Why a South Okanagan education assistant who pushed 9-year-old girl with autism will keep her job - InfoNews

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Why a South Okanagan education assistant who pushed 9-year-old girl with autism will keep her job

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June 02, 2020 - 7:30 AM

A South Okanagan education assistant fired for pushing a nine-year-old pupil with serious behavioural problems will hang on to her job after the Okanagan Skaha school district lost an appeal to have her removed.

The education assistant was fired in April 2019 following an incident where she pushed a nine-year-old autistic girl and then denied doing so. The B.C. Labour Relations Board overturned School District No. 67 Okanagan Skaha's decision to fire the education assistant and ordered she be reinstated in October 2019. 

The School District appealed the decision, arguing the education assistant should be fired, not solely because she pushed the child, but because she lied about the events and denied her behaviour.

However, a panel of three Labour Relations Board arbitrators dismissed the appeal May 29.

The arbitrators found that while the education assistant, whose name and school are omitted from the decision, had made contact with the child, it was not intentional.

"She was mistaken, but not dishonest, in her subsequent retelling of the story," reads the decision.

The arbitrator said the educational assistant didn't realize contact had taken place.

According to the decision, the child was nine years old at the time and had serious behavioural issues as a result of having autism. At the time of the incident, the pupil was in a "calm room" where she had been told to spend the afternoon to "decompress alone in quiet surroundings." The educational assistant sat outside the calm room monitoring the student.

At one point the student tried to leave the room and "lunged" at the educational assistant as she was holding the door slightly ajar with her right hand. The education assistant then blocked the student with her left hand and closed the door.

The pupil then told the school the education assistant pushed her and hurt her when she tried to leave the room.

The education assistant reported the incident immediately after it took place telling a different story. Two teachers and an education assistant also witnessed the incident.

According to the decision, the arbitrator found the education assistant did have some contact with the pupil and the child fell to the ground.

However, the arbitrator found the education assistant genuinely did not realize that she had pushed the child. The arbitrator said her behaviour warranted a disciplinary letter but she should not have been terminated.

The arbitrator also pointed to her excellent work performance, length of service, and clear discipline record, ordering the School District to reinstate her.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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