Be cautious of overgeneraliztions

People shouldn't draw conclusions from their own experiences, or the reported experiences of others

Re: Time for teachers to avoid psychological bullying, Letters, March 12

In her letter, Anne Rostvig suggested that teachers should stop the psychological labelling of students. I am writing to inform the readers that this is simply not how things are done. A psychiatric or mental health diagnosis can only be made by appropriate health care professionals. Teachers can suggest that a student be referred to a doctor, but teachers can not make a referral. Parents have the ultimate responsibility and choice in making mental health referrals, and only a medical doctor can make a diagnosis.

The B.C. government, not teachers and not the teachers’ union, sets out the criteria for special education designations. The criteria for these designations can be found in a document called “Special Education Services Category Checklists,” which is available online. The mental health diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder alone is not likely to satisfy the criteria for any of the special education designations. Many other criteria must also be met, including that the student’s behaviour must have a very disruptive effect, and be evident in more than one setting and with more than one person.

We have all been students, and if we are parents we have experienced schools again in that context. We should, however, be cautious before we overgeneralize from our own experiences, or the reported experiences of others. If you want to know more about how special education designations are made, talk to a teacher or do some extensive research online. The government policies that guide special education in British Columbia schools are all freely available online.

Jacob Cowan