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Photo Credit: @eyeforebony

5. The Experience of Parents

Significant findings:

  • Only one-fifth of responding parents believe forcing children to school will resolve their school phobia.
  • Only 5% of parents have successfully forced children to school.
  • More than 75% of children who missed school were expected to catch up on missed work.
  • More than half of children were criticized for not attending school.
  • Half of the students with school phobia disabilities were accused of fabricating illness.

Parents as Partners:

A positive school climate, a safe learning and teaching environment, and engaged, active, and valued partnerships with parents, families, and community members are essential mental wellness protective supports and factors for student success and positive school communities.

The development of Education Support Teams ensures that educators, school support professionals and administration, parents/caregivers, and community partners, work together to support the educational goals and the disability-related needs of students.

What we often find in the experiences of school phobia and chronic absenteeism is that students and families have had a breakdown of the “parents as partners” ideal. Adversarial communication and relationships between the family and school have developed as schools respond to issues of school phobia and absenteeism with punitive measures against families and students.

Were you blamed for your child’s school phobia?

Two-hundred and sixty (of 519) respondent parents were blamed for their child’s difficulties in attending school.

Has someone from the school talked to you about your obligations under the Education Act?

One hundred and nine respondents were talked to about their obligations as parents under the Education Act (or Code of Conduct and other names for legislation governing education and areas of responsibility): that it is a parent’s responsibility to “ensure that their child attends school regularly and on time”. There is no legislation or policy that affirms the human rights obligations of the education system to ensure that students with disabilities, including mental health disabilities, can access and manage an education. Parents can be fined, threatened with legal action, and reported to a child protection agency for not ensuring that their child attends school – even if that child has a disability that prevents them from attending.

Were you made to force your child into school?

Two hundred and two parent respondents were encouraged to force their child into school.

That number of parents who were forced to bring their child to school increased with the numbers of school absences.

Did you believe forcing your child to attend school helped relieve their school anxiety?
What percentage of families have successfully forced their children to attend school?

Three hundred and sixty-six parents felt that forcing their child to attend school did not resolve school phobia but in fact made the fears and concerns of students worse. Only five percent of parents were able to successfully force their child to attend school.

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