British Columbia. Office of the Ombudsman – Fair Schools

Click here to learn more on BC’s Fair Schools for private schools and independent schools. Recommend reading the entire document as it speaks to a lot of things that we all want for rgw well-being our children and students.

 

The schedule of the Ombudsman Act does not include independent schools. This exclusion was a cause of some concern in that students attending independent schools would effectively be denied the opportunity to make a complaint to the Ombudsman’s Office when they believed they were treated unfairly. It seemed unfair that students enrolled in an independent school not be entitled to pursue the same remedy for redress as their peers in the public school system.

To resolve this inequity, my staff met with representatives from the Ministry of Education to develop a protocol. It was agreed that a student or an advocate of a student attending an independent school who has a concern about the fairness of a decision or action can take the concern to the Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools. The Inspector will investigate the concern. If the student is not satisfied with the response from the Inspector, she or he can contact the Ombudsman who will review the Inspector’s investigation. This protocol ensures that students attending independent schools have access to review mechanisms. The Office of the Inspector of Independent Schools can be reached at 356-2508 from Victoria or toll free from anywhere in the province by first dialing Enquiry BC at 1-800-663-7867 and asking to be transferred to 356-2508.

PRINCIPLES OF THIS REPORT

1. All children and youth have the right to be valued and to be treated with respect and dignity.

2. All children and youth have the right to a fair and equitable education.

3. All children and youth have the right to receive appropriate advocacy supports.

4. All children and youth have the right to participate in decisions that affect them, to express their views and to have them carefully considered.

5. All children and youth have the right to the benefit of the fundamental human rights provided in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

6. All children and youth have the right to a safe physical and emotional environment.

7. All children and youth have the right to receive appropriate programs from appropriately trained and properly motivated staff.

8. All children and youth should have the opportunity to access publicly funded services in their home communities or as close to their home as possible.

Approximately six hundred thousand students from kindergarten to grade 12 attend 1600 schools in 75 different school districts. The Ministry of Education provided the school districts across British Columbia with block funding of close to $3.3 billion for the 1994-95 school year.

This report is a summary of our experience in investigating complaints about the public school system since its proclamation as an authority. The observations and suggestions contained in this paper are not definitive and do not touch on all problems in B.C.’s school districts. They are a result of interviews and investigations carried out by the Ombudsman and her staff, and summarize what we have learned from approximately 500 complaints we have received. These complaints cover a few broad categories: lack of services to meet the individual needs of students; transportation; exclusions, suspensions and expulsions. Our observations might be a starting point for discussion, amendments or action by ministry officials, administrators, teachers, staff and students.

AN INVESTIGATION INTO COMPLAINTS FROM A SCHOOL DISTRICT

In 1993, the Ombudsman’s Office received complaints about the management and operation of a school district. Three events seem to have caused the most concern:

1. The board terminated some teaching positions mid-year

2. Teachers rejected the board’s suggestion to work three days into the Christmas break, resulting in a labour relations dispute.

3. Students protested when the board reduced the number of days in the spring break. Some were arrested.

Ombudsman staff from the Child and Youth Team investigated the complaints. The first goal of the investigation was to make sure that those in positions of authority were hearing the concerns of students and taking them seriously. The second was to be sure that all parties were honouring the principles of fairness in their dealings with one another. The focus on students was prompted by a review of the complaints received and the discovery that most groups from the school district had contacted the Ombudsman, with the notable exception of students.

When the Ombudsman staff met with the various groups, they found a high degree of consensus on many points. People were concerned about:

  • conflict and lack of trust among the educational authorities, including a breakdown in relationships among the school trustees
  • protracted contract negotiations
  • lack of clarity about respective roles
  • their apparent powerlessness to change things.

Those we spoke to believed that local tensions were related to provincial problems such as lack of resources and the challenge of integrating “special needs” students into regular classes. They also believed that information sharing and communication needed to improve.

When the investigation was completed, the Ombudsman noted that a number of the issues that had been raised had province-wide application. She therefore decided to broaden the scope of her report on this specific investigation to provide a review of her Office’s experience with British Columbia’s public schools and school boards since she received jurisdiction. The Ombudsman believes that such a review will reinforce initiatives to safeguard the rights of students to an education and the right of all partner groups to a voice in providing educational services.

