UPDATE: P.E.I. education minister grilled over alleged discrimination of B.C. teen

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.

Opposition MLA James Aylward wants to know why Education Minister Alan McIsaac has done nothing to resolve a case alleged of discrimination by the P.E.I. school board against a B.C. teenager with autism and epilepsy.

Aylward grilled McIsaac in the legislature Tuesday, calling the issue a national embarrassment for Prince Edward Island.

But McIsaac continually responded by saying the issue is being dealt with by the English Language School Board.

“As usual the minister is hiding and continues to hide behind his unelected school board,” Aylward said.

“He needs to take the responsibility, he needs to show leadership on this file… why don’t you do your job and make sure this embarrassing situation does not happen again?”

Fifteen-year-old Brooklyn Mavis was scheduled to take part in a class exchange trip to P.E.I. in May, but her trip was cancelled after she suffered a complex seizure during an outing last month.

School officials in P.E.I. sent her a letter, saying they felt she was “not currently able to meet the mandate of the exchange with regards to social interaction” with her P.E.I. peers, according to a letter from Bluefield High School.  

School officials also cited Mavis’ “inability to cope with the physical stress of an exchange” as a factor in their decision.

Negotiations for the trip continued after this letter, but the final plan for the teen to come to P.E.I. would have seen her staying in a hotel alone with a teacher next door.

The girl’s mother Melanie Bowen also says she has a letter from the P.E.I. school board putting a caveat on her daughter’s participation in the exchange - that she had to apologize and issue a full retraction of public statements she made on social media alleging discrimination against her daughter.

McIsaac said Tuesday he has not seen the letters sent to the family, but assured that school officials were just trying to be prepared for Mavis when she arrived – that they had protocols and procedures to follow.

“We had to make sure that the place is secure, safe and a healthy environment for every student that comes here,” he said.

“We found out a little more when the students were (in B.C.) what the situation actually was, that’s why we have to make different preparations for it,” McIsaac said, referencing Mavis’ seizure.

School board superintendent Cynthia Fleet told The Guardian Tuesday the board has continued to try to work with the family, but Mavis and Bowen have made it clear are no longer interested in coming to P.E.I.

During question period, Aylward said it appeared as though the school board was bullying the girl and her mother by demanding an apology and retraction.

“Why was getting an apology from the mother of this child more important than inclusiveness?” Aylward asked.

“This mother has no reason to apologize. The only thing she is guilty of is sticking up for her 15-year-old daughter who was bullied by this minister’s department.”

He called on McIsaac to issue an apology.

McIsaac instead defended the school board’s handling of the situation.

“In no way is there bullying going on here at the present time,” McIsaac said.

Fleet said she is extremely disappointed they were not able to come to a resolution that would have seen Mavis come to P.E.I.

“I’m disappointed for the student, this was a student who was looking forward to a trip with her friends… there had to be a lot of positive anticipation, and how that’s obviously a great disappointment to her,” Fleet said.

She agreed with Aylward that it has caused embarrassment to P.E.I. and the school board, but stressed this is not typical of the board’s handling of students with disabilities.

“Because of the level that this has gone to, it’s going to be borne for a long time by everyone involved, and it is not a reflection of how we run as a school district.”

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa 

 

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

Geographic location: P.E.I., B.C.

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Recent comments

  • Cromwell
    April 30, 2014 - 13:18

    A couple of weeks ago, there was a story of a PEI family who had to move to Whitehorse to ensure proper medical care for their three autistic sons. Surely, this demonstrates that PEI lacks the ability to provide adequate care for autistic children (this is clearly a deficiency in PEI's healthcare system, and, as such, must be addressed), but it does lend credibility to the English Language School Board's position on the young BC girl. I also find it galling to have the young girl's mother cry 'discrimination' because of the decision. This is intended to incite media support, and thereby further cloud the issue.

  • kathy
    April 30, 2014 - 11:16

    This is so sad, why does our School Board hide their heads in the sand rather then look after the children

  • Lisa O
    April 30, 2014 - 08:57

    The ELB encourage inclusion and are anti-bullying. Maybe they should practice what they preach?

  • attitude
    April 30, 2014 - 07:21

    the school system is expected to deal with every aspect of a child's life --the system is not equipped, qualified nor STAFFED PROPERLY to do all these things --let the educators educate -do not throw every societal need at them - they are qualified to educate --medical,social, legal ,mental needs should be handled by appropriate professions society and government officials all too often expect the school to deal with all these issues but then they judge the educational system only on " ACADEMIC OUTCOMES "

  • J
    April 30, 2014 - 06:11

    It seems that P.E.I. is on a slippery slope here in regards to this issue. This student has the right to go on this trip; however, we have to remember that teachers and school personal are not trained to deal with complex medical issues and emergencies should they arise, they are trained in basic first aid and hope that no serious incidents take place on their watch. That said, I believe that in some cases, such as this one, in order for the child to attend, then a parent must be required to take part and travel with their child.

