Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The politics of safety

The article here is more than a week old, but the Toronto Sun did several days' coverage of a six-year-old's injury sustained in a schoolyard mishap. In this one piece, they featured a lawyer willing to take on the school and the world, it seems, because the student didn't receive appropriate care after her injury.
Irene (Cao), a Grade 1 student at the Martin Grove Rd.-Eglinton Ave. W. area school, broke her leg in two places in November after colliding with another student. Irene needed to have a brace with four screws drilled into her shinbone so it will mend.
Cao’s parents accuse school staff of forcibly dragging a screaming Irene into the school, and then not calling an ambulance. Cao has since sought legal advice.
“It comes down to negligence,” said Dave Messam, a lawyer with the Cariati Law firm. “The younger (the kids) are, the more the onus is on the school to keep them safe. From the time children are dropped off, until they are picked up, (school staff) are responsible for their well-being.”
The Toronto District School Board response is that only one staff member per school is required to have standard first aid training.
There are separate issues at play here, which means the implied correlation between standard first aid training for all school employees and the way this girl was treated is not as strong as what the article suggests. First is the issue of standard first aid training and schools. Second is the way this particular student was treated.
As a first aid / CPR / AED instructor for 15 years, I think I can speak knowledgeably about at least one of these issues, if not both.
The TDSB spokesperson is entirely correct. Legally, schools are considered workplaces when it comes to staff members' requirements for first aid training. Under the WSIB legislation in Ontario, the number of people in any workplace who must have first aid training is regulated based on the number of employees. For schools, that's the number of school staff members, as students are not considered employees. In many schools, only one person in the building requires first aid training.
This, I don't agree with, but it requires legislative change. Given the work politics, it would also require serious cash as many current teachers (more likely their federations) would insist on completing this training during class time, requiring substitute teachers, and to be paid for it. Perhaps a solution lies in the Ontario College of Teachers making changes to its initial certification processes -- candidates requiring standard first aid training before being admitted for the first time as college members.
The other issue here is how this girl was treated. Many who've read or heard about this incident would easily say, using common sense, that dragging someone with a leg injury anywhere isn't the best thing to do in most circumstances. It may have aggravated her injury. Broken bones don't necessarily always require an ambulance response, but they don't make casts in school first aid rooms, so a hospital visit was also a common-sense decision.
All of which is my tepid way of stating that even if every adult in that school had a first aid certificate, that still may not have prevented the lack of common sense that appeared to be on display with this incident.


Anonymous said...

I think there is so much wrong with schools we need a big change. How about allowing the Ombudsman into our schools to recommend to the public the changes that need to be done. At the present time the Os office has had over 4,000 complaints he can not investigate because he is not allowed to under the law. Teachers who speak up are shown the door or they commit career suicide.

Children Abused
Children Abused
Sex offenders not reported
Let him out of jail to Teach.
Female Sex Offender allowed to Teach. Where?
Beatings Reported
One of the Kids who killed himself rather then Face Bullies….

Education Reporter said...

Anon 12 Jan. 23:57

I'm a supporter of opening up the MUSH sector (Municipalities, Universities, School Boards and Hospitals) to the Ombudsman's office. I don't want any further remarks I make in response to be misconstrued as not being supportive of this.

Ombudsman oversight is not a panacea that will always result in the solutions complainants want. In this specific situation, what would the ombudsman say? The lawyers may see the opportunity to claim the school staff were negligent in their response. My comments in the post speak to my thoughts on that. I don't see what the ombudsman could say that would significantly alter any internal response from the school board to the employees (if there was one).

Further, the ombudsman's recommendations have zero weight until the government of the day adopts and implements them.

The folks concerned in all the examples you've listed -- and I'll admit I'm not familiar with many of them and leave it at that -- likely want redress that goes beyond even what a series of ombudsman's recommendations might carry.


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