Dear Advocates,

I want to share an important story with you all. I LOVE animal documentaries. Absolutely love them. There is so much information about how life works, by watching and learning from nature. For example, Elephants walk incredible distances, and as they move, they change their environment in major ways. One way is by knocking over and tearing up dead trees that end up falling into waterways. As they do this, there is a fish species that depends on these logs to create nurseries to lay their eggs so they are protected. Without these dead trees in the water, their eggs would be eaten. This fish species is only able to survive because elephants pass through their area.

Every single person in this group who is part of a PAC, or advocacy organization, if you are supporting someone else in their advocacy efforts, if you are working as a professional, or if you are advocating for your own child, we are all elephants. We have no idea the impact our advocacy is making. We are tearing down dead trees, and just like how the elephants have no idea the impact they are having on this fish species….we will actually never know, truly….how deep or helpful to others our advocacy is impacting. (Hint: schools also systematically do things so you feel you are hitting a wall, and they never want you to know how powerful you actually are.)

If you are having a day, a week, or a month, of wondering if you are getting anywhere, or you are wondering if what you are doing is pointless. Always, remember the elephants. Your work is having an impact. Conversations change people. You are making a difference. You are helping other people. You may not see the impact immediately or ever, but everything we all do builds. It’s the little things that matter. Keep going elephants. The school year is almost coming to an end.

Consent Order – What is That!?!?!

A glorious posting was made on May 7th, 2024 on the BC Human Rights Tribunal website and it was something I have never seen before or even knew was possible.

Hats off to the lawyers who came up with this idea. I did a search on CANLII and I can’t find another Consent Order connected to a human rights decision.

If anyone knows of one, I’d love it if you could send it along to me.

So, what in the world is a Consent Order?

From Kimball (by Kuebler) v. Kelowna Actors Studio Inc., 2024 BCHRT 136

(3) The Tribunal did not hold a hearing but the Complainant and the Respondent advised the Tribunal that they agree about the background facts and the remedies set out below, and they requested that the Tribunal enter those facts and remedies in a consent order. I am satisfied the order is consistent with the Code and I am prepared to make the requested order under s. 17(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act.

It is friggen glorious, that is what it is!!!

It outlines all of the wrongness and the agreed-upon remedies (details of the settlement). This decision gets posted for everyone to read about and learn from, and it becomes a decision that future lawyers and self-represented applicants can use to assist themselves in their own case or know how much is fair for compensation.

It’s the exact opposite of an NDA.

For information on NDA’s you can read my blog with the video from lawyers discussing the topic, called To NDA or Not to NDA, that is the Question.

Can you imagine if parents in education made this the norm for settlement agreements?

We would be exposing the reality of the education system for all people and government systems to see.

This is the beginning stages of how CHANGE happens.

Through awareness, education, and decisions by human rights tribunals. Then we can take these decisions, raise awareness, shine a light and APPLY it.

Human rights decisions or laws are only as good as the systems that enforce it.

Some parents enter the human rights tribunal system to make systemic changes. Not everyone is. I totally respect that. If you are wanting compensation for your child, I TOTALLY get it. Now, this is an option that we could possibly get both.

The big question is….. how often would the tribunal be willing to post these?

It needs to advance the code….

Only time will tell, and only people willing to test the system will be able to tell us.

But this is definitely something to think about. Wow. Consent Orders.

Think of how much changes have happened in education in the last 6 months with all of the recent human rights decisions, 2 – connected to students’ cases , BOTH by self-representing parents, family status confirmed as not novel, successful OIPC cases won by parents, and now we have consent orders to think about.

A new world.

NEW DECISION – Tribunal Declares: Parents of Disabled Children are NOT Important to Public Interest

Here is a blog post that is a must-read!!

“In a decision on a timeliness application, Parent v School District 2024 BCHRT 113, the tribunal confirms that parents can file a complaint under family status in connection with their child’s human rights discrimination case. I encourage you to read the decision in full.

They say this is not unique and cite Independent School Authority v. Parent, 2022 BCSC 570 as evidence that this has been confirmed before. The timeliness application was not rejected because the school doesn’t owe “a service” to the parents, as originally stated in a human rights complaint decision, which rejected parents being connected under family status in Habetler obo Habetler v. Sooke School District and B.C. (Ministry of Education), 2008 BCHRT 85

When you represent your child in a human rights complaint, any money received during a settlement or from a hearing decision will go directly to them. If you have any financial losses due to your child’s exclusion or emotional harm, then you have also experienced an adverse effect. So, parent(s)/guardians, you can submit a complaint just for you.  This is BIG news. It hasn’t been tested at a hearing yet, but your complaint will be considered. It’s confirmed. It’s so possible the tribunal doesn’t even consider it unique.  This absolutely needs to be done within the one year or it will not be accepted because…. And hold onto your hats, we are now moving into the shocking part of this decision.

