Calls for more funding following report on violent incidents in schools involving special-needs students

Dione Costanzo’s son has autism and through the help of his aide, he has been attending school alongside his peers for several years.

Costanzo says the same specially-trained experts who support her son should be made available to all special-needs kids in B.C., particularly for more complex cases.

“A board-certified behaviour analyst could be brought in to do a functional analysis and really determine why a severe behaviour is happening, what the triggers are,” Costanzo said.

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Her comments come after a Global News report about a North Vancouver special education assistant (SEA) who said the school district isn’t doing enough to protect workers or support children unable to regulate aggressive behaviour.

“I was kicked and punched and slammed into a display case,” former SEA Kristen Dehal said. “I received a concussion that day — I had a big bruise on the side of my face.

“I’ve never blamed the child that assaulted me. There needs to be an airtight plan for each child that is designated with a special need and is going to be included in a school environment.”

WATCH: Safety risks from special needs students?

Costanzo agrees SEAs and kids are being let down by the system.

“There definitely is a lack of funding; there’s a lack of accountability,” she said. “SEAs definitely need… more ongoing training and support that is student-specific,” she said.

Paul Faoro, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees BC (CUPE BC), which represents about 13,000 SEAs, places much of the blame on Christy Clark’s Liberal government.

“I hope that there is a change in government, because the last government did nothing in regards to this type of safety in schools,” he said.

Dehal and others say the union hasn’t been doing enough to support them, but Faoro says CUPE BC has been lobbying for a full review.

“We need to start treating special education assistants [as] an integral part of the education system,” he said. “You just can’t look at one sector or one piece of the education system, you need to do a 360 review.”

— With files from Nadia Stewart

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