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EXCLUSIVE: Parents fear their fight for services landed their son in middle of school board battle

Click to play video: 'Montreal student caught in the middle of EMSB feud' Montreal student caught in the middle of EMSB feud
Wed, Nov 21: The parents of a 12-year-old Montreal North boy are livid after their meeting with EMSB administrators was cancelled Wednesday because the school board refused to have commissioner Sylvia Lo Bianco present for the meeting. The family claims they're caught in the middle of a feud between Lo Bianco and the school board. Global's Anne Leclair has this exclusive report – Nov 21, 2018

The family of a Grade 6 student at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) says their son has been abandoned by the system. After fighting for services for three years, the student’s parents recently called on their commissioner for help. Now they fear he’s caught in the middle of a political battle within the school board.

When Gianfranco Frenza’s parents moved him to the EMSB three years ago, they say they were promised his needs would be addressed. The 12-year-old suffers from several learning disabilities including dyscalculia. According to his psychological assessment, the Grade 6 student should have a long list of accommodations to help him succeed in school.

“Everything is in black and white and then you’re looking what’s being applied — nothing,” Gianfranco’s father Angelo Frenza said.

His mother contacted the school board’s ombudsman over the summer but feels nothing happened until she reached out to her local commissioner Sylvia Lo Bianco.

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“She’s the one who has been helping me since the month of October,” Gianfranco’s mother Sonia Trentadue said.

What’s most upsetting to the parents is that the commissioner was turned away on Tuesday when they showed up for a meeting at the school to update Gianfranco’s individualized education plan (IEP). The parents refused to go ahead with the meeting without the commissioner.

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“I don’t understand what this battle is at the school board,” Trentadue said. “It’s just not helping my son.”

Lo Bianco argues that it’s her right as an elected official to accompany families and blames the school board for not understanding her role.

“The misunderstanding of roles at this point and it’s regretful because there’s a child involved,” Lo Bianco said. “I’m very disappointed that this occurred.”

Gianfranco’s parents reached out to Quebec’s education minister on Tuesday in the hopes he’ll intervene. A spokesperson for Jean-François Roberge said the minister is currently looking into the case before commenting.

The EMSB issued a statement that includes the following:

“In this case, several EMSB employees groups have members who are involved in the IEP process. Several of these employee groups are aware of the situation and concur that it is inappropriate for a commissioner to be present at a meeting between parents and EMSB personnel where professional opinions about a specific case would be shared by employees.

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Ms. Lo Bianco, a veteran commissioner with 20 years of experience, was advised prior to the meeting by the Director General that her presence would not be permitted as that would be inconsistent with the role and the responsibility of an elected commissioner. Ms. Lo Bianco showed up nonetheless, at which time she was told again, this time by the Regional Director, that she would not be admitted to the meeting.”

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