MONTREAL, Quebec, March 15, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Montreal parent is continuing to home school her son, despite her son’s former school principal reportedly threatening to call youth protection services on the family if she did not return him to school.
Emilie Riel pulled her son Brett Klein, 15, out of John F. Kennedy High School in Montreal’s St-Michel district in February. Brett has the autism spectrum disorder Asperger syndrome which hinders him from keeping up with his classmates and interacting socially with his peers and teachers.
Riel wrote on a blog that the main reason Brett was pulled out of school was because she was “getting phone calls all the time to come deal with the problem and at one meeting was told that if he didn’t start keeping up he would be transferred to another school.”
“He [would] melt down into where he sits down and starts crying,” Riel told CBCnews. “Or he gets frustrated. He was throwing things, and he gets violent.”
The mother pulled Britt out of school and enrolled him in an online high school program from the US. She supplements his online learning experience with other subjects and activities outside of the home.
“The current concern is not academics but teaching him how to manage his anxiety. While I do that I try to keep him on track academically at his pace,” she wrote on a blog.
Reil believes that teaching Brett what she calls “independent living skills” will help her son the most in the long run.
“I realize he won’t be holding down a job that requires any social interaction. Currently, he is excelling at 3D animation graphics and this requires little interfacing.”
Riel told LifeSiteNews that she couldn’t believe how her son’s former principal responded to her decision to school Brett at home using an online program. “He told me that the school my son is in is ‘off the table’, that they are not going to consider it [as a viable option], and that he would have to call youth protection [services] if I did not return my son to school the next day.”
LifeSiteNews contacted Principal Joseph Marra who declined to give comment.
Michael Cohen, spokesman for the English Montreal School Board, told CBCnews that Marra was “perfectly entitled to call youth protection services”.
“You just can’t pull your child out of school and unilaterally decide to have your own home-schooling program. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.
Cohen said that parents can only home school their children once they have received permission from the board and have demonstrated that their intended educational program reflects Quebec’s school curriculum.
But Carole Cardinal, Quebec’s rep of the Home School Legal Defense Association of Canada (HSLDA), disagrees with Cohen’s interpretation of Quebec’s education act.
Section 15.4 of the act states that a student is “exempt from compulsory school attendance” if he or she “receives home schooling and benefits from an educational experience which, according to an evaluation made by or for the school board, are equivalent to what is provided at school.”
She pointed out that the act does not actually require a parent to receive permission from the board to home school, but only that a parent shows that they are providing an “educational experience” which is equivalent to what is provided at school, based on an evaluation made “by or for” the school board.
“We [tell them to] say ‘no, we are notifying you. This is our right, it is not something we need to ask your permission for.’”
Cardinal said that schools then usually make one last attempt to control the situation by sending an educational contract for parents to sign.
“In reply to those contracts, which parents obviously can’t sign because it puts them right into the school’s mold, parents will provide a list of educational resources and detail a little bit how the educational experience will be taking place and offer some sort of evaluation at the end of the year to meet the requirements of the law.”
Cardinal told LifeSiteNews that the English Montreal School Board has been “coming down hard on families” who decide to home school their children. She pointed out how the Board has been “routinely reporting families” who will not submit their home schooled children to be evaluated by the school board’s standardized tests. She also pointed out how the Board is trying to push the government’s curriculum on home schooled children.
“A lot of us are home educating for that very reason. We want a different educational approach, we want different educational experiences for our children and there’s just a lack of understanding with regards to home education and a lack of flexibility,” she said.
“We’re just going to continue supporting parents and parental rights and choices for their children’s education. We’re just not going to bow down to that,” she said.
Riel told LifeSiteNews that Brett is doing well with his 10th grade online course, “holding A’s and B’s”, and that his anxiety and overall behavior has “really improved” since he began schooling at home. She expects him to graduate in 2014. Riel said that when she contacted youth protection services to determine where she stood, they told her that her case had been “dealt with”.