Duty to facilitate – responsibility of the parents/guardians

A and B obo Infant A v. School District C (No. 5), 2018 BCHRT 25 (CanLII)

Parents/guardians have an obligation to facilitate the reasonable accommodations being offered by the district. “Failure to do so is fatal to their complaint of discrimination.

From the case:

[37]           I am entitled to accept some, none or all of a witness’ testimony. Where there was disagreement in the evidence, my findings and reasons are set out. Where necessary to do so, I have assessed credibility and considered factors such as the witness’ demeanour, powers of observation, opportunity for knowledge, judgment, memory, and ability to describe clearly what they saw and heard….(continues)

[38]           In resolving conflicts in the evidence, and determining whether to accept the evidence of any witness, in whole or in part, I have adopted and applied the test set out in Bradshaw:

Credibility involves an assessment of the trustworthiness of a witness’ testimony based upon the veracity or sincerity of a witness and the accuracy of the evidence that the witness provides. The art of assessment involves examination of various factors such as the ability and opportunity to observe events, the firmness of his [or her] memory, the ability to resist the influence of interest to modify his [or her] recollection, whether the witness’ evidence harmonizes with independent evidence that has been accepted, whether the witness changes his [or her] testimony during direct and cross-examination, whether the witness’ testimony seems unreasonable, impossible, or unlikely, whether a witness has a motive to lie, and the demeanour of a witness generally. Ultimately, the validity of the evidence depends on whether the evidence is consistent with the probabilities affecting the case as a whole and shown to be in existence at the time. (Bradshaw, para. 186, citations excluded)

[39]           I find that the most helpful evidence in this case is the documentary evidence created at the time of events…(continues)

[42]           I have assigned relatively little weight to the Mother’s evidence where it conflicted with the first-hand accounts given by the School Counsellor, Principal, Vice Principal, and Teachers H, M, and G. I have found the Mother’s hearsay evidence considerably less reliable than the direct evidence of reliable witnesses, where there is a conflict.

[43]           The Mother acknowledged that she was probably not present for most of the incidents at school that involved her Child. At times, she had a hard time recalling events. For example, the Mother’s testimony on the psychoeducational assessment of her son was wrong by one year. She acknowledged that she was “out a year”. The Mother testified that there is no reason to dispute the emails that were authored by her at the time. The Mother testified “that is what I wrote at that time”.

[44]           During cross-examination, the Mother responded to several questions regarding her testimony about her Child’s version of events by saying that she did not know or was not there. She acknowledged that most of her knowledge of the incidents came through her Child. I find that her son was more likely than not motivated to minimize his involvement in some incidents when reporting them to his Parents, so as to avoid discipline. For example, the Mother described disciplining the Child in relation to an incident where he swore at the Principal. She described their punishment as “Draconian”. (In retrospect, the Mother regretted using that word in her letter). As another example, regarding the November 2016 Incident, the Child only reported to his Parents that he grabbed another student by the collar, whereas I find, as a fact, that the Child choked a student, pushed him over a railing, and spat in his face.

(Parents’ Obligations (Paragraph 248-260) ** Important to read in the case. This case was dismissed and discrimination was not found. )

[254]      In my view, the request was in fact entirely reasonable. I accept the Principal’s evidence that more medical information was in the best interests of the Child, common practice in the School District to support a Child’s needs. In these circumstances, the Parent’s failure to provide the School District with critical information meant that they failed to comply with their obligations in the accommodation process: Hemming v. BCGEU (No. 3)2016 BCHRT 74, para. 49.

[258] In summary, the evidence shows that the accommodation process of the Child at school was often frustrated by the unreasonable actions or inactions of his Parents. The Parents did not attend re-entry meetings after the Child was sent home from school; the Parents attended the first IEP meeting, but refused to attend future IEP meetings. After November 2015, the Parents stopped providing comments to draft IEPs that were sent to them for review. The Parents refused to participate in the creation of a Safety Plan for the Child. The Parents did not provide the requested medical and psychological information to enable the School to modify the Child’s IEP. The Parents rejected the Principal’s offers of an educational assistant, classroom change, pod change, and school change. The Parents interfered with and rejected the psycho-educational assessment performed by a school psychologist. The Parents opposed any involvement of the District’s Intensive Behavioural Team with the Child. The Parents refused to allow an educational assistant to work with the Child despite it being recommended by his teachers, School Counsellor, and Principal. In a letter dated May 2016, the Parents wrote that the Principal was the “root cause of all this mess”.

[248]      The School District is not the only party with obligations in the accommodation process. Rather, the parents were obliged, as the Child’s representatives, to work towards facilitating an appropriate accommodation: Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud1992 CanLII 81 (SCC), [1992] 2 SCR 970. If the School District initiated a reasonable proposal that would, if implemented, accommodate the Child, then the Parents were obliged to facilitate that proposal. Failure to do so is fatal to their complaint of discrimination.