The Toronto Star is reporting a disturbing story out of the Simcoe and Area District school board this month. Barrie North Collegiate Secondary school has adopted the practice of outfitting many of their staff with bright red, athletic, foam “blocker shields”, they say to protect both staff and students from  violent and unpredictable behaviour . “They’ll use them as a blocker to just block the aggressor. It is just to protect themselves for the moment until they defuse the situation,” said Silvanna Petersen, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 330.

Ya I’ll bet.

Many parents and advocates including parent Susan Clough are outraged and say the foam blockers-with which students are often met coming off the buses in the morning, “are proof of ongoing systemic discrimination against her autistic son.”

And we thought the barriers between the gate keepers and those who have been made vulnerable within service delivery systems where merely metaphorical-not so much.

While school officials say these foam blockers are necessary in many cases, one has to wonder what would happen if the same resources were put into teaching professionals in the classrooms to use alternative methods to support students with challenging behaviours (behaviours which are some times the ONLY method of communication available for students without reliable and available communication tools.)

Mandatory Crisis Prevention Intervention training, protocols which ensure creative and innovative communication tools, and training in behaviour support that allows everyones dignity to remain in tact-would go along way to ensure that students with disabilities would be spared the blatant identification and ostracizing created by these bright red blockers.

A yellow star, separate drinking fountains, or an id number tattooed on your wrist…all symptoms of the same devastating disease. Ignorance, fear, and bias.

You see hate has to be carefully taught…or demonstrated in this case.

The problem is folks when the only tool you have is a hammer-everything begins to look like a nail.

Photo credit-Toronto Star Newspaper