The parents of a Montérégie boy with Down syndrome who has been out of school for two months feel neglected by the Quebec school system.
“We’ve been knocking on every door for two months asking for help, but there are no results. Our son, like any other child, has the right to go to school,” argues Amina Djilani Kobibi.
On December 21, Amina and her husband learned that their 11-year-old son Abdelkader could not return to the Marc-André Fortier primary school after the holidays, allegedly because he was aggressive towards the teacher.
Thierry Laforce / QMI Agency
“They gave us no further explanations. It didn’t really matter as I agreed that my son’s place was no longer at this establishment. But he should have referred him to a specialized school where my son’s needs would be taken care of,” laments the family mother.
When the family decided to move to Chateauguay two years ago, Abdel’s parents considered all school options for their son. They finally decided on the Marc-André Fortier primary school, which included a specialist class.
“Almost every day between 10am and 1pm the school called us to pick up our son. They never told us what the problem was just that we had to go get it. And that’s what we did,” explains Abdelkader’s mother, also known as “Abdel”.
According to school staff, Abdel was repeatedly aggressive toward teachers, using verbal and sometimes physical violence.
Thierry Laforce / QMI Agency
“Abdel doesn’t hit on purpose, but he’s persistent. We can’t take his toy away from him and pull his arm because he will fight back and get into a crisis. He doesn’t want to hurt himself,” complains Amina Djilani Kobibi.
“A child with Down syndrome needs stability. Teachers and educators were constantly changing in her class. As soon as the relationship of trust is established with a person, Abdel is very connected and it is settled. Abdel, when he has a fit, you hug him and he calms down immediately,” she adds.
lack of transparency
On December 8, Abdel was suspended for a period of 10 days. Four days later, his parents were called to a virtual meeting by management.
“The school psychologist asked us for permission to observe Abdel. But how can she watch him when he’s home? We wondered why this wasn’t done earlier, for example during his crisis episodes,” asks Abdel’s father, Belkacem Djilani Kobibi.
At the end of their son’s suspension, two days before Christmas, Abdel’s parents were informed that the school refused to take him back.
“The school could have given us advance warning so we would have time to take steps with other schools. Nobody would be able to answer us during the holidays,” emphasizes Amina Djilani Kobibi.
The surprise was all the greater when the family received a devastating report about Abdel’s experiences from the school psychologist. “If the situation was so bad, why didn’t anyone meet us before?” the parents complain.
“In her report, the psychologist made a black portrait of our son. She says she relied on her file, her meetings with staff, and her observations in class. However, she did not ask to watch Abdel until he was suspended. How could she watch him in class? It’s contradictory,” says the father, who worries about the impact of such a report on his son’s enrollment at another school.
After several failed compromises, the management of the Abdel primary school referred him to the Peter Hall technical school in Saint-Laurent. Excited, Amina went there to meet the director.
“When I came back to visit, I found these were adults with severe intellectual disabilities, really difficult cases. I left crying because Abdel didn’t. This is not my son’s place, even the director agreed,” she says.
On January 25, at the end of their means, Abdel’s parents decided to knock on every door for help.
“We have seen the management of the primary school and the deputy for Châteauguay with no result. I also contacted a trisomy 21 association who gave me advice. Despite my frequent emails, no one told me what was going on. I even sent a letter to the student’s protector without success,” Belkacem Djilani Kobibi regrets.
Among other things, they went to the school service center without an appointment, hoping to meet someone. “The manager was busy, but she promised to meet us the next day,” says the father.
During this meeting, they were offered a private tutor who would homeschool Abdel for one hour a day. An offer that Abdel’s parents rejected in horror.
“We turned it down because it doesn’t help anyone, neither the family nor Abdel. Our son needs to socialize in a school setting. He can’t always stay at home! For the past two months, our son has been under more and more stress, even when we take him to the swimming pool, for example,” they explain.
call for help
The parents, who are increasingly worried about their son, are now hoping to be heard.
“Our last resort was to talk to the media. We hope people can hear us and help us. Everyone we speak to says what we are going through is not normal, but nothing is being done,” Amina Djilani denounces Kobibi.
“We also considered demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Education. So that he can hear our voice. Our son has the right to go to school like everyone else,” says her husband.
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