A New Brunswick mother whose son with disabilities went missing from his school says she is planning to file a formal complaint against the school and the district.
Jacqueline Petricca of Bouctouche, N.B. says she is still shaken up over what happened to her son at Blanche-Bourgeois School last month.
“It was the most terrifying almost two hours of my life,” Petricca said.
Petricca says that even though her 11-year-old son, Anthony — who has ADHD, Tourette syndrome and OCD and may be on the autism spectrum — is a known flight risk, he went missing from school on March 24.
“I had no idea where he was. I did not know if he has gotten into a car with anybody or what had happened,” she said.
Anthony was found safe at a nearby business almost two hours after going missing, she says.
Now, the mother has hired a lawyer and is planning to file a formal complaint against the school and the district for not providing proper full-time support for her son.
“If there was a true inclusion program, then my son would not be on a half-accommodated day, just two to three hours,” she said.
According to the mother, a psychologist has told her that since Anthony is not classified as a complex case, all of the supports that are recommended and required are not going to be paid for until he gets that classification. She says she has been waiting for a meeting with the district for months to have her son evaluated.
A representative from the Francophone Sud School District, Ghislaine Arsenault, would not comment on the incident, citing privacy reason, but said in a statement to Global News that “staff members work very hard to ensure student safety and to provide students with an environment that promotes their overall development and well being.”
Petricca says her son’s full-time educational assistant (EA) support was taken away in February 2019, which she believes was for budgetary reasons.
Fredericton lawyer and former education minister, Jody Carr, says the school “failed to protect” Anthony when he ran away from the school. He also alleges Anthony was denied his accommodations and failed to provide timely intervention for his disabilities, which Carr says is a violation of the student’s rights.
“Just based on disability, he is being denied a service and he is being denied an education and the human rights act says that no one can be denied an education based on their disability,” said Carr.
Anthony says he wants to return to school full-time.
“I would be willing to even without the EA,” he said.
But his mom says he needs appropriate supports in place before that can happen. Otherwise, she fears he may go missing again.
Since Global News reported their story, Petricca says the district reached out and she will be meeting with a clinical team to access Anthony’s needs on Friday. She says she will also be having a Zoom meeting with Education Minister Dominic Cardy on Thursday.
“The ultimate goal it is to have him in a program where he is safe all day and educated,” she said.