Emotional, Impulsive and Cringeworthy. An Advocate in the Making.

There was a social reading event organized for adults. One by one they took turns and read out of their high school diaries written over 20 years ago. The audience cringes with empathy and chuckles over the shared embarrassment of their teenage selves. The drama, the emotions, the childlike perspectives of life. So mutually embarrassing.

This was a real event. People volunteered to participate in this.

As a mother attempting to seriously advocate for my children and other children in an education system void of accountability and supervision, I was left on my own. I look back at my emails written to staff full of emotion, impulsivity, and powerlessness. Pleads and negotiating to an untouchable system. Like Bambi on ice trying to find my legs.

My emails read like those embarrassing teenage diary entries. Cringeworthy.

School districts all over this province and country use the deep love we have for our children and weaponize it as a tool to hold over us and against us. They are very strategic about ignoring us and just sitting back and waiting for us to lose it. They wait for us to send those emotional emails so they can all point their fingers at us, at our wrong behaviour and weakness.

They even have legislative powers over parents written in the School Act without an appeals process. Talk about power!

What happens reminds me of what happens with many of our kids. They are emotionally dysregulated, in survival mode, impulsive, and they do something that they feel embarrassed about and regret later. Everyone points fingers at how wrong this child is behaving. No one looks at the pond. No one examines the trigger. Kids don’t go to school in a silo. They are surrounded by other children, who either intentionally or unintentionally are triggering. Don’t even get me started on the bullies who purposefully find it entertaining to poke the kids who are responsive for pure amusement.  

You should read all my emotional impulsive reactive emails I have sent to the school district, the Ministry of Education, to the Teacher’s Regulation Branch and to Ombudsperson. You won’t feel so alone.  You’d shrink in your chair along with me.

Districts poke the bear with parents. They will use silence and delay to create the pond. They will use their power. They will lie and gaslight you. Then they’ll just sit back and watch the show. Any emotional move from a parent and the spotlight is on you.

Many parents, justifiably shrink and move away. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Feeling little. Powerless.

When advocating for your kids, you need to be willing to fall flat on your face and be vulnerable, and yet get back up again and keep going. Just like our kids are always on the stage of over examination and judgement of every move they make, so are we. Solidarity little ones. Us too.

I am NOT shrinking from those emails. I OWN my impulsivity and emotional throw up.

I have figured out the system.

Those emails feel like a lifetime ago.

I wear them like a badge of honor. They are evidence of how far I have come. The skills I have learned. The knowledge I have gained. My understandings evolving as I begin to understand the rules of the game. They are part of my story. My beginning. My attempts. My learning.

I will wear those emails and show them to anyone.

You want to know why????

They are the secret door that leads us all to the pond. I am not just a frog jumping chaotically from pad to pad. I am navigating through an electrified pond.

You want to start questioning me and victim blaming me? Let’s do that. Let’s talk about all of it. Let’s pick through every little sentence and examine every little word. I am not shrinking into the dark. I will boldly walk straight into the spotlight with all those emails pinned to my clothes.

I am human.

I am a mother and I love my children.

My love for them is not my weakness. It is my strength.

Just try me.

Why is Documentation so Important?

Because you need to take your allegations out of the realm of conjecture. Here is a case example below from the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

N obo S v. T and a School District, 2006 BCHRT 546 (CanLII)

[55]           In this case, N states that she is a single parent and has several serious medical conditions, and that, because of this, she has been unfairly treated by the respondents.  As examples of the unfair treatment, she states that the respondents have failed to return phone calls, delayed letters, failed to provide information in a timely manner, and did not properly investigate her concerns relating to her son.  However, she does not include details of any statements or actions on the part of the respondents which would support such a conclusion.  She states only that she “believes” that such a connection exists: that she “believes” that the respondents think they can make her go away by exhausting her; that she “believes” that if she had a partner, her child would have equal treatment; and that she “believes” that she would be treated with more respect if she were married, healthy and had financial resources.   In other words, nothing in the complaint takes the allegations out of the realm of conjecture, as the facts alleged in the complaint do not support a nexus between N’s marital status and disability and her alleged unfair treatment by the respondents. 

[56]           As a result of the above, I dismiss N’s complaint pursuant to s. 27(1)(b) of the Code.

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Allegations are what you are claiming to be true. Until they are proven in a hearing and a decision is complete by a tribunal member, until then, they are nothing more than allegations. Be careful about defamation on social media.

