02/28/2012 08:49 EST | Updated 04/29/2012 05:12 EDT

School board resists home-schooling

A Montreal mother said her son's former school principal threatened to call youth protection services after she pulled her son out of his high school and began home-schooling him.

Emilie Riel enrolled her son Brett Klein, 15, in a US-based online high school program in Februrary, because she said he was falling steadily further behind his classmates at John F. Kennedy High School in Montreal's St-Michel district.

"It was just long, boring and really hard to understand," said Klein, who has the autism spectrum disorder Asperger syndrome.

Riel said he has difficulty interacting with other children and often acts out.

"He will melt down into where he sits down and starts crying," Riel said. "Or he gets frustrated. He was throwing things, and he gets violent."

Riel couldn't believe the reaction of her son's former principal when she notified him he was now studying at home.

But a spokesperson for the English Montreal School Board, Michael Cohen, said the Quebec Education Act is clear on that point.

"He is perfectly entitled to call youth protection services," Cohen said. "You just can't pull your child out of school and unilaterally decide to have your own home-schooling program."

Cohen said the parents must first obtain permission from the board, then must develop an educational program that reflects the Quebec school curriculum.

The head of Quebec's Home School Legal Defence Association, Carole Cardinal, disagrees with that interpretation of the act.

She said the act only requires parents to show they are providing an educational experience which is equivalent to what is provided at school, based on an evaluation made by or for the school board.

"What our members do - they will notifiy the school or school board that they are home educating," Cardinal said. "We feel that amply meets the requirements of the law."

Riel said she contacted youth protection services to find out where she stood and was told as far as they are concerned, her case is closed.

As for her son, Riel said he is excelling in his online courses, and he is on track to graduate in 2014.