Student upset over being left behind during fire drills
Published Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:32PM AST
A Halifax high school student wants to see changes to school board protocol when it comes to fire evacuation plans.
Sonja Weilgart-Whitehead has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. Under the Halifax Regional School Board’s no-carrying policy, the Grade 12 student must wait in a stairwell with a staff member until a fire official arrives to carry her out during drills.
But Weilgart-Whitehead is worried about her safety and feels the policy sends the wrong message to her fellow classmates at J.L. Isley High School.
“My limitations aren’t because of my body. They’re because of human-made obstacles,” says the 18-year-old girl.
The school board’s no-carrying policy is standard policy, and not just at schools but at universities, hospitals and seniors’ complexes.
However, Weilgart-Whitehead says carrying people with mobility issues should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“My life does revolve around someone possibly having to carry me, just because my legs don’t work like they’re supposed to,” she says.
“I think a lot of opportunities would be opened up for students if there wasn’t such a rigid anti-carrying policy,” says her mother, Lindy Weilgart.
School board officials say they are just following advice from safety experts.
“What we’ve been told by fire officials is that the risk of injury is far greater attempting to carry someone out of the building rather than taking them to an area where they wait for a couple of minutes for fire officials to arrive,” says school board spokesman Doug Hadley.
Weilgart-Whitehead says many of her classmates and teachers would be willing to risk their safety to carry her out and she feels being left behind in a stairwell sends the wrong message.
“I guess my life isn’t as valuable as the other students,” she says.
Even though she is graduating in a few months, the teen says she plans to keep fighting for other students who follow in her footsteps.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Alyse Hand