Brace yourself.

The tribunal has declared with this decision, that parents who experience harm connected to their employment because of the discrimination their disabled child experienced at school, is not in the public interest to address this.”

To read the FULL Blog click below.

What really bothers me is that society seems to think it is ok to not have inclusive child care and education and just expect women to exit the workforce and give up their careers to be full-time caregivers and not get paid for that.

I’d like to know if a parent can file a human rights complaint under family status regardless whether their child’s situation would be deemed discrimination or not, but its discrimination to them.

  1. Do they have a protected characteristic?
    – Yes. Family Status, Sex. (Child has a disability)
  2. Did they experience an adverse effect?
    – Yes. They had to quit school / work / emotional harm (high stress, etc)
  3. Is their adverse effect connected to their protected characteristic?
    – Yes. Their child is on reduced hours, or for other reasons of their own children being discriminated against, they left their work or school.

Now all we need is a parent who is willing to test the system….

ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia – Human Rights Education Case

This is a new case that was posted on the BC Human Rights Tribunal Website March 26th, 2024. This is a timeliness application.

I have read through this case and I feel MANY families can relate to the details of this case or various aspects of this case.

It really deserves a full read, however I have pulled some paragraphs to summarize and give an overview. The analysis of this case by the tribunal member and their determination of whether disability was connected to the harm alleged is really important learning for us parents. It also describes how the tribunal interprets alleged inappropriate accommodations as potential discrimination.

I am also going to be emailing this case to the Ministry of Education and asking them to explain why they are not screening children in Kindergarten. Dyslexia BC has been advocating for this for years!

The Parent obo the Child v. School District, 2024 BCHRT 91

[8] The Child attended an elementary school in the School District from September 2015 until December 2020. He has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

[9] By the third week of kindergarten in 2015, the Parent alleges that the Child began complaining of constant nausea and experienced diarrhea and vomiting regularly. She states he told her that he was scared to go to school as the work was too hard and he could not do it. The Parent alleges that the Child’s physical ailments were only present on school days and he began resisting going to school, to the extent that he cried all evening before going to school and lay on the floor crying two to three hours before school. The Parent alleges this same pattern persisted throughout the entire time the Child attended the school.

[14] Around August 2018, before the Child started grade three, the Parent alleges that she asked his teacher if he may be dyslexic. The Parent says that the teacher assured her that her son’s situation was normal, and he just needed to keep practicing. The Parent says that she thought that by raising the possibility dyslexia to the teacher it would prompt the teacher to investigate the issue more thoroughly. The Parent says that she ultimately decided to trust the teacher’s opinion, which resulted in the Child not being appropriately accommodated for his disabilities.

[15] In September 2018, the School District conducted a functional behavioral assessment of the Child. Based on the assessment, in November 2018 the School District placed him in a literacy intervention group. The Parent alleges the placement was an inappropriate response to the Child’s disabilities.

[17] In December 2018, the School District created its first Individual Educational Plan [IEP] for the Child. The plan focused on addressing the goals of the Child attending school and managing his anxiety in a positive way at school. It also addressed various ways to increase his reading and writing to advance him from operating at a grade one level. The Parent alleges the IEP did not appropriately address the Child’s disabilities.

[18] In June 2019, the Parent alleges the Child’s IEP was updated with minimal change. She says that worksheets provided by the school over the summer were too hard for the Child to complete. Once again, the Parent alleges the School District’s attempts to accommodate the Child’s disabilities were inappropriate.

[25] In mid 2020, at the end of grade four, the Parent says that she realized the extent of the Child’s reading struggles as he could not read instructions or complete any online school without her providing him with extensive one-to-one support. She alleges his reading skills were much lower than the School District had previously indicated. At that point the Parent says she began doing in-depth research on dyslexia and other disabilities pertaining to reading. She then decided to pay for him to attend tutoring with literacy specialists outside of school.

[31] ……...The Parent stated that she felt incredibly rushed during a less than one hour meeting about the plan for the Child related to the new information and the complexity of the situation. She worried about several educators being involved who did not have training for children with the Child’s learning disabilities and processing challenges.…..