The Ministry of Education provides overall educational leadership in British Columbia. However, contrary to the expectations of the general public, the minister’s powers to intervene in school districts are restricted, given the autonomy school boards have under current legislation.

D. SCHOOL BOARD

  • powers and responsibilities defined by the School Act
  • made up of trustees elected in municipal or civic elections
  • an autonomous body accountable to its constituents
  • establishes policy for the operation and administration of the schools within the district as well as the management of school property
  • employs teachers, administrators and non-teaching staff
  • establishes regulations to govern functioning of students, staff and schools
  • most boards belong to the B.C. School Trustees Association.

Part 4 of the School Act provides the mechanism for establishing school boards, the process for electing trustees and the requirements for holding office. The Act gives the Minister of Education the authority to determine the number of trustees that can be elected within a particular district.

The school board is responsible for ensuring that decision making at all levels within the district embodies all the principles of fairness. The board also is ultimately responsible for protecting the fundamental right of every child and youth to be treated with dignity and respect.

School trustees often must reconcile competing interests. For example:

1.Parents often come to the school board advocating for their child. The board must balance the needs of a child against the needs of the whole school population. Guidelines for parent advocacy would be helpful for both parents and trustees.

2. The budget for each district is set by the provincial government. The task of the board is to decide how to allocate the money in the best interests of all concerned, and in accordance with arbitrated contract settlements. Making these decisions, in consultation with all parties concerned, is often a long and difficult process.

3. In this time of limited resources, trustees must consider whether or not to accept gifts from corporations, since accepting the gifts includes advertising a corporation’s products.

4. The school population across the province is highly diversified and changing. Trustees, as well as teachers and administrators, are challenged to adapt the school environment to a more varied group of students.

E. DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

  • acts as Chief Executive Officer of the district
  • appointed by the School Board
  • supervises and evaluates educational staff and programs, and operation of schools within the district
  • accountable to the School Board
  • may be a member of the B.C. Superintendents’ Association.

Principals speak of role conflict and confusion since they have been designated middle management. The relationship between teachers and principals shifted as a result of changes implemented in 1987, when teachers obtained the right to bargain. Some principals consider that the collective agreement “rule book” dictates how schools are run. They feel that provincial education policy, the School Act and school board guidelines give them a better understanding of the working partnership between principal and staff, each with clearly defined and understood roles.

Teachers are faced with significant challenges on a daily basis:

  • teaching more children from immigrant backgrounds not so at ease with the English language
  • concerns about sexism and prejudice in dealing with children, and in teaching materials, e.g. studies about girls’ self-esteem declining in junior and senior high school
  • dealing with children and parents from much more varied racial and religious backgrounds
  • integrating more “special needs” children into regular classrooms
  • taking on role of social worker or counsellor with troubled children, or children from disruptive homes
  • increasing numbers of children from families living below the poverty line, hungry and unable to function well in school.

Teachers’ aides, learning assistance teachers, occupational, physio, speech, and audiology therapists, school and district counsellors, psychologists and others are part of the “Student Support Services’’ team that helps make it possible for children to benefit from their classroom experience. Some children need additional help to participate successfully in school, and often undiagnosed physical problems, such as hearing loss, can hamper their learning. Teachers rely on the specialized skills of support staff to meet the needs of the children in their classrooms and help them learn effectively.

Support services personnel are employees of the school district and may be members of the teachers’ union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, or a professional association.

The Ombudsman frequently hears that there are not enough support staff available to meet the needs of each child in the classroom. Because of the demands on their time, those who are employed are not able to give the attention to each child that parents and teachers believe would be of most benefit.

In one state in the United States, the law requires employers to permit parents to be absent with pay for up to four hours per year to attend their child’s school.

I. STUDENTS

Students are the focus of the whole education system and the primary recipients of the service. Every position in the system exists to serve students, to provide them with an education. They are the reason for the existence of the system.

Student Councils, however, exist only at the discretion of principals. They are not mentioned in the School Act. Principals and school boards do not routinely consult student councils on matters of school or district policy. Student councils, where they do exist, often have no process to involve or inform the rest of the student body in any meaningful way. They have no real authority or clear function.

A system that professes to be a student-centered partnership will provide an official voice for students. Strengthened student councils would provide that voice. The councils need to be supported by legislation, provided with funds, and advised and encouraged by principals and staff. The British Columbia School Trustees Association, at its 1994 Annual General Meeting, approved the motion:

That the BCSTA urge the government, in consultation with students and other education partners, to reconsider the School Act with a view to further entrenching the rights and obligations of students by establishing student advisory councils.

