SS do not have that kind of time! Give them their own inclusive school. Let them continue with the same staff and programs that have created their successes. Let them continue to reach their full potential without disruption or experimentation! Give them what they want: Parkview Secondary School!

If I do know my child best, as the Board keeps saying, then what you are doing is not in his best interest.

This letter was sent to the HWDSB trustees, City Council and local media. It is published here with permission.

Christine Bingham is a parent of a Parkview Secondary School student. She is also a candidate for Public School Trustee for Wards 1 and 2 in the 2014 Municipal Election.

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By Lilac (anonymous) | Posted January 29, 2014 at 11:59:40

Christine, thank-you for sharing your brave letter. A lot of good kids are going to be hurt by this decision, I feel sick when I hear the trustees go on about putting kids first.

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By canadiandaveneedstobesaved (anonymous) | Posted January 30, 2014 at 15:57:28

I hear all this discussion about studies that show inclusion is best for all students, etc, etc....did the fellow who came up with the study ever visit Parkview to see what was happening there? Are there other schools in Ontario like Parkview for this study to compare? With Parkview, the Board has an opportunity to be ground-breaking in the way to service students with learning needs (hate this 'special needs' label). The need to stop treating it as if it is a cancer that needs to be eliminated, and see the good it has provided. with the Board taking ownership of Parkview and putting money into resources it could be a model of education for the neediest of students for the whole of the province. Stop trying to cut it out...nurture and develop it and it can be great.

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