So, parents/guardians and loved ones of disabled children in the education system, what does this mean?

It means we need to be documenting EVERYTHING.

Keeping ALL emails, even the good ones.

Logging calls and dates, with who and what was discussed.

Follow up by email on phone calls to outline what was discussed and action steps agreed upon.

Keeping a timeline of events

Taking photos (if your child has been injured)

When you child tells you what happened at school, take your own notes and write it down. Email your notes to someone you trust to log the date, time and details.

Email other parents and ask them what they know, and make sure they respond in the email and not the phone. The Human Rights Tribunal can take years. People’s memories will change over time, so it’s really important to get the documented information at that time.

If necessary for your own mental health, taking yourself and your child for counselling, (Remember from the blog 10 Most shocking Education Advocacy Discoveries #3) If the counsellor is connected to the government services, they wont be able to testify at a hearing. You need an outside counsellor.)

An added suggestion by Dyslexia BC @DyslexiaBC on Facebook is to bring someone with you to all of your IEP meetings. (That person can take notes, and also be a witness.)

You need to be thinking about collecting evidence. Things that can be used as evidence in a hearing are documents, emails, doctors letters, counselling letters, counselling invoices, videos, photos, media posts, expert evidence, other parents witness statements/emails, voice recordings from meetings, anything that is relevant. Connected. Here is what the Human Rights Tribunal determines to be evidence.

In the same thread of thought, be careful what you offer up in your emails and conversations to the school district. They are also collecting evidence on you.

I will leave you with this case example below.

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

A.   The Mother

[40]           Overall, I have found the Mother to be sincere in her testimony. She cares about her Child and became emotional when describing his feelings. However, I do not find her evidence reliable. I find her testimony not to be in “harmony with the preponderance of the probabilities which a practical and informed person would readily recognize as reasonable in that place and in those conditions”. The weight, and thus reliability, of the Mother’s evidence was affected by the fact that her testimony was almost entirely based on hearsay and double hearsay. The Mother was not a witness to most of the interactions she described.

[41]           The Tribunal may admit any evidence that it considers necessary and appropriate, whether or not the evidence is admissible in a court of law: Code, s. 27.2. Silver Campsites Ltd. v. James2013 BCCA 292 at para. 39. I considered the Mother’s hearsay testimony to be necessary and appropriate because it directly addressed the critical issues in the complaint and there were no other witnesses available to present it. The Father and Child did not testify on these issues. I assessed the Mother’s hearsay evidence on a point-by-point basis, with the objective of ensuring that I could make necessary findings of fact based on reliable evidence: Radek v. Henderson Development (Canada) and Securiguard Services (No. 3), 2005 BCHRT 302 [Radek]. I have considered the following in determining the weight to give to hearsay evidence:

I have considered in each instance the reliability of the evidence, the necessity for its introduction as hearsay rather than first-hand evidence, the probative value of the evidence, and whether the other parties would be unfairly prejudiced or otherwise disadvantaged through my reliance on it. (para. 54)

[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.

[45]           The Mother’s credibility was also impacted by her acrimonious relationship with most of the Respondent witnesses. I have considered her contemporaneous correspondence in assessing credibility because it speaks to hear capacity to perceive, recollect, and communicate facts objectively. Together with her husband, the Mother repeatedly sent letters and other communications attacking the character of most of the Respondent witnesses. For example, the Parents wrote letters about the Superintendent to the federal government, provincial government, board of education, RCMP, politicians and others. When confronted with this correspondence, the Mother minimized the tenor of her communications and its effect on the Respondent witnesses. The Mother maintained that she and her husband treated staff respectfully.

[46]           The Mother also provided inconsistent testimony. For example, the Mother testified that she did not accuse Teacher G of racism. When confronted during cross-examination, the Mother acknowledged accusing Teacher G of favouring one child over the other, and the other child not necessarily being black. The Mother ultimately acknowledged accusing Teacher G of racism. She explained finding it “very frustrating” when Teacher G prejudged her son and did not follow guidelines.

Understanding the Duty to Accommodate

In the Human Rights Code section (8), there is the Duty to Accommodate.

There are also layers under the umbrella of the duty to accommodate. There is a process that must be completed in order to obtain those accommodations. Since, this site is focused on disability rights and education focused, for this page I will be using disability as the example. First, the service provider must have proof that someone is disabled.

