Abuse Claimed by Ex-Students of The W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind

In yet another example of alleged abuse of vulnerable populations in residential schools, this Chronicle-Journal article describes a class-action law suit filed against the Ontario government on the grounds of negligence and breaches of fiduciary duties by the school staff.

Robert Seed, 64, is the representative plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, which claims the staff at the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind, in Brantford, Ont., bullied, humiliated and abused — mentally and physically — the plaintiffs in the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit is still in its early stages. The claim was filed at Superior Court in Toronto last month.

W. Ross MacDonald is still operating today, and I have many friends who attended the school after the time period specified by the law suit. It seems that those who attended the school in the seventies and later did not experience the sorts of abuse alleged in this law suit, or they have not come forward if such abuse was experienced.

The statement of claim says staff — identified as teachers, counsellors and administrators at the school — “often inflicted capricious, violent and humiliating punishments on students.”

The majority of students lived in residence at the school, which offered both primary and secondary education. All students were visually impaired, blind or deaf-blind, the statement of claim says.

The sorts of disturbing actions alleged by the plaintiffs will be familiar to those who are aware of the history of residential schools and the institutionalization and segregation of disabled people that took place and is still taking place today.

Staff would use physical violence as a means of discipline, the plaintiffs claim. That included “beating, shoving students, throwing books and other school equipment at students during classes, making students drink from urinals, slapping students with the bare hand or with classroom objects such as books and grabbing students by the hair.”

Students as young as six years old caught speaking at night “endured a counsellor jumping on their backs and beating them.”

You can find the full article here.

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