Battle Creek school kicks out girl, cancer survivor

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Battle Creek girl and cancer survivor was kicked out of her Catholic school for too many absences, her mother said.

And with six weeks of classes left in the year, the 12-year-old has been forced to transfer to a public school.

“She was kicked out of there, so I had to find something,” said Barbara McGrath. “And there’s really only two schools to pick from.”

She also said officials with St. Joseph Catholic Middle School have invited the seventh-grader to return, but it’s not clear when.

Meanwhile, McGrath’s daughter Rose will have her first day at Lakeview Middle School on Monday.

“She’s nervous,” McGrath said. “Anyone would be. But she’s tough and she’s going to get through it just fine. She’s beat cancer. She’s got this under control.”

Rose started at St. Joseph’s elementary school in kindergarten and then went to its middle school, her mother said.

In 2012, Rose was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, McGrath said. The cancer is in remission, but it requires about three years of treatment.

About a week and a half ago, St. Joseph Middle School officials notified McGrath that her daughter was being dismissed from the school.

John Fleckenstein, pastor administrator for the Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, could not immediately be reached, the Associated Press said. However, he told WWMT-TV last week that “these were extraordinary circumstances” but they were necessary after “so many accommodations were made” to help Rose.

The school wrote in a letter addressed to Rose’s father and provided to the AP by the family that officials worked with her, but absences “hampered her academic performance.” It added that the 12-year-old had attended 32 full days this academic year out of 134 days as of April 13, but Barbara McGrath said that doesn’t include “numerous” partial days.

The school also wrote that it has taken “significant adjustments to our standards” to help Rose, including reducing her workload and paring down assignments and tests.

“Rose’s attendance, coupled with her academic performance, do not qualify her for continued attendance at St. Joseph Middle School,” the letter read. “We know Rose to be an intelligent and thoughtful child, and believe she would be well-suited to enroll in an academic setting more geared to home-bound students, perhaps an online program as we have discussed in the past.”

McGrath said the Catholic schools’ officials told her Rose could return to the school after meeting with them to discuss some of their concerns, but wouldn’t schedule one until sometime this week.

She said the Catholic school’s actions anger her.

“(Rose) had enough to deal with,” she said. “She should have to deal with this, especially when there’s six weeks of school left.”

McGrath also said she has filed a complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights against the Catholic school a couple of months ago. The family has also asked the school to adopt an accommodation plan for ill students similar to those required in public schools.

Rose said she’s not happy about the situation.

“I didn’t do anything wrong, but they still got rid of me,” she said. “I think the only reason they’re inviting me back is so the all of the press will go away.”

Even if she could go back, she said she’s not so sure she’ll be treated well.

“I think one of the worst part, though, is I’m not going to see all of my friends there anymore,” Rose said. “I’m nervous about going to a new school. I’ve never been the ‘new kid’ before. I’m used to 300 kids, not 3,000.”

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