From the Human Rights Clinic Blog, Stress, Anxiety and the Duty to Accommodate, they explain…

“However, she did not provide any medical information that said she had a mental disability.

The Tribunal dismissed Ms. Matheson’s complaint, stating that “an essential element of a complaint of discrimination in employment on the basis of mental disability is proof that the complainant either had a mental disability… or was perceived to be mentally disabled by the employer.”

Here is Ms. Matheson’s case.

Which now leads us to the Duty to Inquire

Duty to Inquire

Here is link to more information and the above picture.

Duty to Consult

A great case that outlines the duties to consult by schools is the Hewko v. B.C., 2006 BCSC 1638 (CanLII)

There are many great details in this case, here are a couple that speak to me regarding the duty to consult.

AND also

Duty to Co-operate

Here is the link for the source below

Am I missing any??

If anyone knows of any more “Duty to…..” established in human rights case law, please let me know. I am happy to add to the list of links and information so we parents, can learn about our children’s rights and the process.

Commonly Used Acronyms in Supportive Education

Acronyms are often used in social media posts, emails and chatter amongst parents/guardians and school district professionals.  I personally feel there are so many of them and they are constantly changing. Sometimes it’s just hard to keep up! Districts also don’t always use the same language for their education roles. More confusion.

Here is a list compiled by over 30 parents from different districts across British Columbia, to help new parents who are entering the world of education advocacy. Or, even if you aren’t new, here is a list, because who can always keep track of these things??

If you want to add any, please email me.

These acronyms have not made it on the list because I have critiqued or placed judgement on these terms, they are simply acronyms you might come across.

If you are a parent/guardian attending meetings or are receiving communication and people are tossing around acronyms/terms/language you don’t understand, you have every right to stop them and ask them to explain. Jargon can create barriers in communication. We all have the right to understand what people are talking about when it concerns us and our children.

In addition to the acronym list below, here is also a Glossary of Terms from the BC Government for K-12 Education.

(Updated September 14th, 2022. Now over 40 parents contributed. 🙂 )

CB IEP – Competency Based Individual Education Plan
IEP – Individualized Education Plan
SLP – Student Learning Plan
SD – School District

ID – Image Description
TW – Trigger Warning

Specialized Professionals


AAC SLP – Alternative Augmentative Communication Speech Language Pathologist
BC – Behavioural Consultant
BCBA-Board Certified Behaviour Consultant
BI – Behavioural Interventionist
OT– Occupational Therapist
PT– Physiotherapist
SLP – Speech-Language Pathologist  (SLP can also be Student Learning Plan)
SW – Social Worker

Support Roles/Teams/Job Titles in Education

ASW – Autism Support Worker
BSW – Behavioural Assistance Worker
CM – Case Manager
CRT—Classroom Teacher
DIMT – District Inclusion Mentor Teacher
DLT – District Leadership Team
EA – Education Assistant
IST– Integration Support Teacher AND/ Inclusion Support Teacher
ITT– Inclusive Team Teacher
LAW – Learning Assistance Worker
LRT – Learning Resource Teacher
LST – Learning Services Teacher AND/ Learning Support Teacher
RT – Resource Teacher
SBT – School-Based Team
SEA – Special Education Assistant
SERT – Special Education Resource Teacher
TTOC – Teaching Teacher On Call
YCW – Youth Care Worker

Organizations

AFU – Autism Funding Unit
ASNBC – Autism Support Network BC
BCCDC – BC Centre for Disease Control
BCCH – BC (British Columbia) Children’s Hospital
BCTF – BC Teacher’s Federation
CADDRA – Canadian ADHD Resource Alliance
CAN – Canucks Autism Network
CLBC – Community Living BC
CYMH – Child & Youth Mental Health, Government of BC
CUPE – Canadian Union of Public Employees
DPAC – District Parent Advisory Council
FSI – Family Support Institute
KMH / KMHRC / Kelty – Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre
MCFD – Ministry of Child and Family Development
MOECC – Ministry of Education and Child Care
MOH – Ministry of Health
P1/P2 – BCCH Child Psychiatry Inpatient/Outpatient Units
PAC – Parent Advisory Council
PAFN – Pacific Autism Family Network
POPARD – Provincial Outreach for Autism and Related Disorder
SET BC – Special Education Technology British Columbia