[34] Finally, the Parent noted her concern that as of grade three the School District had already started to consider the Child as not being a candidate for graduation with a high school diploma.

[37] In January 2021, the Parent says that the Child was enrolled in a private school equipped to meet his education needs. She says that at the new school, the Child received 45 minutes of OG tutoring at the new school every day with positive effects. By the time her complaint was filed in November 2021, she described him as a “different child” who did not complain about going to school and did not get headaches and have an upset stomach or diarrhea. The Parent says the Child was learning at grade level and was now being given the opportunity to be successful.

[49] After reviewing the information on file, I have further determined that there is a succession of separate acts of discrimination of the same character that are separate contraventions of the Code extending back to the spring of 2016. I address each allegation in turn.

[50] The Complaint alleges that on April 4, 2016, the Parent emailed the Child’s kindergarten teacher with his reports that he felt rushed when doing work at school, and despite his best efforts he felt he was too slow in completing tasks. The Parent asked the teacher if there was anything that could be done about this problem. The teacher responded with an acknowledgement that the Child did take his time with his work and appears to suggest that the Parent should reassure the Child that he could take time and not be so hard on himself. From my review of this event, I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out an allegation of discrimination where the Child accessing educational services experienced harms because the School District failed to accommodate the Child and did not meet his educational needs by only telling the Parent to tell the Child not to not rush or be too hard on himself. The harm incurred 12 by taking this action only was the Child not receiving a proper education. I am further satisfied the Complaint sets out an allegation that the School District failed to make sufficient inquiries into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs in response to the Parent’s concerns. In my view, this inaction caused harm where the School District failed to discover Child’s learning disabilities such that he could then be provided with appropriate accommodations to prevent him falling behind. In my view, the Complaint alleges that the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[51] The Complaint alleges that in November 2016, the School District’s response to the Child’s reading difficulties was to send home alphabet cards and provide video links for him to work on sounding out letters and creating simple words. From my review of this event, I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs in this manner. I am further satisfied the Complaint sets out an allegation that the School District failed to make sufficient inquiries into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs as opposed to sending home alphabet cards and video links to address his needs. In my view, the Complaint alleges that the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged. In my view, the Complaint alleges that the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[52] The Complaint alleges that in the fall of 2017, the School District addressed the Child’s ongoing reading problems by giving him sight cards to take home and providing him with some one-on-one reading support. At this time, the Parent noted her concerns that the Child was merely memorizing the cards and not actually able to spell the words. She also observed that he was guessing words based on pictures. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs in this manner. I am further satisfied the Complaint sets out an allegation that the School District failed to make sufficient inquiries into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs as opposed to sending home sight cards and providing some one-on-one reading support. In my view, the Complaint alleges that the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged. 13

[53] The Complaint alleges that in August 2018, the School District’s response to the Parent’s concern that the Child might be dyslexic as he continued to struggle in school was to assure her that he just needed to keep practicing. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs in this manner in response to Parent’s concerns. I am further satisfied the Complaint sets out an allegation that the School District failed to make sufficient inquiries into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs as opposed to staying the course with Child despite ongoing problems and the Parent highlighting the possibility that he could be dyslexic. Once again, I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[54] The Complaint alleges that In the fall of 2018, the School District’s response to the Child’s ongoing learning struggles was to conduct a functional behavioural assessment and place him in a literacy intervention group. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs by focusing on the behavioural components and not his disabilities. I am further satisfied the Complaint sets out an allegation that the School District failed to make the appropriate inquiry, conducting a psychoeducational assessment instead of a behavioural assessment, into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs. Again, failing to accommodate the child after a proper assessment is alleged to have harmed him by not providing a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[55] The Complaint alleges that in December 2018, the School District created its first IEP for the Child. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs with an IEP that focused on the behavioural components and provided ineffectual learning supports not indicated in the later psychoeducational assessment. Again, the School District is alleged to have failed to make the appropriate inquiry into the nature and extent of the Child’s disabilityrelated needs. It allegedly failed to accommodate the child after a proper assessment resulting in the harms related to not receiving a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in these harms. 14