The school can effectively teach young people about democratic principles and processes, in line with Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided with the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

The Ombudsman’s conversations with students, and a review of the complaints from students across the province show that a number of students do not feel welcomed or comfortable at school; they do not feel safe; they do not like going to school; and they do not think that their education is useful to them now, nor will be in the future. These concerns cannot be addressed without the direct input or involvement of students. Children and youth must be encouraged to voice their concerns through an appropriate and constructive process.

IV. KEY ISSUES THAT IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF STUDENTS

A. ADVOCACY

B. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

A healthy system is an open and inclusive system. The 1988 Sullivan Royal Commission on Education described the school as the “hub of the community.” Many communities see the school as a closed system, with its facilities unavailable to the public each weekend and for many weeks during the year. In turn, schools are often frustrated at the lack of support from other agencies. A child-centered system that is the hub of the community will provide a focus for all child-serving groups to co-ordinate their services.

Parents, students, community groups and service providers for youth, together with school officials, can identify practical and creative ways to use school facilities outside of school hours. School buildings can be used to provide social and recreational services for youth on evenings and weekends–an alternative to “hanging out,” playing fields can be used for community sports, and classrooms for continuing education programs. Making the school a more integral part of the community for children and youth requires a commitment from school boards and administrators, as well as parents and teachers. In a time of shrinking resources everyone would benefit from integrating services and making better use of expensive public facilities. Part of promoting fairness is encouraging all participants in a system to co-operate.

C. INCLUSIVE EDUCATION

Most school districts struggle with the question of how to provide the range of services necessary to meet the varied needs of all children. These are not exclusively children with visible disabilities. The teachers and parents Ombudsman staff have spoken to are most concerned about students with behavioral problems. The Ombudsman’s Office has been told of six-, sevenand eight-year-old children with “behaviour problems” being suspended from schools. The Ombudsman has also heard from parents whose children have been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effect, or other emotional difficulties. Often these conditions result in disruptive behaviours and exclusion from classes or from the school. These parents are finding it difficult to obtain suitable educational services for their children.

All children, regardless of their individual needs, have a right to an education. In a sense, every child has special needs. Rather than speaking of integrating “ special needs” students into regular classrooms, we could more appropriately speak of “inclusive” schools. Such schools accept all children seeking an education and adapt programs to fit their age, ability and special circumstances. The majority of parents and educators in contact with the Ombudsman’s Office support inclusive schools. But, from our experience, inadequate financial resources and support services or inappropriately designed systems often are barriers to total inclusion. Teachers and administrators mention other barriers:

Increased pressure from workload:

Teachers report feeling overloaded and pressured when they are expected to include all children in their classrooms, and accommodate a wide range of learning needs without sufficient supports.

Insufficient training:

Teachers have frequently told Ombudsman staff that their training does not adequately equip them to deal with children who have extraordinary needs. Many also feel ill-prepared to teach alternative dispute resolution procedures to their students.

Lack of integrated services:

Children with unique needs often require additional help in other areas of their lives in order to learn effectively. Since no one ministry in B.C. is responsible for services to children, those attempting to include all children in regular classes must attempt to co-ordinate multi-disciplinary and cross-ministry support. Teachers across B.C. speak of lack of support from social service and mental health professionals in their communities. This lack may be the result of structural deficiencies within systems rather than an attitudinal problem. The Ombudsman has frequently recommended that public services to children be integrated. (See the 1990 Ombudsman Public Report No. 22). The newly created position of Child Advocate, as an Officer of the Legislature, given an appropriate mandate, may begin to bring about this integration.

Many districts are finding creative ways to serve the needs of all children, including those who are exceptionally gifted or talented. Often the most workable plans are a result of parents, teachers and community agencies working together. The Ombudsman recognizes and supports these efforts.

In April 1993, the Minister of Education announced a comprehensive review of “special” education that, in her words, “…will help ensure that services to students with special needs are delivered in an effective, coordinated manner. ” She further stated that “our schools must provide an education that meets the needs of all students, including students with special needs.”

