Are Lawsuits the Only Chance Parents Have in Shaping the Education System?

It feels like we have tried everything else…

We have another school year upon us and everyone’s anxiety around a new school are compounded this year, for so many reasons.  More so, for parents of disabled children.

Advocacy for the new year is already in full swing, and who are we kidding, advocacy for this year -started last year!

When things feel out of control, it is important to remember that we do have a foundation of some education law to stand on.  We can push.

First, we have The UNESCO Salamanca Statement

“In June 1994 representatives of 92 governments and 25 international organisations formed the World Conference on Special Needs Education, held in Salamanca, Spain. They agreed a dynamic new Statement on the education of all disabled children, which called for inclusion to be the norm. In addition, the Conference adopted a new Framework for Action, the guiding principle of which is that ordinary schools should accommodate all children, regardless of their physical, intellectual, social, emotional, linguistic or other conditions. All educational policies, says the Framework, should stipulate that disabled children attend the neighbourhood school ‘that would be attended if the child did not have a disability.”

Canada was one of these 92 governments. For all sorts of info on this –

Now that we have established that exclusion is actually illegal, and all of our children are legally allowed to attend their local school, let’s move onto Loco Parentis.

Second, we have Loco Parentis.

What does Loco Parentis mean?

It means that LEGALLY teachers are expected to behave like a “careful parent”.

“Traditionally, the teacher was considered to be acting in loco parentis. This means that in relation to the student, the teacher stands in the position of a caring, responsible parent and unofficial guardian. This concept allows the teacher some of the privileges of a parent but also brings with it added responsibilities for the protection of pupils. Thus, a teacher could be liable for injury or damages to a pupil if the teacher’s conduct falls below the standard of care deemed to be necessary under the given circumstances. In some instances, the duty of care owed by the teacher may exceed that of the parent if special knowledge makes the teacher aware of dangers that the parent might not appreciate.” –

The courts continuously have tossed lawsuits against school districts who do not want the system to be flooded by parents’ ability to sue schools, especially around education malpractice.

Is the common law of Loco Parentis our way in???

I have such a respect for teachers. They are not given all of the education that is required of them to fulfill the expectations demanded by society, and then they are working in a failing system on stage in front of an audience. Does anyone else want to sign up for this? No thank you!

I have many friends who are teachers and EA’s. I was an EA! Working in education is not easy. However, I would like to add that there is a HUGE sliding scale of ability, skill and knowledge amongst education staff. There are the most AMAZING teachers out there and then there are some people who just shock me.

Some people don’t even know the harm they create. Some of it is systemic and functioning in an ablest society. The education system is very sick. It operates from a place of scarcity, defense and secrecy.

Every time school districts get away with harming children, and it usually takes a team, intentional or not, it reinforces that they are untouchable.

So, how can we use common law “Loco Parentis” to aid in our advocacy?

It’s sad to say, but it may take a lawsuit around this topic to get everyone’s attention. If anyone is interested in this path there are pro bono lawyers out there you may want to consider.

When communicating with school districts, it’s all about getting their attention with legal language.

For example: “Your suggestion would exclude my child from school and they would not be able to access their education.” – human rights complaint

“How does the harm my child has experienced because of my child’s team fall under the supreme court decision around loco parentis?”

When you start quoting policy and law, things tend to take a quick turn. Your school district will have a tab on their main website with all of the policies and bylaws, sometimes under the Board section. The school boards are responsible for student achievement and MONITORING student achievement. Always be aware that each school district has a process to appeal decisions to the school board.  

For those who are sad at the realization that advocating for your child sometimes require that you become a self taught lawyer, I offer you this….

I encourage you to look through my education advocacy pages and I have added a new Education Law page. Work in progress! If any parent reading this would like to send me more education law info or links, I will be happy to add.

The scariest situation for a school district, is a parent who knows their rights. Every time you advocate for your own child, you open the door for someone else. We are not alone.