Mother of B.C. teen with disabilities says they feel harassed, intimidated by P.E.I. school board

Teresa Wright
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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 mother of a B.C. teenager with autism and epilepsy who was disallowed from taking part in an exchange trip to P.E.I says her daughter feels harassed and discriminated against and no longer wants to come to Prince Edward Island.

Melanie Bowen says she has a letter from P.E.I.’s English Language School Board stating her 15-year-old daughter Brooklyn Mavis could only participate in the trip to P.E.I. if she issued a letter of apology and a full retraction of public statements she has made alleging her daughter had been discriminated against.

CLICK HERE FOR REACTION FROM THE AUTISM SOCIETY OF P.E.I.

“There were several plans put in place, and we had agreed to most of them, but it was when a plan was brought to us that required me to apologize to a teacher from Bluefield High School for hurting his feelings and they required me to recant any allegations of discrimination, that’s when the plans came to a full halt,” Bowen said.

Fifteen-year-old Mavis was accepted into the exchange trip to P.E.I. through SEVEC (Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada) months ago, but everything changed after she suffered complex partial seizure during an outing while the P.E.I. students were in B.C. last month.

Mavis’ school principal received a letter from Bluefield on April 1, saying the P.E.I. school would no longer be able to host Mavis due to her “inability to cope with the physical stress of an exchange.”

No one from Bluefield High School would respond to repeated requests for comment, directing all inquiries to school board.

The Guardian was asked to leave the premises Monday while attempting to ask students for comment in a parking lot adjacent to the school.

Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet said Monday she is ‘very surprised and very disappointed’ by allegations of discrimination by the B.C. teen.

Fleet says negotiations with the family continued after April 1 letter, as school officials tried to work out a way to allow Mavis to participate in the trip.

“There was a meeting whereby we were certainly able to get full information around the situation and what would be required to provide appropriate supports for the student when she came to P.E.I.,” Fleet said.

“That was, as I understood it at the time, resolved and all parties were in agreement to the support plan that was put in place and the students would all be here in May.”

“The offer that they made is discriminatory based on the fact that they’ve made proposals that further exclude Brooklyn rather than include (her),” Jodi Tucker of Kids Matter Inc.

When pressed for details on the support plan offered to Mavis and her mother, Fleet would only say it “would reduce risk and ensure the student’s safety and inclusion in the trip.”

But Bowen says Fleet failed to mention this plan came with a condition that Bowen apologize and recant allegations that her daughter was being discriminated against due to her disabilities.

Her teenage daughter now feels further victimized by having to take her story to the media.

“It was humiliating for Brooklyn to go public with this, because at her last school she was bullied because of her disability and the last thing she wanted to do is tell everybody about her issues,” Bowen said.

“To her, that’s one of the worst things that has come out of this.”

Jodi Tucker of Kids Matter Inc. is the family’s advocate. She says the offer of accommodation by the school contingent on an apology and retraction is not accommodation at all.

Also, the final plan offered to Mavis to participate in the trip would have seen her staying in a hotel alone with a teacher next door, rather than with a host family like the rest of her classmates.

“This counter offer is more about being compliant to some ridiculous set of rules somewhere rather than what’s going to be meaningful engagement for Brooklyn,” Tucker said.

“The offer that they made is discriminatory based on the fact that they’ve made proposals that further exclude Brooklyn rather than include (her).”

Tucker says she and the family no longer see this as an isolated incident, but as a case of ‘systemic discrimination’ by the P.E.I. school board and SEVEC.

They are not sure what their next steps will be, but Mavis, who fundraised for months to come to P.E.I., no longer wants to participate in the exchange trip.

“She feels like it’s a hostile environment because of the way she was treated by the teacher and the students,” her mother said.

“I feel that there was some harassment and intimidation. Bullying is probably a good word for it as well. I know that there was some Facebook banter back and forth with it as well – some of the teachers in P.E.I. and some of the students, and that was definitely bullying against my daughter.”

A statement issued by SEVEC says a series of steps were taken to try to accommodate Mavis and work will continue with both schools in B.C. and P.E.I. to try to come to a resolution.

