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Advocacy group helping Alberta family fight ‘discrimination’ against boy with autism

WATCH ABOVE: Caitlin Wray now says if her son – who has autism – isn’t able to attend Victoria School as planned, she’ll take this fight to court. Fletcher Kent reports.

(*UPDATE: On Thursday, Caitlin Wray said EPSB contacted her late Wednesday to say it is working on finding a resolution. Wray also said the Victoria School Students Union is showing incredible support for her son Simon, sharing messages like “hope to see you in the halls Simon” on social media.)

EDMONTON — A St. Albert boy’s future is still uncertain following a funding dispute between the St. Albert and Edmonton public school districts. But now his mother says if nothing changes before his first day of school, she’ll take this fight to court.

“Ultimately, for my son Simon, nothing has changed,” said Caitlin Wray on Tuesday.

Simon Wray is starting Grade 7 this year. His mother says both Simon and her younger son Seth applied and were accepted to Victoria School for the Arts in Edmonton. A month ago, the family moved to St. Albert.

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Simon has of a form of autism called Asperger’s. Edmonton Public Schools told the Wrays Simon could only attend Victoria School if his home board transferred designated provincial special needs funding. St. Albert Public refused to transfer any money. The superintendent for the school division would not talk about this specific case due to privacy reasons. However, Barry Wowk said board policy dictates, “Only when we cannot provide appropriate programming do we consider sponsorship in another district.”

Because St. Albert will not transfer the funding, Edmonton Public revoked Simon’s acceptance late last week.

An Edmonton Public Schools spokesperson would only say this issue does not involve the district. The student doesn’t live in Edmonton.

READ MORE: Funding dispute keeps Alberta student with special needs out of his dream school 

Wray and Inclusion Alberta claim Edmonton Public’s actions are discriminatory.

“We have three days until schools starts,” said Wray, holding back tears. “Unfortunately, our family has been put in the position where we’re going to have to seek legal advice just to get both of our boys to be treated equally.”

“Right now, my six-year-old will be at school on Sept. 8. His older brother will not and I have no idea how I’m going to explain that to them.”

Bruce Uditsky said Inclusion Alberta will help the Wrays pursue legal action.

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“I think it’s incredibly important to secure the fact that both kids are of equal value, equally entitled and should be equally welcomed,” he said.

He stressed this particular fight is incredibly meaningful.

“It’s hard to come up with other examples that are more blatant in terms of their discriminatory effect, and because we, as an organization, see this repeatedly across districts, not just Edmonton Public,” Uditsky added.

On Tuesday morning, Alberta’s Education minister said he had spoken to both boards involved. David Eggen said he respects the autonomy of those boards but added, “I certainly have made it clear, I expect that the school boards can find some resolution to this issue as soon as possible.”

READ MORE: Education minister wants boards to resolve dispute with autistic boy 

But Wray is not encouraged. She said she hasn’t heard from the minister’s office directly. However, Alberta Education contacted her at the request of the minister.

“They have offered us no solutions,” she said.

“I believed that our government would not let this kind of thing happen. As of now, I think that they might let it happen.”

She is committed to continuing to fight for her son and others who want both a specialized and a special needs education.

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“These are fights worth fighting.”

Wray said her family is contemplating a Charter of Rights challenge.

With files from Fletcher Kent, Global News