[56] The Complaint alleges that in June 2019, the School District updated the IEP with minimal changes and sent worksheets home with the Child to do over the summer break that were allegedly beyond his capabilities. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs with a revised IEP that has the same issues as the first IEP. A further allegation is set out concerning sending home inappropriate worksheets over the summer. Once again, the School District is alleged to have failed to make the appropriate inquiry into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs. It allegedly harmed the Child by not providing him with a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[57] The Complaint alleges that in September 2019, the Child’s grade four teacher admitted she was unaware of him having an IEP and provided him with grade two spelling lists work as an accommodation of his disability. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs by sending home grade two spelling lists for him to work on. Once again, the School District is alleged to have failed to make the appropriate inquiry into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs. It allegedly harmed the Child by not providing a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[58] The Complaint alleges in February 2020, the School District’s lack of response to the Parent’s concern that the Child was reversing letters on his written tests is an allegation of discrimination. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs in the face of dyslexia symptoms. Once again, the School District is alleged to have failed to make the appropriate inquiry into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability-related needs. It allegedly harmed the Child by not providing a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[59] The Complaint alleges on November 4, 2020, that the revised IEP implementing the October 27, 2020, psychoeducational report findings is an allegation of discrimination where it relied on the Parent to organize and pay for the Child’s OG tutoring and inappropriately 15 continued to focus on treating his anxiety. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by addressing his learning disability needs with a revised IEP not properly guided by the psychoeducational assessment resulting in the Child not receiving a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[60] The Complaint alleges on November 5, 2020, that the school principal was unwilling to guarantee that the Child would receive tutoring from someone trained in OG tutoring is an allegation of discrimination for the purposes of this decision. I am satisfied that the Complaint sets out allegations of discrimination where the School District failed to accommodate the Child by committing to provide him with an appropriately trained tutor necessary to meet his learning disability needs. This resulted in the Child not receiving a proper education. I find the Child’s disability was a factor in the harms alleged.

[61] To summarize, the materials before me set out a series of discrete allegations of discrimination incidents involving the School District’s repeated failures to appropriately accommodate the Child’s disability over the five years that he attended school within the School District. These incidents involved the trial of various inappropriate intervention activities, inappropriate IEPs and an inappropriate assessment. All these actions attempting to address the Child’s learning disabilities allegedly resulted in harms related to the Child not receiving a proper education. Further, for much of the period in question, the School District failed to make the appropriate inquiry into the nature and extent of the Child’s disability related needs by way of a psychoeducational assessment.

[65] In concluding there were no significant gaps in this case, I have considered the Parent’s submissions and evidence indicating she was actively engaged in the Child’s education during his time out of school over the years. For example, she participated extensively in the take home activities prescribed by the School District while actively pursuing guidance from his teachers, the school counsellor, and the principal. In my view, the Parent remained very much engaged in the accommodation process throughout the years and this lessens the significance of any gaps between the discrete instances of discrimination outlined above. As an active participant in the School District’s ongoing accommodation of the Child’s learning disabilities, I see less significance in the gaps of months between the discrete allegations. While it is possible 17 to say the Parent had numerous opportunities to file a complaint, the information before me indicates that she was actively engaged as a participant in the accommodation process between events where the issue of accommodation arose, which lessens the significance of the gaps in this case.

[67] For these reasons, the complaint is accepted for filing as it alleges a continuing contravention of the Code.

New Page called ADVOCATE HELP DIRECTORY

You will notice I have added a new page called Advocate Help Directory.

These advocacy organizations and businesses specifically focus on K-12 education advocacy for inclusion in BC.

A

ADHD Advocacy Society of BC
K-12 Advocacy Info

Autism BC

B

BCCPAC
Advocacy Info

BC Ed Access – Facebook Parent Support Group
Education Advocacy Resources

C

D

Dyslexia BC – offers direct support in school advocacy

E

F

Family Support Institute – offers direct support in school advocacy
Education Advocacy Toolkit

FASD Support Society of BC – offers direct support in school advocacy

G

H

I

Inclusion BC – offers direct support in school advocacy
Advocacy Handbook

J

Jenn Scharf – IEP and advocacy services – offers direct support in school advocacy

K-R

S

Suzanne Perreault – Inclusive Education Consulting and Counselling – offers direct support

External Complaint Organizations

Ombudsperson BC
Professional Conduct Unit (Teacher’s Regulation Branch)
Human Rights Tribunal BC
Your MLA

Self-Advocacy and Victim Blaming in Education

Certain elements of self-advocacy need to be in place.

1. The person on some level needs to be accepting of their disability AND be willing to talk about it.

2. They have to be able to identify when they need help.

3. They need to identify what they need help with and have the language to express it.

4. They need a trusted adult who has proved their willingness to listen to them over time.

5. The child needs to feel heard.

6. The child needs to feel that this trusted adult will believe them when they say they need help.

7. This needs to be repeated enough times and be predictable enough for the self-advocate to feel comfortable and safe to advocate for their needs.