Organizations: P.E.I. school board, Bluefield High School, English Language School Board Kids Matter

Geographic location: P.E.I., B.C., Brooklyn Canada Bluefield

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Recent comments

  • Anonymous
    April 29, 2014 - 19:37

    Systemic discrimination is deeply engrained in PEI. I was discriminated against at the QEH after a car accident because I had a mental health diagnosis on my file. I didn't get an x-ray, had to go back two days later (and i didn't want to because of the treatment I got the last time, and because I have had doctors say disrespectful things to me about having a mental illness in the past) because my whole arm swole up, second doctor did the right thing, ordered an x-ray, referred me to a specialist and massage therapy. I told that doctor that I felt I was discriminated against by the doctor I saw prior and he just shrugged it off. Now trying to relocate off island, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

  • Sarah MacDonald
    April 29, 2014 - 17:26

    Bullying is alive and well in our schools, and it stems from the very top. How will this ever change if the adults don't recognize this? I dread sending any child of mine into the school system, it is beyond broken, pink shirts or no pink shirts!

  • IBC
    April 29, 2014 - 13:22

    I do agree that islanders are narrow minded BUT NOT ALL .Come on now we spent a lot of tax payers money to cover the cost to keep our autism children and young adults in school .More than we spend to have music or art in schools . There is no program for children with dyslexia or other reading problems but there are more teachers aids in our schools for children with autism , than there are teacher . Come now if she is that bad maybe she needs full time caregiver . My child has 5 in her class of 15 children . COME NOW THEY HAVE ALL THE HELP NEEDED FOR THESE 5 CHILDREN .

    • Leanne
      April 30, 2014 - 08:15

      I'm sorry but I don't think you know what you are talking about.. I have a son with Asperger's (autism spectrum) that is now in grade 7 and has never had a Teacher Aid(we are in NB) even though he could have used one and his "accommodations" are rarely followed.. And your comments are just plain rude, they are not saying she" has it that bad" that would warrant you saying she should have a fulltime caregiver. The point is that she IS functioning and shouldn't have been denied the chance to go because of her disability...

    • IBC
      April 30, 2014 - 15:54

      WELL LEANNE MOVE TO PEI , THEY WILL FALL ALL OVER YOU GETTING YOU ALL THE HELP AND MORE.

  • don
    April 29, 2014 - 11:59

    Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet. shame on you. what you have done is "discrimination" plain and simple. this what YOU have done. influencing the individual's actual behavior towards the group or the group leader, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making. i hope pei is taken off this program and the kids has you as leader to thank for it.

    • No Idea
      April 29, 2014 - 13:22

      While I agree with most of your post completely. I would expand it a bit to others like the principle and the other 2 who signed the letter. Also, I do hope that PEI students get to go in future so they can have their outlook broadened unlike these narrow minded people who are teaching today's, future leaders.

  • Debbie GauthierLong
    April 29, 2014 - 10:59

    I feel really bad for this young girl who was so looking forward to this trip with her class. Is their no Educatioal Assistant in PEI Or for that matter who work at Bluefield who could become this young girl's host family. They should be both Qualified and have the best interest in this girl having a positive experence while on your beautiful Island. As a former Teacher Assistant from PEI I would certainly help this young girl and her family to have a wonderful experience . Come on where is your inclusion policy!

  • Mike Nantau
    April 29, 2014 - 10:46

    There should be a sign on the bridge stating 'You are now entering PrInce Edward Island ... Please narrow your mind. Gentle Island my A$$

    • don
      April 29, 2014 - 12:09

      Mike Nantau i agree with you it is putting the word out if your child is not perfect then leave this island as we have a superintendent that is "discrimination" type person. and they put the reporter off the school ground is that not open to the tax payers of PEI? maybe they were scared of what the kids would say now we have a board that is a BULLY

    • No Idea
      April 29, 2014 - 12:25

      Couldn't have stated the situation better. This should do wonders for tourism and a difficult economy. I wonder why the youth and immigrants can't wait to leave for the rest of Canada as soon as they can.

  • tired of drama
    April 29, 2014 - 10:10

    always 2 sides to a story, and the other side is very different than it was portrayed in yesterdays news report. this is definitely not what it seemed. Me thinks someone is skilled at playing victim and is using the media. Oh the drama of it all...