Administrative Processes

FOI – Freedom of Information Request
HR – Human Resources
HRT – Human Rights Tribunal
OIPC – Office of Information Privacy Commissioner
TRB – Teacher’s Regulation Branch

Loosely Grouped

DX – Diagnosis
IFL-identify first language
PFL-person first language
ND – Neurodivergent / Neurodiversity
NT – Neurotypical
PWD – Person With a Disability

ABA – Applied Behavioural Analysis
ACC – Augmentative Assistant Communication
AT– Assistive Technology
B&M – Brick and Mortar School (A physical building where students attend)
CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
CPI – Crisis Prevention Intervention
DL – Distance Learning
DSM-5 – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (5th Ed.)
FI – French Immersion
FSA – Foundation Skills Assessment
HS – Home Schooling
IQ – Intelligence Quotient
ISP – Inclusion Support Program
LS – Life Skills
LSS – Learning Support Services
NSS-Nursing Support Services
OL – Online Learning
Psych Ed – Psycho-Educational Assessment
SE – Supportive Education
SEL – Social Emotional Learning
SPED – Special Education
TIP – Trauma-Informed Practice
UDL – Universal Design for Learning

EAL – English as Another Language
ELL – English Language Learner
ELL – English Language Workers
ESL – English as a Second Language


2E – Twice Exceptional
AS – Autism Spectrum
ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
CAPD – Central Auditory Processing Disorder
CNP – Complex Neuropsychiatric Profile
CP – Cerebral Palsy
DCD – Developmental Coordination Disorder
DD– Developmental Disability
DS – Down Syndrome
GAD – Generalized Anxiety Disorder
FASD – Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
HH – Hard of Hearing
ID – Intellectual Disability
LD – Learning Disability
OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
ODD – Oppositional Defiance Disorder
PD– Physical Disability
PDA – Pervasive Drive for Autonomy (Pervasive Demand Avoidance)
SCD – Social Communication Disorder
SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder
VI – Visually Impaired

Designation Categories

A – Physically Dependent
B – DeafBlind
C – Students with Moderate to Profound Intellectual Disabilities
D – Physical Disabilities or Chronic Health Impairments
E – Visual Impairments
F – Deaf or Hard of Hearing
G – Autism Spectrum Disorder
H – Students Requiring Intensive Behaviour Intervention or Students with Serious Mental Illness
K – Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities
P – Gifted
Q – Learning Disabilities
R – Students Requiring Moderate Behaviour Support or Students with Mental Illness

Speaking Up BC – One Year Anniversary

So….I am a little chatty…about education and about disability.

I want to send out a heartfelt thank you to ALL of the people who have encouraged me and connected with my writing. Whether you agree or disagree with my perspective, it’s an honor to take up some space in your thought process. I will admit, some of my blogs are a little…”spicy”. So many wonderful people have reached out. For those who find my website organically and are asking questions about your own advocacy journey, it fills my heart to be able to pass along information I have learnt along the way. We are not alone.

This website went from solely being shared through BCEd Access’s social media Facebook group and over the year it has blossomed. People are finding this website, sharing it with others, and now I get to refer them to BCEd Access. So many wonderful friendships have grown over this past year. My heart is full.

In addition to my pages on this website where my learning is all stored…well the stuff I can share publicly 😉 , here is a list of the blogs July 2021-July 2022. From my heart to yours. Disability rights and public education are worth fighting for. We may not have created this system, but if we are just observers and not active participants, then we are certainly maintaining it. Every little step, no matter how small, all makes a ripple effect. Everything builds. There are so many advocates in the system, past, present and upcoming future. We are all connected by the invisible string.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ – Margaret Mead

From the beginning, starting in July 2022

Expectations of Parents Behaviour: Why are so many parents losing their shit?

The Unpredictability of Public Education

The Impending Education Tsunami

Systemic Impacts of Scarcity in Education

Context and Meaning

IEP Meetings in Public Education

Twinkie Theory

A Call for Fair Process

Groupthink…Does it Exist in Schools and on Boards of Education?

Rejection. Our Starting Point.

Submission for Budget Consultation. 2022

August 2021

Sex Education, Sexual Health and Disability

The Non-Death Loss for Parents of Disabled Children, All over this Province

Accessing Education

September 2021

Are Lawsuits the only Chance Parents have in Shaping the Education System?

You are Just not Disabled…Yet

…and Then You Take the House

Am I Disabled Enough?

