© Photo special to The Guardian by Global News
Melanie Bowen, right, looks on as her daughter, Brooklyn Mavis, sheds tears during an interview with Global News in British Columbia. Brooklyn was told she was not allowed to attend a students exchange in Prince Edward Island because of her autism and epilepsy.
The P.E.I. English Language School Board is keeping its lips sealed on a decision to not allow a B.C. teen with autism and epilepsy to participate in a student exchange program.
Bluefield High School, in Hampshire, and the board saw a flurry of social media criticism over the weekend after the story broke of Brooklyn Mavis, a 15-year-old teen from B.C. who was previously accepted to participate in an exchange trip to P.E.I. through SEVEC (Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada).
Mavis told Global News in B.C. she felt discriminated against when she was informed earlier this month that Bluefield would not be able to host her as part of the exchange.
An official with the school board offered little to clarify the situation when contacted by The Guardian Sunday evening.
“No comment,” said Julie Gaudet, director of the board’s student services department.
The Guardian had previously contacted the principal of Bluefield High School, who was unable to comment on the decision and referred the matter to the board.
In an interview with Global News, Mavis’ mother Melanie Bowen said she had signed waivers about her daughter’s disabilities in November and was still accepted to go on a trip scheduled for May 13.
However, that trip was cancelled in March after Mavis had hosted some P.E.I. students.
During the exchange, Mavis suffered a complex partial seizure. A few days later, the principal of Mavis’ school received a letter informing him that Bluefield was not in a position to host Mavis.
The letter said the board felt Mavis was not able to meet the mandate of the exchange in regards to social interaction with her “twin” and P.E.I. peers.
“Brooklyn’s inability to cope with the physical stress of an exchange was also a factor in our decision,” Letter from Bluefield principal
“Brooklyn’s inability to cope with the physical stress of an exchange was also a factor in our decision,” continued to the letter, obtained by The Guardian. “Legally, as a board, we cannot justify putting a student at risk by subjecting her to the unpredictable stresses an exchange outside one’s province entails.
“We are glad to hear that Brooklyn is making progress in a variety of areas and perhaps over time she will in fact be a suitable candidate for a SEVEC exchange.”
Bowen told Global News that after emails and phone calls, the two were told Mavis would only be able to participate if she stayed in a hotel room alone along with a teacher next door.
Wendy Cummings, executive director of SEVEC, had also issued a statement to Global News regarding the case.
“I would like to reassure everyone that a series of steps were taken to explore ways to accommodate Brooklyn, including participation by representatives of the Center for Epilepsy and Seizure Education during an April 15th conference call SEVEC facilitated that included Melanie, Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s school principal and vice-principal and a P.E.I. school representative,” said Cummings. “In our role as facilitator, I have contacted the P.E.I. and B.C. school officials to request a conference call to discuss this matter. I am hopeful that through collaborative and respectful communication this can be resolved.”