Parents of an 11-year-old boy who died of cancer are at odds with the school board after being asked to refrain from visiting their late son’s classmates.
Charlene McIntee and Robert Martin visited their son Thomas’ school every week for pizza lunch to see his friends. McIntee said it was Thomas’ favourite day at school before he passed away in February from gliomatosis cerebri, a rare form of brain cancer.
“Even up until he couldn’t hold his own head up, he would still want to go and see the kids on pizza day,” she told CTV Toronto.
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On Tuesday, the principal at Queen Elizabeth Public School in Belleville called Thomas’ parents and requested that they take a break from attending school lunches.
“I was upset. I said I didn’t understand and that I just wanted to see the kids,” McIntee said. “We have not done anything wrong.”
Thomas’ parents were also told that they shouldn’t mention their son’s name at Pedal for Hope, an event dedicated to raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. The school principal explained that talking about Thomas might make people emotional.
“He says to me ‘the kids might cry, the teachers might cry — it’s a hard situation all the way around. I don’t want people going home upset,’” McIntee told the Intelligencer. “Crying is a part of grieving.”
Martin said on Facebook that they were also put on notice for “using inappropriate language and talking about inappropriate stuff at school.”
Evelyn Wilson, a parent liaison for Pedal of Hope, said to The Intelligencer that the school board often tries to move past devastating events as quickly as possible. She said that they do this in order to protect the students, but that suppressing grief is not the right way to go about it.
Other parents are openly supporting Thomas’ parents. One mother voiced her concern on Facebook stating, “Childhood cancer is a reality. This monster claimed the physical life of a beautiful boy. Don’t be that institution that lets it claim his memory, too.”
Martin agreed, saying, “Childhood cancer should not be swept under the rug.”
Pedal of Hope did mention Thomas by presenting his parents with shirts honouring his memory, but Wilson said that the situation was a reminder of flaws in the school system.
Thomas’ parents are now working with the school board to sort out the issue and ensure that they’ll be able to come back for pizza lunches. They are hoping to resolve the situation soon so that they can talk to Thomas’ friends and reminisce together.