October 2021

Do You Trust Me?

I Give Myself Permission

The Scary Parent

Missing Counselling Notes

December 2021

Let’s Talk Language

Education Case Law

Shame and Disability

Rally Speech

Love Ableism, xoxo

January 2022

Letter to SFU

The Dance of Advocacy and Forgiveness

February 2022

Swimming Upstream in the Education System

Human Rights – Lunch and Learn

March 2022

Top 10 Shocking Education Advocacy Discoveries

April 2022

What does Ableism Look Like in Schools? It Looks Like This?

Why a Diagnosis?

Case Decisions and Reports Connected to Education

Ableism Policy – Why Should We Care?

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

The State of Human Rights Violations in BC

May 2022

Ministry of Education & Wilful Blindness

Freedom of Information Request Denied – Ombudsperson

Defamation. You said What?

June 2022

Board of the Rings

Teacher’s Regulation Branch (Professional Conduct Unit)

Keeping the Hope Alive

Advocacy Summer Camp

July 2022

Speaking Up BC – One Year Anniversary

Advocacy Summer Camp

Hello Parents.

Welcome to advocacy summer camp. You have two months to get in advocacy shape for the upcoming school year in the fall. Well….technically you don’t have two months, advocacy is a life long learning journey, but it’s more of a reflection of the sense of urgency we all feel when our kids are struggling.

If you are new to advocacy and are wondering where in the world to start, here is your summer reading.

Let’s start here. With information. The more you know, the better you will be at advocating for your child.

Start with Your District Website

  1. What are their policies from the Board of Education?
    1. Each district will have a Board section with lots of policies around suspension, restraint/seclusion, anti-ableism, assessments, etc. Not every district will have the same type of policy.
  2. What are their documents around conflict resolution path?
    1. Most districts will have documents on HOW to resolve conflicts within your school. They have a path they want you to take based on hierarchy. Know that if your concern is serious, you can jump and skip steps.
  3. What is the appeals process?
    1. Everyone can submit an appeal to the Board of Education, and it should be outlined on your schools website. You can also find it referenced in the School Act. Section 11.
  4. What is your districts code of conduct?
    1. Read the district code of conduct. Also be aware of Section 177 under the School Act. There is no appeals process if this happens to you.

District websites can be a maze. A complete maze. Keep going.

Look at Provincial Manuals and Acts

  1. The School Act
  2. The Teacher’s Act
  3. FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act
  4. The Erase Website
  5. Special Needs Manual
    1. In this Manual (first page) there are links to the Special Needs Order, Individual Education Plan Order, Student Progress Report Order, Support Services for Schools Order
  6. Diversity in BC Schools Policy
  7. The Multiculturalism Act
  8. The Human Rights Code
  9. DPAC Parents manuals on advocacy and policy
    1. There are LOTS of information and manuals on this site.
  10. The complete list by the Ministry of Education, including homeschooling and online learning

Legal Cases in Education

  1. Link for education cases
  2. CanLii
    1. For instructions on how to research your own using CanLii scroll to bottom of the page.
  3. Education Law

What are my External Organization options?

  1. Professional Conduct Unit / Teacher’s Regulation Branch
    1. Here is my tip sheet on how to file a complaint
  2. Ombudsperson
    1. Here is my info sheet on more details
    2. Fair Schools Report
  3. Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner
    1. When you submit a Freedom of Information request with the school. If you feel you are missing information or they have redacted too much, you can submit a complaint and they will review it and investigate.
  4. Human Rights Tribunal
    1. Human Rights Clinic (lots of information, blogs, free education workshops, services)
    2. Here is my tip sheet.

Where Can I go for Advocacy Help?

  1. Inclusion BC
  2. Family Support Institute
  3. Dyslexia BC
  4. BCEdAccess to Education – Facebook group and website
  5. Independent Service Providers for advocacy support and counselling (email me and I’ll refer you)
  6. Legal Help
  7. Dial-A-Lawyer
  8. If you want a specific Education Lawyer – email me, I can refer you.

What about the Process of Advocacy?

  1. How to deal with silence
  2. Advocacy tips
  3. When going to the media, be careful of defamation.
  4. Most school districts have a retainer with Harris & Co . Be aware that their lawyers may be reviewing your emails way earlier than you think.
  5. **** I HIGHLY recommend you get support, and I REALLY encourage people to consider joining the BCEdAccess Facebook group with over 4,500 parents who have a vast knowledge of advocacy and insight and support. You are not alone. You don’t need to do this alone.

