A Voice for the Voiceless

6 Oct 2015 Ruth L Snyder

I’m angry. It brings out the “Mama Bear” in me when I hear stories like the one I heard yesterday (names changed).

Belinda has a son who has special needs. She did what she was told and enrolled him in a local school when he was five. He didn’t learn to read that year, or the year after, or the next . . . at eleven years of age he still could not read. Her son received some help at school. She trusted the school to do what was best…until she received a phone call from the school telling her that her son was no longer welcome in the school because “he is a sexual pervert.”

Belinda asked some questions and discovered her eleven-year-old son was given a spy game to play on an iPad belonging to the school. Her son accepted the game and played it without supervision – not for half an hour, but for a whole day. One of the first levels of the game instructed him to take pictures of people he was spying on. He did what he was told and took pictures. Lots of pictures. Of both boys and girls. Parents of the girls found out he was taking pictures of their daughters and complained. That’s when Belinda received the phone call.

Belinda was unable to resolve the situation with her local school, so she contacted a different school and asked to enrol her son. The “new” school contacted the previous school and was informed, “the child is a sexual pervert.” The “new” school refused to enrol Belinda’s son based on the information provided by the previous school. Belinda decided her only option was to homeschool her son. He had been in school for six years and could not read, so she figured she couldn’t do any worse. Then, she discovered the local school had reported her to Child & Family Services. Now she is not only juggling the challenges of parenting and homeschooling a child who has special needs, but she is also spending countless hours defending her ability to care for her son.

Why didn’t the local school provide adequate support for Belinda’s son? Why does a school choose to turn a student away because of a label, without researching the background? Why is it that a parent with a child who has special needs is often taken advantage of because he or she doesn’t understand how “the system” works?

We can do better, Alberta!

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