Often school staff will say…..

Well _____________ happened, but if XXXX advocated for himself, this wouldn’t have happened.

That is BULLSHIT.

Children since they enter school are socialized to believe they MUST follow authority or something really bad is going to happen. They think they will be disappointing all the adults in their lives, and kids deep down just want to make their loved ones love them.

All they want to do is to make the adults (especially their parents but also their teachers) in their lives happy so that they will feel worthy and good about themselves. We need to look at their situation through the lens of a child.

There is so much systemic ableism, that people don’t want to acknowledge it. If they do, they are now responsible for changing it.

Learning self-advocacy can take a lifetime. Adults have a hard time advocating. It’s stressful and anxiety-producing for all of us. We need to have realistic expectations for our children. Especially when they are navigating an oppressive system, based on hierarchy, and control. They live in this environment 5 days a week, we don’t.

We have a human rights decision on our side.

It’s easy for schools to make us think our kids share responsibility or are responsible for all of it.

Let’s keep in mind….

Self-advocacy expectations have been defined by the BC Human Rights Tribunal. In Student by Parent v. School District BCHRT 237.

[90]           Generally, it is the obligation of the person seeking accommodation to bring forward the relevant facts: Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud1992 CanLII 81 (SCC), [1992] 2 SCR 970. This can be challenging for children, and especially challenging for children with invisible disabilities. I agree with the Parent that children who require accommodation in their school are in a different situation than adults seeking accommodation. Though they have a role to play in the process, that role will be age and ability-specific, and the burden cannot be on a child to identify and bring forward the facts necessary for their accommodation.

Family Status – Human Rights Complaints in Education

Here is some clarity to something that can be confusing when it comes to parents adding themselves to their child’s human rights complaint in education. (Your complaint will also need to pass the discrimination test.)

You need to file separate complaints. One for your child and one for you. Then, when and if they are both accepted, then you need to file an application to join them.

As a parent, it makes logical sense in our head to just include ourselves in our child’s complaint because we see everything so connected, but that is not the process that one needs to go through. So, to save yourself some time in further applications and playing catch up, when you file your child’s complaint, also file a separate complaint for you. Wait to see if both are accepted and then you need to file a 7.1 Form to join the complaints.

Here is the application page. You will want Application Form 7.1 – General Application. If you go to page 2 of 7, on that list, 7th on the list down, you will see “Join two or more complaints”

It is highly likely that the respondents will be making submissions for them not to be joined, or to dismiss your complaint. So, just mentally be prepared for that.

Here is the groundbreaking case that brought this option out in the open. So thankful for this brave parent.

Groundbreaking BC HRT – Accepts Parent on Child’s HR Complaint

Direct link on CanLII

You may want to quote this case directly in your complaint.

Also, keep in mind the one-year time limit for filing. If you file outside of the one-year time limit you may want to consider this case. Also, be aware that you will need to have evidence of the harm related to your loss of work or emotional harm.

Experience is such a valuable teacher.

If you have any questions, call the BC Human Rights Clinic. They are the best people to talk to about your complaint or any questions about the process. Processes do change, forms change, and with each new human rights case decision that gets posted – arguments can change. (This blog was written on Dec 21st, 2023)

Late filing – Timeliness of Complaint

This is a decision from the Human Rights Tribunal, posted in the September category for 2023.

The complainant filed the human rights complaint after the one-year deadline. These applications for late filing are very rarely accepted, and this case was accepted.

It’s also notable because it involves accessibility issues for a disabled student in a post-secondary school. This case was considered novel because the student is autistic. See paragraph 44 for details.

Here is the case and I have selected a few paragraphs from the main case.

Schulz v. Camosun College, 2023 BCHRT 142

[6] Millie Schulz has multiple mental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder [ASD], attention deficit disorder [ADD], and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD].

[16] On January 4, 2021, Millie Schulz sent a letter to the College dropping out the MHA program. After noting their issues and barriers, they said they did not feel supported in their classes with CAL, which was only looking out the College’s interests.