This page was last updated on July 21, 2022.

IF anyone has any more information of manuals that they feel belong on this list, please email me and I will update it.

What Does Ableism Look Like in Schools? It Looks Like This!

When a teacher daily allows a student with a learning disability to fail their class, but does not even lift a finger to inform the case manager or parent, that is ableism and its discrimination. Disabled children failing, falling behind and being excluded without accommodations have become the normality of the education system. It’s so common, it is woven into the fabrics of the system.

They just invisibly slip through the cracks, while a detailed IEP sits in a student database system collecting digital dust.

The fact that the Ministry of Education intentionally doesn’t even track information regarding the human rights violations that are occurring across the province is an example of ableism. Disability issues don’t affect them, so they have the privilege to ignore it. Want to know how to systemically keep a marginalized group of people oppressed? Keep them off your radar to begin with. OH…and by the way…the group the people the Ministry of Education are intentionally oppressing, are disabled CHILDREN and their family unit.

What is even more profound is that these teachers who are discriminating are caring people. They love teaching and are inspired by the creations of their students. We think ableist teachers are lurking somewhere in the dark with DON’T CARE tattooed on them, when in fact that simply isn’t the case. When children are ignored and neglected in the education system by good teachers, that is obvious discrimination at its finest. The “other” students get their gifts, and the disabled students get left alone, left behind, and just….left.  There are lovely people out there in the world completely unaware of their own biases and the normality of disabled children failing, just blends in with the wall paper.  It’s not even a big thing. It’s just something that happens. Shrug.

This is very common in the education system, and the ableism these kids experience is then internalized, becomes part of their self-concept, self-esteem and identity. Want to know why kids turn to drugs and crime? Failure in the education system has been proven to be foundational in many of the peer reviewed journal articles. IT’s not that we do not know. It’s not that more studies are need to be done. We have all the information. Government is just biased, ableist and discriminatory and this shows in their government run and funded education system. It oozes out of the pores of all 60 school districts. It’s not obvious to the people who are not impacted by it. You need to look at the system and not just focus on what is there, but what is missing. Who is missing?

We need to flip this education system upside down and inside out. The future of their lives and our society depends on it.

Ministry of Education- It is time for anti-ableism leadership from your government.

Are we on your radar? Or will we continually be swept under the rug?

Why a Diagnosis?

I worked as a school secretary and one day one of the teachers needed support from the principal for one of her students in the class. The principal was new and so she quickly went to the student files, plucked out the child’s file, flipped through it to make sure there wasn’t something she needed to know and then flew off to the class.  I realized in that moment that I should have something written confirmed by my child’s professional of their diagnosis, and not just have this info in emails and verbal conversation. If anything happened at the school, a staff member would check the file and they would be aware.  Wow, I have been SOOOOO thankful that I had that exposure and followed through in making sure that documents were in place for both of my children.

As you can see HERE on the BC Human Rights Clinic page they state:

In a case called Matheson,[4] Ms. Matheson filed a human rights complaint alleging that she was subjected to abusive behaviour from a supervisor. She had a history of anxiety and panic attacks as well as depression. On two occasions during her employment, Ms. Matheson informed her employer that she was suffering from “stress.” However, she did not provide any medical information that said she had a mental disability.”

The Tribunal dismissed Ms. Matheson’s complaint, stating that “an essential element of a complaint of discrimination in employment on the basis of mental disability is proof that the complainant either had a mental disability… or was perceived to be mentally disabled by the employer.” Click HERE for her case.

Matheson’s case was dismissed because she did not inform her employer (school district) of her disability.  If we do not have a written diagnosis in their student file with the school, as a parent if you file a human rights complaint, the respondents (school district’s legal representation) will cite the Matheson case and your human rights complaint will be dismissed.

We have got to get our kids formally officially diagnosed by proper professionals or your child has no legal human rights ground to stand on.

We need this diagnosis for the following reasons:

  1. Legal human rights processes
  2. Application for disability tax benefits (if applicable)
  3. Navigating the health system for proper medical care
  4. Advocacy in the education system for proper accommodations
  5. Social and emotional reasons – so parents are not blamed for having poor parenting skills and they are able to find other parents who have children with the same disabilities and get support.
  6. For the child – so they understand why they are having specific challenges and they don’t blame themselves for the wrong reasons. For acceptance and self-esteem reasons.