The minister set up a Special Education Advisory Committee, made up of “education partners, parents and interest groups. ” The Ombudsman applauds this commitment by the ministry. She is pleased to note the inclusion of representatives from the Ministries of Health; Social Services; Advanced Education, Training and Technology; and Aboriginal Affairs.

The views of students, and especially those characterized as having “special needs,” are critical if the review is to be truly comprehensive. Young people who have recently dropped out of school are particularly suited to give reasons why the education system did not work for them.

D. STUDENTS’ ACCESS TO APPEAL

In a series of meetings between Ombudsman staff and students, few students were aware that they were entitled to appeal a school decision, or that complaint resolution procedures existed within both the school and the district. Further investigation showed that this lack of knowledge was common among students in many districts. In addition, in almost all cases, students said that they expected retaliation in some form if they complained that a decision concerning them had been unfair. These perceptions, along with insufficient knowledge, contribute to the powerlessness many students feel.

Failure to provide young people with clear information about the avenues available to express their opinions – including possible dissent – can lead to apathy, resentment and, at times, inappropriate expression of grievances.

Section 11 of the School Act provides for an appeal procedure for students and parents. The School Act states:

s. ll(2) Where a decision of an employee of a board [“decision” includes the failure of an employee to make a decision, s.ll(l)] significantly affects the education, health or safety of a student, the parent of the student or the student may, within a reasonable time from the date that the parent or student was informed of the decision, appeal that decision to the board.

(3) For the purpose of hearing appeals under this section, a board shall, by bylaw, establish an appeal procedure.

(6) A board may make any decision that it considers appropriate in respect of the matter that is appealed to it under this section and the decision of the board is final.

However, the Ombudsman Act states:

s.lO(2) The powers and duties conferred on the Ombudsman may be exercised and performed notwithstanding a provision in an Act to the effect that (a) a decision, recommendation or act is final; ….

The responsibility of the Ombudsman is to ensure that processes are fair. Therefore, under exceptional circumstances, the Ombudsman will review a decision of a school board if the following criteria apply and the board declines to re-hear the appeal:

a. new information regarding the matter under appeal has arisen; and/or

b. it can be clearly shown that the decision was inconsistent with the principles of administrative fairness and natural justice.

Although school administrators and senior officials are not required to be part of an investigation pending an appeal, they have, without exception, supported the efforts of this Office to resolve complaints in a non-adversarial manner.

In the spring of 1993 the Ombudsman circulated a draft paper entitled, A Guide for School Board Appeal Procedures. The draft was intended to inform School Boards and assist them in developing the appeal procedure required by the School Act. Many groups, including students and parents, responded to the draft. The guidelines envision an environment in which individuals receive the dignity and respect they are entitled to, and that ensures the right to fair administrative processes. They make it clear that an appeal is not an effort to determine fault or blame, but a request to reconsider a situation or decision. The Ombudsman believes that applying basic principles of fairness at the primary level of school-based decision making reduces the use of more complex appeals procedures at a higher level.

The following revised version of the guide incorporates many of the suggestions the Ombudsman received.

A GUIDE FOR SCHOOL BOARD APPEAL PROCEDURES

Any effective complaint process is one based on principles of administrative fairness. These principles include:

1. The right to be treated with respect and dignity.

2. The right to speak on your own behalf or to have an advocate speak for or with you.

3. The right to be heard.

4. The right to participate in decisions that affect you.

5. The right to receive clear, complete and appropriate reasons for a decision.

6. The right to obtain all information that led to the initial decision or is being considered in an appeal.

7. The right to an impartial review of a decision that affects you, a review that is accessible, flexible, timely and easy to use.

8. The right to an appeal procedure that has a built-in mechanism to protect against retribution.

THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD is the first principle of administrative fairness for everyone, including young people. Children and youth need to be told of their right to be heard and the way to exercise this right. Teachers, principals and other employees of the school board have a responsibility to actively encourage children, youth and their advocates to express their questions, complaints or concerns to the proper authority, especially if the complainant believes a decision (or lack of decision) is unfair or unreasonable. Schools are expected to provide students and parents with information about appeal procedures, including the statutory right to an appeal under the School Act.

Decision makers must provide APPROPRIATE REASONS for a decision affecting a student. The reasons must deal with the student’s concerns and be easily understood by the child or advocate. They should be in writing or recorded in a format accessible and understandable to the student and his or her advocate.

