Media Release - September 21, 2022

COPE Local 527, representing Education Support Staff with Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), is deeply concerned with the recent media coverage regarding an incident which occurred at RA Riddell school.

Our Educational Assistants work with some of the most vulnerable students, and are some of the most dedicated, compassionate and caring staff with HWDSB. Educational Assistants are assigned to a school, and support multiple students, under the direction of the classroom teacher and school administrator.

The supervision and safety of students is the responsibility of the Education Team as a whole, and the care and wellbeing of students is the first priority of all staff concerned.

Our schools are underfunded, and understaffed. Students with special needs are often without the 1:1 support they require, often receiving highly limited Educational Assistant support as a result. This is a safety concern for all students, for staff, and the accountability must fall to the HWDSB and the Ministry of Education to provide and allocate appropriate funding to support the needs of these most vulnerable of students. Unions across this Province have been advocating for adequate funding, and staffing, to ensure the safety of both students and staff. The Ministry and the HWDSB are fully aware of the crisis within our classrooms. This recent incident is one of several recent incidents across the HWDSB, and is not a reflection on the staff, but is a result of the understaffing within our school system.

Recent statements and information released by the media do not necessarily represent facts, and the slanderous statements towards the Educational Assistants involved must not continue unaddressed. The lack of facts and equitable voices in media is misleading and does a huge disservice to the student population of HWDSB and further endangers the educational staff, who are the ones on the frontlines.

We appreciate the seriousness of this incident; we fully support our members and the work they do daily to support our most vulnerable students and stand by them as they continue to provide frontline support despite obstacles and challenges.

Susan Lucek, President COPE Local 527

Linda Kowalski, Vice President, COPE Local 527

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