News / Halifax

Dartmouth student denied exam exemption due to illness questions 'unfair' policy

She believes special circumstances should be brought back for students facing medical issues

The hallway of a Halifax-area school.

Haley Ryan / Metro

The hallway of a Halifax-area school.

A Dartmouth mom and her daughter say a blanket policy implemented by Halifax area high school principals is unfairly punishing students with medical conditions.

Lisa Reid’s daughter is a Grade 12 student at a Dartmouth-area school her parents didn’t want publicly identified.

She missed nine days of school following a tonsillectomy and hospitalization for double pneumonia.

Last week, exam exemption forms were sent out to students. Despite high marks that made her eligible, she was denied.

She was told special circumstances, including medical reasons, are no longer considered.

“Some time after the beginning of the school year the principals as a group decided that there would no longer be any special circumstances and have denied anyone who has missed more than six days,” Reid said she was told.

“What message does this send to the students if the principals give up their right to make an informed decision for a blanket policy? Not all the principals are in agreement on it but the consensus was they go ahead.”

Reid said she sent a letter outlining her disappointment to all high school principals under Halifax Regional School Board jurisdiction. She said one told her it was a provincial policy, although the province’s Student Attendance and Engagement Policy states:

“Nothing in this policy prevents any board from permitting exam exemptions. Your school will communicate how the policy may impact the exemption criteria.”

Reid said while she understands some people may expect special circumstances when they shouldn’t, medical reasons should be a valid consideration.

“If you’re in a situation where it’s out of your control, that’s not your fault and you shouldn’t get penalized if you’re sick and can’t do anything about it. It’s pretty upsetting and unfair,” her daughter said.

“There are people at my school who have health issues and if they have to go to the hospital or have appointments and miss school because of something they’re born with, why is that their fault?”

Halifax Regional School Board spokesperson Doug Hadley said the board doesn’t have an exam exemption policy.

“Schools make the decision whether or not to have exemptions and they establish the criteria used to grant them,” Hadley said. “The board is not involved.”

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