© — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram
Ed Taylor said his experience trying to straighten his life out through trade school has been disappointing.
A failed attempt to start over at a local trade school for Ed Taylor, who suffers from a severe learning disability and mental illness, was more debilitating than being sent to prison, he says.
"This is more stressful now than when I got arrested. ... I was at the bottom trying to work my way up," said Taylor. "There's nothing set up for people with disorders."
Taylor is a former prison guard who in early 2012 was sentenced for planning to deal drugs at Her Majesty's Penitentiary (HMP), where he worked. He was sent to prison with a judge's order regarding his treatment for bipolar disorder and has since been released.
Taylor lost his job at HMP in 2010 when he was found with illegal and prescription drugs, along with other unauthorized items, that were destined for inside the prison.
Since he got out of jail, Taylor has been trying to get on with his life. Those plans included a heavy equipment course at the Operating Engineers College (OEC).
Taylor said a few days at the school left him feeling there was no compassion and no allowances in the trade school system for people with severe learning disabilities - he also has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) - and mental-health concerns.
Taylor said when he finally got accepted after a roughly two-year wait, he requested some paperwork be faxed to a government department in connection with his school funding. But there was a delay in that request getting granted. He was told to come in a few hours later, and it still wasn't done. Taylor said he commented on the delay, and the way his feedback was handled by the administration left him feeling put on the spot and humiliated. He said a school official threatened to call the police because he talked loudly. He insists he did not use foul language or make threats.
"I asked for an apology. ... It was unjustified," he said.
Taylor is now looking at options to go out of the province for school and has a lead for a college that does have some supports for people dealing with learning disabilities and mental-health issues.
"I am 34. Now is the time to act, not next year," Taylor said.
Lorna Harnum of the Operating Engineers College could not speak to Taylor's assertions, because of confidentiality rules.
But she said the school has policies and they were followed. Any concerns brought forward by students are dealt with and appropriate measures taken, she said.
Harnum said the school works with pupils who have individual learning disabilities and provide appropriate medical documentation.
"It's a very common thing," she said of learning disabilities, adding many students dealing with such conditions are successful in the college's programs.
Taylor said the only supports he was made aware of was the ability to take tests in a separate classroom, but half his class of 20 was in the same situation, so he wouldn't be in a room on his own.
And he said everyone in the class seemed to know his background, which added to his embarrassment.
Within a few days, Taylor spiralled into crisis over what he felt was a disappointing experience and concluded the stress of returning to the school was too much.
His weight has plummeted and he's having trouble eating and sleeping, and even contemplated suicide, he said.
"I haven't felt so depressed in life as I have in the past couple of weeks," Taylor said.
Documentation from his doctor supports his decision to seek another school and speaks of the stress he has been under.
Meanwhile Friday, Taylor received word of a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court of Appeal decision in his case, in which he will not return to prison.
Taylor said he's determined to keep on the straight path and not "go back to that horrible nightmare."