The father of an Ottawa high school student says his daughter, unable to attend school because of mental illness, is being denied the ability to join her classroom over the internet.
The teenager is a student at a Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) high school in Ottawa. The newspaper agreed not to identify the father or his daughter in recognition of her mental health issues.
In an interview, the father said his daughter was admitted to CHEO in late January due to a mental health problem triggered in part by the stress of the pandemic. Now undergoing treatment, she’s expected to return to class sometime in the next week or two.
In the interim, she had been attending school online with the help of a teacher who allowed her to listen in to a live classroom feed using the app, Google Meet.
The system worked well, the father said, and allowed his daughter to keep up with her schoolwork while maintaining contact with her classmates.
Early last week, however, the school announced it could no longer offer the web link. It said the service should never have been provided in the first place.
The decision was made unilaterally, the father said, without any consultation with the family or with CHEO doctors, and was explained as being necessary to comply with regulations that forbid filming in schools.
The family appealed to high school officials, who said the student should work with a CEPEO teacher assigned to help CHEO patients, but the parents wanted their daughter to maintain contact with her regular class.
“This provides her with stability,” her father said, “and is also an important part of her recovery. It also keeps the option open to easily rejoin her classmates in person in a few weeks.”
Backed by a letter from CHEO recommending that she continue to have classroom contact, the family appealed in writing to the school superintendent, director of education and school board president, all without success.
“My daughter is really frustrated,” her father said. “She keeps asking me, ‘Why can’t I just get the link?’ And I keep telling her, ‘I’m sorry, the school won’t give it to you.’”
The school board, in a written response to questions about the case, said it’s following every Ministry of Education and public health guideline in its pandemic response.
Students registered for in-person classes who are absent for an extended period of time receive a home learning plan that consists of lessons and homework, the CEPEO said. The board also offers full-time, online instruction for all students between kindergarten and Grade 12.
Parents can ask that their children switch from one program to another, it said, and that opportunity has been extended to the parents of the high school student.
“The safety and well-being of our students is our priority,” the board said.
The father contends the school board’s bureaucratic approach puts his daughter’s recovery at risk and fails to take into account what’s best for her. He wants the board to show more flexibility in its application of rules and regulations.
“I don’t really think the school listened to what’s in the bests interests of my daughter,” he said. “It’s tough to understand in the current pandemic. It just doesn’t seem right.”