  • Finally
    April 30, 2014 - 01:32

    Once again the superintendent is incorrect this is very typical of the English language school board if only you knew how this goes on all the time. Some of us have been going through this crap for years.

  • darkogav
    April 29, 2014 - 22:55

    The mother had every right to claim discrimination as from her P.O.V. that is exactly what was done to her child. The school board is not qualified to make that judgement. If they felt that strongly about the child's medical condition, they should have consulted with an MD and gotten an MD to side with them.

  • Parent
    April 29, 2014 - 22:31

    Kudos to Aylward for bringing this issue up. Shame on the board, and the minister for standing up for them. As a parent of a child with autism I am privy to the fact that others have come forward to offer to resolve this issue and accommodate this young girl. Their offers were flatly rejected by the board. They talk out of both sides of their mouth when they talk about inclusion. There is no way that they can spin their way out of this one.

  • Weenie
    April 29, 2014 - 22:23

    Why would a parent from BC want to damage her child's intellect by exposing her to the PEI school system?

  • don
    April 29, 2014 - 21:27

    i think the school board and the principle and the minister should send this young lady a letter giving her a big apology. if they are mature enough to do so if they do not then it shows that they are even if the minister says different. “In no way is there bullying going on here at the present time,” McIsaac said.any one got a shovel? but i ask the want to be mature adults how would you feel in your child as in this spot and she was turned down? but remember you all have kids maybe your grandchild could end up in the same boat God works in strange ways. what goes around comes around.

  • david
    April 29, 2014 - 19:38

    Maybe it is the mother who should be apologizing for the attempt to bully someone. It was her who pulled out the old discrimination allegation when she didn't get her own way. Good for the School Board standing by their guns on this one. The mother and Aylward would have been screaming murder had the child come here and something happened to her while she was here. Hard to believe people who we elect can't see things for what they are.

    • Randy
      April 29, 2014 - 22:57

      Maybe you should know the whole story before spouting off like that :( The mother offered to come here and stay in a hotel within a phone calls distance, on her own dime! It was just about her child being a part of a program they had previously approved! They hosted the PEI students already in BC now it was PEI's turn! The only 'own way' she was fighting for was a chance for her daughter to visit our beautiful province like previously promised! So sad for her to have to go thru this denial

  • A tax payer
    April 29, 2014 - 19:36

    This is ongoing on the Island the school board and superintendent are not out to help children they allow their staff to not tell the truth they allow the teachers to call kids names they allow the principal to share private info of a child with non authorized people not only once but again the next day after the parent informed all parties this was not acceptable. This is also the minister who never once responded to an email sent and neither did the chairman of the board of trustees until I emailed the minister that I hoped he would listen to this taxpayer and once again vote in trustees. I will say the dep minister did respond in a timely manner. I am so glad I saved every email and the backpaddeling that was done by the school board. I think they might come in handy to help someone now. Why wouldn't the superintendent get her staff to apologize for the way they acted around my son. She said she couldn't make them. This is how she feels she has to apologize for how she feels.

    • IBC
      April 30, 2014 - 16:04

      I have had it , I have a child in a rule school , The school is beyond in ever way but they can only work with what they are given . Autistic children thrive in this school . they out number the regular children . My son has 5 in his class of 15 and if you want extra help just move out there.

  • James
    April 29, 2014 - 18:47

    James - just what do you suggest they do ??? I suggest YOU fix the problem by taking this girl into your home & being responsible for her . That would be doing something other than running off at the mouth & pointing fingers . Step UP James .

    • Janet McLeod
      April 30, 2014 - 20:18

      Following the stories describing the unfolding of this farce, I have read a number of comments from people who have offered to do just that. One was the mother of an autistic child and they even refused her offer. These are bullies who are determined, in their special and incompetent way, this child will not be included, no matter what anybody else says. Period. Instead of roaring about someone else stepping up when that has already happened, you should perhaps sit down and read the whole story.

  • DAVE MACDONALD
    April 29, 2014 - 18:42

    Aylward move away from Myers your starting to act like him, its the school Board not Allan MacIssacs fault.

    • mark
      April 30, 2014 - 07:00

      It is MacIsaac's fault. Do you not think that the minister was informed of a decision of this magnitude? Of course he was. He is ultimately responsible for the actions of his employees as is any employer.

  • Unknown-MD
    April 29, 2014 - 18:00

    Aylward is absolutely right! This is an embarrassment to PEI. Brooklyn Mavis shouldn't be treated differently even though she suffers with autism and epilepsy. She is still a human being. She should be able to share a hotel room with her family like every other student from B.C participating in this trip to PEI. It's pure discrimination, and it shouldn't be accepted. The Education Minister should take responsibility for himself instead of laying it upon the English Language School Board.

  • same story
    April 29, 2014 - 15:53

    Give it up Aylward . You are becoming as big as clown as Meyers.

  • voter
    April 29, 2014 - 15:48

    these politicians need to be chased when they appear begging at doorways once every 4 years or so !!!! Aylward is getting as bad as the rest - sadly -just like a real politician ,now