From the Toronto Sun Thursday August 16, 2012: TDSB must accomodate Jacob Trossman

TDSB must accommodate Jacob Trossman

By Farzana Hassan

First posted: Thursday, August 16, 2012 06:50 PM EDT | Updated: Thursday, August 16, 2012 06:53 PM EDT

The Toronto District School Board must do a better job of upholding its Equity Policy Statement by accommodating Jacob Trossman in Elkhorn Public School Toronto for three days a week as requested by his mother, Marcy White. This disabled grade 4 student has every right to receive the education he seeks and deserves.

But despite several appeals by White, the TDSB continues to deny her requests to accommodate her child’s special needs.

This is in obvious contravention to the TDSB’s policy of providing maximum opportunities to students, “particularly those persons with disabilities whose voices traditionally and systemically have been marginalized and excluded.”

It isn’t clear what the TDSB’s reasons are for disallowing Jacob from attending Elkhorn. Members of the board have offered a number of explanations, ranging from reasons as inane as the possible reaction of other parents to Jacob’s presence at Elkhorn, to the disingenuous explanation that the board is unable to construct a ramp for Jacob. It turns out the school already has a ramp for disabled children. Hence, in the event of a fire, Jacob would be able to exit the school as other children.

After many futile attempts to convince the TDSB, White has taken her story to the media, and was first reported by Sun News Network’s, David Menzies. Jacob is a bright student who is simply under-challenged at Sunnyview P.S. Counting the number of days he has been at school repetitively, five days a week, is hardly Jacob’s idea of an engaging learning experience.

At Elkhorn, where he attended class every Friday afternoon until June, 2012, he was exposed to various disciplines including French, Music and Art. Not only was he intellectually challenged, he was also socially integrated and made many friends including Kaylum, who according to his father Amir Karmally, was inspired to perform acts of kindness and civility out of regard for Jacob’s condition.

Other children were similarly influenced.

Furthermore, none of the staff, parents or children felt in any way burdened by Jacob’s presence. They expressed no concern whatsoever over the arrangement. In fact, Jacob’s teacher, Cheryl Libman, welcomed Jacob’s contributions at school and the two have enjoyed a fruitful teacher-pupil relationship all year.

With such positive outcomes, why would the TDSB come up with objections that appear more like excuses?

Jacob attended both Elkhorn and Sunnyview for more than a year, before things began to change for the worse. The TDSB was alerted to the situation, ironically after Jacob’s mother wrote an article in the Canadian Jewish News about her son’s experience at Elkhorn.

The child was subsequently barred from attending the school.

Is the TDSB’s refusal to accommodate the request of a loving and dedicated parent like Marcy White the result of intransigence over trivial issues rather than genuine concern for Jacob?

According to the TDSB’s own mandate, all disabled children must have equal accessibility to a well-rounded education. Clearly, that mandate has not been executed for Jacob at Sunnyview, despite the fact that the staff at that school is supportive and caring.

The TDSB must implement its policies in a more compassionate manner.

Children with disabilities must be given every opportunity to blossom through learning experiences that are tailored to their specific needs. And who is better able to decide what they are than Jacob’s own mother?