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Here is the wisdom, lived experience, and reflections from parents of children in the education system across BC. Thank you to all who were willing to share.

It’s a diagnosis not a label. I find once my kids knew why things were hard they stopped labelling themselves “stupid, lazy, dumb.”

  • Anonymous

I think a diagnosis helps us to know ourselves….better. it’s been a breath of fresh air to me personally and has helped me forgive myself a bit easier. It’s also helped me identify things that work and don’t work.

On a wider societal scale: .for ADHD, there’s so much stigma, misinformation, out there it’s hard to feel comfortable disclosing..

I ask myself why would I hide my identity/diagnosis? Why do I feel so scared of sharing?

Obvs cuz we are likely to be met with incredulity of “you aren’t that disabled” or they treat you as less than, and that is hard because-as XXXXX said they have power over us.

What they do with that information is the concern….the biases that come into play when they have that information in hand.

But I also know that being loud and proud and dispelling the myths of the neurodivergence I personally have, perhaps can help open the doors for folks around me.

However, I don’t speak from an intersectional voice (I mean not just “being female”). And as such I hope to be an ally to those who do and amplify their voices.

Because there’s even more work to be done there.

My hope is one day everyone can be loud and proud about themselves.

  • Chantelle Movay

And yet WHY should we have to make our private medical information public/known to people who have power over us in order to get support and accommodation? The idea that we have to out ourselves to be able to make a claim is problematic.

  • Anonymous

Our son was diagnosed in 2018 and since then we have seen a world of difference. Because of his formal diagnosis, we were able to get him the support he needed at daycare (1:1) and now in school. He lacked social skills and would only parallel play with his peers but because of his Supports & EAs he has flourished and now plays really well with his peers. The diagnosis has also given him access to speech therapy within the school, an IEP and other tools/resources to help him succeed.

  • Elena Lawson

Human Rights expects this in order for you to be entitled to accommodations. I know that is why it is critical and needed. As for my own child, in general professionals have never been able to give accurate recommendations. People can see “autism” and think they know what my son needs. But then surprise PDA, you actually don’t know shit.

  • Anonymous

I am relieved that you bright this to light. Accommodations and supports/ language/ professional and so on will never be enough. For our family it has been lifesaving – literally. We have found the most inspiring family’s that we could ever ask for. I am grateful for that. 😊

  • Anonymous

Having an early diagnosis for our older child led to assessments and diagnoses for all of us. That has led into participating in groups with others who started traveling the road before us and getting recommendations which, we wouldn’t have heard otherwise. I can’t imagine what family life would be like for us now without that first diagnosis and learning about other options to parenting from mainstream expectations. It’s hard enough as it is, but that would have been awful. In fact, I’m not sure our marriage would have survived. I’m not sure how my partner would have survived mental health crises. Having diagnoses has led to support options through their online school which would not have been available otherwise and which we wouldn’t have been able to provide out of our own limited finances.

  • Anonymous

We had our youngest diagnosed in grade one despite all the comments of “don’t give her a label” from relatives, friends and school admin. It was by far the best thing we ever did to put us on a path of understanding and acceptance. It has led to success in academics and my daughter has become a strong advocate for her needs. There are still some road blocks because of the severity of her Learning Disability but she is well equipped to find solutions to her issues.

  • Cathy McMillian

Without documentation of dx, we run the risk of trying to reinvent the wheel every year. Let’s channel the energy and hopefully the enthusiasm to what works. As well, if everyone could get accommodations by saying junior needs extra time or a scribe or oral exams …. We have to have a measurement or standard

  • Shannon Saunders

Socio-economic privilege provides access to diagnosis. Families in lower classes, disproportionately single parent households, are not provided with this same access. There are additional attitudinal barriers and medical bias that plays into even accessing the inequitable public system, along with personal barriers that are not supported (eg. difficulty navigating fragmented systems). BIPOC children are more likely to be written of as a behavior or family problem, without access to robust multidisciplinary assessment. Assessment and diagnosis are important for many many reasons. But using it as a gate to equity and support puts our most vulnerable families at risk.

  • Anonymous

A diagnosis made it easier for my child to qualify for accommodations in university. Without those accommodations he would struggle to succeed.

