School board must provide positive influence for our children

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
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By Patricia Gaudet (guest opinion)

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.

I am an Islander. I was born and raised on P.E.I. and proud of it. Over the past while, something has become very evident to me. The youth of our Island are in desperate need of help.

The English Language School Board has made headlines twice in the past two weeks. And I am, as I’m sure many other Islanders are, quite concerned. Yes, about the decisions of the school board, but more importantly about the influence and experiences of our youth.

First we have the story of 15-year-old Brooklyn Mavis of B.C. We as Prince Edward Islanders pride ourselves on our hospitality. So where is the hospitality in this case? I understand that dealing with someone who has a disability can be disconcerting to those who are not familiar with these disabilities, but that is no excuse.

It’s been known for long enough that this exchange was going to take place. Brooklyn Mavis is not the only person in the world with autism and epilepsy. There was more than enough time for those involved to educate themselves to Brooklyn’s disabilities. Do you honestly think that Brooklyn Mavis’s parents would send her across the country if they didn’t think she were capable of doing so?

P.E.I. may have a population of about 145,000 but in reality we’re a small close-knit province. There are plenty of people on this Island living with autism and epilepsy. It’s almost guaranteed that someone at Bluefield High School at least knows someone who is living with autism and/or epilepsy.

You are the English Language School Board, educate yourselves. Talk to Brooklyn’s family and friends and learn about these disabilities, specific to her. Instead the door was shut in the face of this 15-year-old all because of a lack of education, on the part of those who are assigned to educate.

Secondly, we have the case of Miscouche Consolidated School. This is unbelievable. This has been going on for four years, a third of a child’s basic education.

When it comes down to it this is not about a principal, parents, teachers or the English Language School Board, this is about our children. This isn’t about how you look to your boss, this isn’t about politics, this isn’t about doing a favour for a relative of a friend, This is the raising of our children. Where are you? Where is the support for the children? They are individuals that are going to shape our future, but right now they’re children trying to enjoy their childhood.

They spend about 35 hours a week, give or take a few hours, in school. School is a major influence on the upbringing of a child. Why are they not being given all the opportunities they can possibly receive? Why is this school different from that school? Why is it even possible for a child to go to school and not feel safe? In closing I am most certainly not saying that anyone should loose their job. What I’m saying is that each and every child is an individual and they are all unique.

No two people are exactly the same. It doesn’t matter what type of home they come from, who their parents are, what their siblings may have been like, who their friends are, if they have any disabilities, how they dress or how they act. If you’re a teacher, a principal, a parent or a role model to any youth look at them for who they really are, not as the person you want them to be or find it convenient to pretend they all are. It is your job to be a role model to these children.

Either start treating them with the respect and honour that they each deserve or move on to a place that is better suited for you. If you work for a school board, if you influence the lives of children in any way please take a long hard look at why you’re doing what you’re doing, and if it’s not to help raise a child to the true person that they are destined to be, do everyone, including yourself, a favor and make the right choice.

A special note to Brooklyn Mavis, her family, friends and supporters; this is not an example of who or what Prince Edward Islanders truly are. I apologize from deep within my heart that you have had this experience. I am hopeful that someday soon you, Brooklyn, and your family will be able to come and experience P.E.I. for the beauty, hospitality and community that it truly is, though I know it is not the experience that you were originally suppose to experience and for that I am genuinely apologetic.

Patricia Gaudet,

A Concerned Role Model,

St. Nicholas

Organizations: English Language School Board, Bluefield High School, Miscouche Consolidated School Role Model

Geographic location: Brooklyn

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