Sundridge mother fights for school bus access for son diagnosed with brain tumour

·3 min read

Jennifer McFarlane just wants her son to be able to maintain a sense of normalcy after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

However, she said she is fighting with the Near North District School Board to provide her son with transportation that gets him to school on time.

“It’s the last battle I thought I was going to have to deal with. It’s frustrating,” said McFarlane.

Quintan was diagnosed with a tumour in the left frontal lobe as well as lesions in the insula area of his brain in December 2020.

According to the family’s GoFundMe page, the tumour affects Quintan’s facial muscle control, which can cause muscle contractions, body twitching and his eyes to roll back into his head.

The lesions can cause severe pain, headaches and focal seizures.

Although Quintan has been allowed to return to class at Sundridge Public School, his mother said transportation to and from remains an issue.

“We were quite surprised with how the school reacted to everything,” said McFarlane, adding the school told her they did not want Quintan on the bus in case he had a seizure, which would put the other children at risk.

Before the diagnosis, the 10-year-old took the bus with no issue.

“We’ve known that he’s been having seizures since September. The school knew he was having seizures,” she said. “All of a sudden, they decided that he couldn’t ride the bus anymore.

“Nothing has changed other than the fact that he’s been diagnosed with a brain tumour and he has this medication as a ‘just in case,’ but up until two weeks ago he was riding his regular bus that he’s ridden since he was in kindergarten.”

McFarlane said she called Wilson Transportation and was told a student transportation van will drop off another rider at the school first and then return to pick up Quintan and take him to school.

The van picks up Quintan at 8:59 a.m. and arrives at the school for 9:07 a.m.

He is then pulled out of class at 2:49 p.m. and dropped off at home before the van returns to the school for its scheduled run at 3:10 p.m., according to the transportation document given to McFarlane.

Sundridge Public School starts at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 3:10 p.m.

Out of frustration, McFarlane said she reached out to the school board to tell them she felt the lack of accommodation for her son is unacceptable.

When asked why a child would be unable to ride their normal bus route after being diagnosed with a brain tumour and what guidelines are in place to ensure students with specific medical needs have reliable transportation to and from school, the board issued a statement via email.

“The well-being of our students is paramount to all at Near North District School Board. The board, as legislated by the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, is prevented from discussing anything of a personal or identifiable nature of anyone affiliated with the board.”

Chair of the Near North School Board of Trustees, Jay Aspin, said he was aware of the situation.

“This is an administrative decision which is made in concert with the transportation consortium which operate and manage the bus transportation system,” said Aspin.

McFarlane said she was told by a school board representative that every child’s education has a price on it.

“Why is my child’s price smaller? You can get everyone else to the school on time; why can’t you get my child to the school and where does he fall in this tier system that you have?” she said.

“We have to do better."

Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star