School intervention worker layoffs could be 'detrimental' to students, says union

·3 min read
School intervention workers deal with the 'behavioural, social and/or emotional needs' of students, including those in crisis, according to CUPE Local 2745. (froampsbeg/Shutterstock - image credit)
School intervention workers deal with the 'behavioural, social and/or emotional needs' of students, including those in crisis, according to CUPE Local 2745. (froampsbeg/Shutterstock - image credit)

The elimination of 36 school intervention worker positions in the Anglophone South District next year could be "detrimental" to the well-being of students, including those in crisis, according to the head of the union that represents the laid-off employees.

Only two school intervention workers will remain in place for the entire district in 2022-23, with the savings being used to fund 36 educational assistant (EA) positions instead, superintendent Zoë Watson has confirmed.

She blamed inadequate funding for EAs from the province, the "high demand" for EAs and the need to prioritize.

CUPE Local 2745 was unaware of the layoffs until the school intervention workers (SIWs) received their notices, said national representative Adrienne Paradis, who is based at the Maritimes regional office.

"We are exploring our options," she said, noting some of the members have more than 25 years of service.

"It is necessary for the [Department of Education] to provide the required  funding to ensure that the needs of these students are met at all times and that the districts need to continue to secure the SIW positions and have them remain in our schools and not lay them off."

SIWs and EAs both 'highly necessary'

The union, which represents both school intervention workers and EAs, contends both positions are "highly necessary and equally important within the school system."

They "serve different purposes for students," said Paradis.

While EAs are assigned to individual students, school intervention workers deal with the "behavioural, social and/or emotional needs" of the entire student population.

"When a student is having an issue [it's] the SIWs who would intervene and give the student the tools to deal with their immediate issue and/or any arising difficulties that could also be ongoing," Paradis said in an emailed statement.

"Students that will not have direct access to an SIW within their school, it could be detrimental to their well-being."

Shutterstock/Asia Images Group
Shutterstock/Asia Images Group

Although the superintendent told CBC school intervention workers do not deal with students in crisis, but rather are typically involved with "social skills and self-regulation/mild-risk behaviour," the union disagrees.

SIWs deal with "all levels" of needs, "including students in crisis," said Paradis.

COVID-19 has increased their workload, she said.

"Mental health issues became more prominent and appearing more frequently. Deteriorating factors such as … lack of socialization contributed to the deterioration of overall behaviours."

The SIWs were "active and utilized every day during the pandemic, including the virtual learning."

School intervention workers are also in charge of organizing "respect, wellness, diversity [and] self-esteem activities throughout the school year, to name a few."

Anglophone South will receive funding for additional education support services, including eight full-time equivalent behaviour intervention mentors, 11 full-time equivalent guidance positions and eight full-time equivalent resource positions, which will "help offset any loss of the SIW positions," the superintendent said.

But Paradis questioned how those extra positions can fill the "gap" left by the layoffs.

SIWs are available "every day, every hour the school is open," she said.

Meanwhile other positions, such as behaviour intervention mentors, are sometimes shared between more than one school, according to Paradis.

"So this should be very concerning to all as they may not be available  when needed by the student," she said.

The union needs to gather more information about the layoffs before it can decide on next steps, said Paradis.

The district was "not forthcoming" with any information, she alleged.

"It's unfortunate that the employer didn't communicate this with us as we feel it's poor labour relations and we are very disappointed."

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