    • No Idea
      April 29, 2014 - 12:22

      Care to explain the new information you seem to have that no one else does? The School Board and Principal won't comment so I don't know how you think this story has changed. The media has tried to show both sides but when one side won't explain or defend their position, I don't see how this is any different than previous reports. The school is wrong and has damaged this girls home school situation as well as ruined her trip. On top of that, they have revealed an attitude not much different than Donald Sterling or their ignorance of how to treat students fairly. Glad I don't live in PEI.

  • Here we go again.
    April 29, 2014 - 10:05

    The school first then the school board dropped the ball on this one. Could have saved everyone alot of grief if they were Educated on Epilepsy. Chasing the paper off the proerty shows the bulling mentality of Bluefield. Can you imagine if we did this to a student from La Belle Province lookout. To those that say she shouldn't go my question is why? I went to school with a girl with epilepsy and have a epileptic customer and they are no different than anyone else. yes seizures can be frightening but remember your not the one having it.

  • John te Raa
    April 29, 2014 - 08:57

    Thank you Teresa Wright for digging into this story. I am concerned with the way the Eastern School Board and Superintendent are handling this matter.

  • You are misinformed
    April 29, 2014 - 08:44

    Her mother has offered to come and stay with her daughter in a hotel for this to work. Bluefield will only accept her if she is alone in a hotel room and has a teacher next door. So this is just dumb by bluefield.

  • Just The Facts
    April 29, 2014 - 08:33

    There are children with epilepsy attending many Island schools, Bluefield included. This little girl from B.C. should be treated in the same inclusive manner as are these young Island students. So, a seizure may occur. So what....deal with it intelligently and compassionately. Do not exclude this young girl because you are reluctant to deal with reality!

  • PEI Resident
    April 29, 2014 - 08:31

    It looks like it's the parent who is harassing the public and the school with unreasonable demands. I don't think anyone has anything against the girl...

  • Darren MacKinnon
    April 29, 2014 - 07:35

    I am sad and disappointed to see such a huge display of negativity towards this young girl with a disabilitty. I also have no problem stating my name either. In this era this is one of the largest disappointments I witnessed from our school system. Now unless I missed something huge in this discussion, I feel the apologies should be coming from the school Board. In a Province and bearaucracy that promote "inclusion" this is a poor way of going about it. Respect this child and do what's right to make this situation right. Respect before policy.

    • nitpicker
      April 29, 2014 - 08:44

      A little idealistic, but I don't necessarily disagree with you. Regrettably, however, this story is a result of the litigious society we have become. Risk aversion is the order of the day for schools and the like.

  • A.T.
    April 29, 2014 - 07:02

    While I feel for the girl and her plight, there is the other side. How would you feel if a child took a seizure while in your home? In BC she has parents, teachers, supports in place that know exactly what to do to help. On PEI, she is staying in someone else's home. If she takes a seizure, the host parents are responsible. Many people would be leery about taking on that responsibility and possible lawsuit if anything happened to her.

    • Janet McLeod
      April 29, 2014 - 22:21

      If there is another side you should tell it, because no one who knows it has, so far, had big enough gonads to spit it out. And put away the smelling salts, I was 8 when one of my classmates took an epileptic seizure and I, and my 20 classmates learned how to deal with it, quickly and compassionately. Not one of us suffers from PTSD due to that experience, but then we weren't Island princesses.

  • Stay Away
    April 29, 2014 - 06:55

    Stay away then. This is just whining to draw attention. Bluefield made the correct decision in the beginning and they should have stuck to it rather than draw it out like this.

    • CFA
      April 29, 2014 - 09:47

      Welcome to the "Gentle Island".Somehow or other I don't have a lot of faith in your ability to make wise descions.

  • Gordie
    April 29, 2014 - 06:23

    All of Prince Edward Island should hang their head low on this one. Maybe Clara Hughes could shed some light on this on her way through P.E.I., IF SHE EVEN COMES THROUGH HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Lisa
      April 29, 2014 - 07:18

      Clara Hughes came through about a week ago.....sorry you missed her.

  • VOLUNTEER
    April 29, 2014 - 06:14

    these people should remove the chips on their shoulders-i'm sure no one wants to hurt the 15 yr old