A Mission teenager who suffers from a chronic illness has been told she can’t attend her prom because she has missed too many classes.
Triss Hunter, a Grade 11 student at Mission Secondary School, says she has missed about 100 days of school, but not because she skips out or tries to ditch class.
Hunter has a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. It’s a disorder that affects the connective tissues supporting the skin, bones and blood vessels.
According to Hunter, the condition causes chronic pain and dislocations that can occur at any time.
Last week, she found out that all of those absences were the reason she will not be permitted to go to prom.
Hunter and her mother Sarah don’t think the decision is fair.
“My grades are not perfect, because I do miss a lot of school. But I’m getting passing grades. I’m passing all my classes, but for prom, it’s just the attendance,” Triss said.
Although she is in Grade 11, Triss said this is her last year at Mission Secondary so she applied to go to the prom, along with her friend Isaiah.
After filling out the paperwork, Triss says her application was denied by the school principal.
She and her mom appealed, talking to the principal, but the school did not change its mind.
Then she took her case to the Mission school board, but soon found out that the board had sided with the school.
Triss said the situation isn’t fair and wonders if she was supposed to miss her therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments.
“Is school more important than my health?” she asked.
Triss said the school indicated that most of her absences were unexcused – which usually means no one phoned in to inform the school or no doctor’s notes were provided.
But Triss says she doesn’t know ahead of time that she is going to suffer an attack.
“There are sometimes when I miss weeks of school or even a month. Or there are some days when I can go to school for one class then the pain gets so bad that I can’t go to the rest of my classes.
“All my teachers are supportive. They know I have a disability … they see me every day. They know my struggle, but because the school board and everyone else doesn’t see it – it’s inside of me and you can’t really see it on the outside – they think it’s all in my head.”
When she does attend school, Triss always brings her service dog, Meadow.
“She has been trained for anxiety and mobility issues.”
Triss’ mother, Sarah, says the events of the last few weeks have taken a toll on her daughter.
“It’s really tough what she’s going through and it’s making her anxieties worse.”
Sarah is still hopeful that the situation can be resolved, but the prom is tomorrow night (May 12) so time has basically run out.
“She has already bought her outfit. It’s sad that she can’t go,” Sarah said.
“It’s like they are punishing her …”
“For having a disability,” says Triss, finishing her mom’s sentence.
When asked for comment, Mission superintendent of schools, Angus Wilson, said he could not discuss individual students.
However, he can say that parents and students are “all very aware of the criteria” to attend prom.
“They are given many opportunities to resolve concerns and situations,” Wilson said.
He added that, as far as attendance is concerned, parents or students “have a number of weeks” to call in to explain and excuse attendance issues.
“The school is very flexible about making allowances and making accommodations and ways to resolve concerns and so on,” said Wilson, adding both sides have to work together in these situations.
Wilson also said the “priority for prom, of course, is Grade 12 students.”