Political controversy is brewing in the Peace River region tonight as Liberal candidate Pat Pimm defends his comments about special needs children.
Pimm claims parents across B.C. are concerned that students with special needs are causing their children “grief,” and pushing parents to enroll their kids in private schools or homeschool them.
“When you’ve got special needs children in classes with other children, it does create some issues. I’ve heard that across the province, it causes some grief. How you deal with that is a real hard question,” Pimm said at an all candidates meeting in April.
The comments were made in response to a question about the degradation of the public school system and increased enrollment in private schools and homeschooling.
Executive director of Inclusion BC Faith Bodnar said she was surprised by Pimm’s backward comments.
“I think we need to step into the 21st century here and say students with disabilities and special needs are part of our population. They belong in our schools. We fought that battle a long time ago. And now it’s a question of how we accommodate them to have good school outcomes and good educational outcomes,” she said.
NDP candidate for Vancouver-West End Spencer Chandra Herbert said Pimm should apologize
“I couldn’t’ believe that a Liberal candate and an MLA would make such comments. It’s disrespectful to special needs kids, to their parents and to their teachers,” he said. “This candidate should apologize. He should not be attacking students for challenges to education when in fact it’s the Liberal government who’ve made it harder for kids to get the education they deserve.”
Pimm said he is disappointed that someone is trying to twist what he said.
“I simply recounted what I’ve heard that some parents have expressed concerns some teachers have had to work extra hard with special needs kids. I fully support having special needs kids educated in the same classrooms as other children. Period,” he said.
According to Pimm, the BC Liberals have done more than any other government in the province’s history to support special needs kids.
In response to Global BC’s story, 17-year-old viewer Nathan Shipley, who has cerebral palsy, posted a YouTube video asking candidates how they plan to support children with special needs.
“Isn’t it important to take take of the people of the province that need it most… I feel like I’m a normal contributing member of society like everyone else. I believe in myself… do you?” Shipley asks in the video.
Shipley’s mother, Leora Shipley, wrote in an email to Global BC that proper funding needs to be in place to support special needs children in schools.
“Every child has the right to learn in an integrated setting, however, there must be appropriate funding in place to support these children; with the appropriate supports, they can learn and contribute to schools like every other child,” she wrote. “People need to realize that, not only does this benefit children with special needs, but also provides a more enriched environment for all children — children benefit from exposure to all sorts of children of varying abilities.”
With files from John Daly