[37] Where the delay is due to a disabling condition, the Tribunal has observed that it may be in the public interest to accept a late-filed complaint: MacAlpine v. Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, 2011 BCHRT 29 at para. 42. Disabling conditions can include physical and mental ailments resulting in great difficulty coping with even the basic daily tasks of life: Naziel-Wilson v. Providence Health Care and another, 2014 BCHRT 170 at para. 21

[42] Millie Schulz argues their case is unique as it involves a complainant with ASD. While the Tribunal has addressed mental health discrimination in the provision of services, it has not addressed many of the issues impacting individuals with ASD, and their need for accommodation, especially in a school or employment setting. They cite one Tribunal case dealing with autism from 2011, which points out that the nature of adult autism and how it manifests itself in the workplace is poorly understood, and individuals with this disability are subject to stigma and stereotyping: Noriega v. B. C. (Min. of Children and Family Development), 2011 BCHRT 199 at para 28.

[44] While appreciating this case is quite common in terms of the Tribunal dealing with the accommodation of a student with mental disabilities in a post-secondary setting, I find that the 12 subject matter of accommodating autism, in particular ASD, is sufficiently unique to attract some public interest in allowing the complaint to proceed late filed.

[45] After weighing all the factors, I have decided it is in the public interest to accept this late-filed complaint. While appreciating a significant delay in filing occurred, this factor is outweighed by the reasons for delay associated with Millie Schulz’s mental disabilities and the novelty of the case. It is now necessary to address the issue of whether any substantial prejudice would result. C. Substantial Prejudice

Human Rights in Education

Depending on how the previous years have gone, thinking about the next school year can certainly trigger our own internal alarm systems. Fighting for inclusion, a fair and equitable education, and one that is free from discrimination for our children, can be challenging at times. It can feel like the system is against us. Remember that there are pockets of positivity and support that also exist. Knowing your rights and the rights of your child is especially empowering and can help reduce some of the anxiety.

 Inclusion seems to be happening on an individual level by luck and chance around our province, and not systemically. We are all crossing our fingers that our kids win the ‘lottery’ and get placed in the classes of those amazing teachers who just “get it”. 

But we don’t need to just hope to survive the year based on luck. 

Understanding your child’s human rights in the education system and advocating with those in mind is an extremely powerful approach. The more you understand how the duty to accommodate applies to your child in school, the stronger your advocacy impact will be, and the more empowering the experience can be. 

It is not uncommon for school staff and teachers to not fully understand how human rights apply to education. It isn’t something that they are taught before, or when, they begin working in the system. 

Wondering if your disabled child is experiencing discrimination at school, all comes down to the question: Is your child “accessing their education, equitably”? So, what does that mean exactly? 

It means they have a right to an equitable opportunity to receive and participate in education. This does not mean that they are given the exact same as everyone else. Equity means that they are given what they need so they have a chance to learn and show their learning. 

Here are some examples of your child’s rights that are supported by the Human Rights Code, under the duty to accommodate:

  1. Your child’s IEP supersedes a teacher’s classroom autonomy and classroom management decisions.  Which means, your child’s IEP is the priority over their personal teaching opinions and how they like to run their classes. IEPs are very important. 
  2. Your child has a right to go to school and not be exposed to discrimination-based harassment. (Bullying connected to their disability, race, gender, etc.)
  3. They also have the right to be in a positive school environment.
  4. Your child has a right to receive reasonable accommodation so they can access their education. Which means, if your child is struggling or failing, they are not accessing their education and they are not receiving reasonable accommodation. Document the failing and the struggle that they are experiencing. The more evidence you have, the more effective your advocacy will be. A child struggling and failing is an indication that the accommodations that the school provides, or lack of, is not working. It’s their responsibility to make this work.

Here are some examples of your rights and responsibilities that are supported by the Human Rights Code.

  1. You have a right to be consulted on your child’s education. The school has the final decision as to what reasonable accommodations look like for your child, but they must consult with you and at least consider the information you offer about your child. This needs to be meaningful consultation. 
  2. Both you and the school have a duty to co-operate in good faith. Which means respectful language on both sides and no dirty parlor tricks from the school system. I would suggest you review the code of conduct that will be posted on your school districts website, and they need to follow that as well. 
  3. You have a responsibility to facilitate the implementation of accommodation decided by the school. You can facilitate and still keep advocating. 

Through the School Act, you have a right to appeal if you do not agree with the final decision of the school. This is a much faster process than the current Human Rights Tribunal process. The School Act and the Human Rights Code are two separate legislation Acts. Processes are different. Goals are different. Outcomes will be different. 

Filing a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal means that your child has experienced harm that is connected to their disability. It’s about harm that has already occurred, and harm that you will need to have evidence of. More blog posts on this will be coming in the future. 

Advocacy is a skill that can be developed.

Some resources I recommend are:

Inclusion BC – Chapter 7

Family Support Institute & BC Access Society – Toolkit