  • Anonymous

We missed out on so much due to lack of knowledge of dx and teen attempting suicide and spending 3 weeks in hospital as a result. I’m soooooo very mad at family doctor, psychiatrist, walk-in-clinics, counselors, school, and MCFD. Since dix, I have learned so much more

  • Anonymous

I value this as a way to deflect personal views..refer to medical i always said..but had teachers say we are the professionals..sigh..and another district learning support principal say we dont need reports to know what your child needs..had psychologists come to school to vocalize need..no go on supports..went online..but if we wanted to fight. Yes. Diagnosis would help. Thanks for your efforts..i feel our situation was uniquely bizarre..but sought to leave ir rather than put our girl as psychologist recommended.take her off the battleground..

-Anonymous

The arguing over why certain things were happening and why our child’s behaviour was being blamed on a personality flaw at school was putting our marriage under incredible strain. It was eating away at our son’s self esteem and identity. Once we got a diagnosis everything changed. Not only was he diagnosed but it led to my husband being diagnosed. We all understood and could learn and advocate. The blame and guilt game ended. Proper diagnosis is so essential for life.

  • Anonymous

long story short having documentation changes much of nothing when it comes to public school system. At the end of report from psychologist was around 10 recommendations, a big one was my kid needing 1:1 ea, bell to bell, never happened. Another was he should attend full days of K, never happened. That during school work he should have someone to scribe and or read for him, that happened when convenient for staff. Basically none of the recommendations were used. I had a OT spend an entire day at school, he had lots of good ideas and he too had recommendations, school didn’t follow any of them. His IEP, really was a piece of paper that brought in funding to the district. When my kid was in gr 5 he was at a gr 2 level academically, they tried telling me he was grade level. They say what you want to hear, when your gone, well sadly kids are not treated very well.

They destroyed his self esteem. Two mths in gr 5 I pulled him out of public school, he is about to graduate in a couple weeks and with his Dogwood diploma and he is a A/B student. All of his success no thanks to public school.

Anonymous

Case Decisions and Reports Connected to Education

NEW PAGE ADDED

I have added a new page under Education Advocacy and this it it!

These are some of the cases and reports that have crossed my path. This is not a list of the ONLY cases. To search for cases go to CANLII

For step by step instructions on HOW to search click HERE and scroll to the lower part of the page.

REPORTS

Advocacy Fatigue: Self-care, Protest, and Education Equity 2015 CanLIIDocs 212

Canadian Human Rights Commission, Left Out: Challenges faced by persons with disabilities in Canada’s schools, Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2017 CanLIIDocs 3489

CASES – In BC and across Canada

Moore v. British Columbia (Education), 2012 SCC 61 (CanLII), [2012] 3 SCR 360

Hewko v. B.C., 2006 BCSC 1638 (CanLII)

School District No. 44 (North Vancouver) v. Jubran, 2005 BCCA 201 (CanLII)

Independent School Authority v Parent, 2022 BCSC 570 (CanLII)

Board of Education of School District No 43 (Re), 2013 BCIPC 20 (CanLII)

British Columbia (Education) (Re), 2018 BCIPC 2 (CanLII)

Sollitt v. Trillium Lakelands District School Board, 2013 HRTO 1128 (CanLII)

The Student v. The School District and others, 2019 BCHRT 217 (CanLII)

Steele v. School District No. 36, 2014 BCHRT 276 (CanLII)

Aslin v Edmonton Catholic Schools, 2021 AHRC 186 (CanLII),

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/emsb-discriminated-against-child-with-learning-disability-rights-commission

MacKenzie v. Howe Sound School Dist. No. 48 (No. 2), 1997 CanLII 24743 (BC SC)

SJ v Parkland School Division No 70, 2019 ABQB 470 (CanLII)

Gould v. Regina (East) School Division No. 77, 1996 CanLII 6807 (SK QB)

Tsai and Tsai v. B.C. (Ministry of Education) and another, 2004 BCHRT 386 (CanLII)

Kelly v. UBC (No. 3), 2012 BCHRT 32 (CanLII)

L.B. v Toronto District School Board et al., 2017 ONSC 2301 (CanLII

HB v. Halton District School Board, 2018 HRTO 1729 (CanLII)

Rezaei v. University of Northern British Columbia and another (No. 2), 2011 BCHRT 118 (CanLII)Edit”Case Decisions and Reports Connected to Education”