The Iqaluit District Education Authority says Nunavut’s Department of Education is barring some support workers from helping students in need.
The education authority says it identified 28 students who need extra help for emotional and behavioral challenges. A news release Wednesday from administrator Lynda Gunn said the authority secured federal funding to contract people to help support those students, but the Department of Education is now barring those people from entering schools.
“The [department] issued an order to the participating school’s administrators that they were to immediately disallow contractors into the schools without their express written consents,” the education authority wrote.
The release said the project would have given students access to professional screening and assessment, and eventually individual specialized treatment service plans.
“This order effectively destroyed three and a half years of work to get the project to the point of launching in early February and the ability of the affected children to get the kind of professional services they needed to succeed in life,” the release said.
In a statement, the Department of Education said it had specific rules in place for how external contractors could enter schools. Those rules, he wrote, are “critical for ensuring consistent and safe supports for our students.”
“When we received the list of referred students from the [education authority]we immediately followed up and provided services to all referred students still enrolled in our schools,” the department wrote, adding it isn’t aware of any students who didn’t receive support.
Alexina Kublu, the elder board member for the Iqaluit District Education Authority, said in an interview that it’s fair for the department to monitor who has access to students, but these weren’t random people.
“It would be somebody you know, and everything would have been arranged before hand,” she said.
The education authority said it believes students don’t receive enough support under the territorial system. It said it was informed that the department would send a contractor into communities once per year to help children who have any kind of disability, but that the contractor didn’t necessarily meet with all the children who needed help.
“With the [education authority’s] approach, critical services needed by each of the 28 children would be met for whatever number of times they require the services,” the education authority wrote.
Kublu said she’s worried about students who don’t have enough access to services, and how that might impact them later in life.
“In my mind, sometimes I go, ‘They’re doomed to failure,'” she said. “I mean, it’s sad, when we find out what the problem is and then they can be given the assistance — but without that assistance, nothing’s happening.”
She added this isn’t just a problem in Iqaluit — she knows of students across Nunavut’s communities affected by the order.
“This wasn’t written just to us. It was sent to all [district education authorities],” she said. “We have students throughout Nunavut that are being affected by this.”
The Department of Education wrote that its student achievement division has “worked tirelessly over the past decade to expand the support services available to our students.”
It said it also secured more funding in February to make sure mental health support services were delivered in all of Nunavut’s schools.
“While we understand that the [education authority] has concerns, the Department of Education is confident in its processes related to third-party access to schools,” it wrote.
“Our procedures for supporting service referrals and approving external services are intended to protect students and prevent duplication of services in our schools.”