Officials at a Catholic middle school in Battle Creek, Mich. have expelled a 12-year-old girl who had too many absences because she was busy fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia — cancer of the blood cells.
Doctors diagnosed the girl, Rose McGrath, with the disease in August 2012. For more than two years, she underwent intense treatment. In 2014, she began a slow, still-ongoing recovery process, explains area CBS affiliate WWMT.
Then, this month, the Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, which McGrath has attended all her life, did unto her by kicking her out of St. Joseph Middle School.
“I didn’t do anything wrong, but they still got rid of me,” the girl told WWMT.
“When I’m at school I’m like everyone else,” the girl, who has been able to attend 32 full days of school this academic year, pleaded.
Her mother is equally displeased, observing that her daughter is finally, slowly beginning to recover from an arduous medical process.
“Even though she’s now done with her treatment you still have a very long recovery process because you’ve basically just put two and a half years of poison into your body,” Barbara McGrath said.
“It’s not like she’s out at the mall having fun. She’s in her bed, sick with nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain,” the mad mother added. “She’d be at school if she could.”
The letter McGrath and her parents received last week from school officials cited attendance and academic performance as the reasons for the expulsion.
School officials are defending their decision, saying they tried to work with the McGrath family to adjust Rose’s academic workload, but it wasn’t working out.
“These were extraordinary circumstances, but so many accommodations were made we felt eventually it became a point where we really had to help Rose by being able to make sure that she was getting the assistance that she needed and to learn,” Father John Fleckenstein, pastor administrator of Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools, told the CBS affiliate.
McGrath’s father, Tom McGrath, disagrees.
“The accommodations which were made were woefully inadequate,” he told the station.
The faith and service section of the Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools website explains that the four local Catholic schools are shaping students “into disciples of Christ who will go forth into our community and world to accomplish great things” including “responding to the needs to feed the poor, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless.” Students might also use “their excellent academic education to find the cure for cancer or to bring peace to the world.”
The McGrath parents said they have filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of their daughter.