The right of a complainant to receive ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION is critical. In many cases, providing students, parents and advocates with the information they require will resolve a complaint. The right to receive information, and full disclosure, must be in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The person appealing a decision has a right to have the case reviewed by an IMPARTIAL INTERNAL AND/OR EXTERNAL AUTHORITY. This authority must be able, if necessary, to reach a different conclusion. School boards cannot simply endorse the decisions of their administrators.

A fair appeal procedure will have REASONABLE TIME LIMITS. These limits will be sensitive to the needs of the particular student and the teacher or principal involved, and the availability of an advocate. The procedure should also clarify what a “reasonable” time period is for any appeal, including an appeal under Section 11 of the School Act.

Many people who want to appeal a decision fear RETALIATION for themselves or their children. Appeal procedures must explicitly state that there will be no reprisals. They must specify that where there is evidence of retribution against persons who have exercised their right to appeal, the school board will take steps immediately to remedy the situation. The policy prohibiting retribution must be readily available to students and advocates, perhaps posted in a visible, public place in the school.

In response to the fears expressed by many parents, and to provide protection against retribution for complaining to her Office, the Ombudsman requested a revision to the Ombudsman Act. The new statutory provision passed by the Legislature reads:

15.1 No person shall discharge, suspend, expel, intimidate, coerce, evict, impose any pecuniary or other penalty on or otherwise discriminate against a person because that person complains, gives evidence or otherwise assists in the investigation, inquiry or reporting of a complaint or other proceeding under this Act.

Many COMPLAINTS CAN BE RESOLVED AT THE CLASSROOM OR SCHOOL LEVEL, in informal sessions with teachers, principals, students and/or parents, depending on the situation. Complaints can be settled in a variety of ways including mediation and internal review, before a person chooses to pursue more formal appeal procedures. The Ombudsman encourages schools and school boards to consider what options best fit their situations. Peers, counsellors, teachers, principals and administrative officers can act as mediators, or “on-site ombudspersons, ” in resolving classroom level or school disputes.

A student’s interests may be jeopardized WHILE AWAITING THE HEARING OF AN APPEAL. Fairness requires that the interests of a student be preserved while awaiting the results of an appeal. However, officials must try to find a balance between delaying discipline while waiting for the outcome of an appeal, and dealing swiftly with an offence. Students must know that their actions have consequences. Justice delayed is justice denied. In cases of suspension, some school boards have developed a policy, with due consideration to both health and safety concerns and the rights of the student, to determine when immediate suspension is appropriate.

The appeal process should be REVIEWED REGULARLY. Students, parents, advocates, teachers, administrators, as well as other interested parties can participate in the review and in the development of new procedures to ensure that the policy is flexible, user friendly and continues to be appropriate.

The appeals policy and any information provided to students or advocates must include information on how a person can ACCESS THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN, and when it is appropriate to do so. A brief outline of how to access the Ombudsman, suitable for posting in classrooms, is included with the Ombudsman’s Annual Report for 1995.

E. LABOUR RELATIONS – THE BARGAINING PROCESS

Effective and lasting solutions to current tensions within this province’s education system have not yet been found. Ministry officials, school trustees and administrators are looking for ways to change the atmosphere of mistrust found among adult authorities in education, especially when disputes are being resolved. The educational needs of children demand prompt and effective action when labour relations disputes interrupt normal school functions, and relationships among adults in the system break down. Students, parents and communities would benefit from a better understanding of the collective bargaining process.

The Ombudsman has received complaints from individuals concerned about the negative impact on students of job action by teachers and other district staff. Above all, parents and students want their concerns and priorities heard and considered alongside those of the other parties. Communication becomes more difficult during negotiations, not only between teachers and administration, but between teachers and parents, and among teachers. Often regular staff meetings and parent-teacher meetings are discontinued. Inevitably tensions arise when two parties negotiate in private items that impact others. Creative and innovative solutions need to be found to address this complex issue.

Although it is clearly not the appropriate role of the Ombudsman to involve herself in the details of the collective bargaining process, she shares the concerns of all citizens when children’s education may be negatively affected by job actions on the part of adults. The Ombudsman expects that school boards and teachers will negotiate contracts that take into account the interests of all of the children and youth they serve.

F. PARTICIPATORY MANAGEMENT

We must understand how a school district is governed before we can review how decision making affects students. Many school districts across British Columbia have adopted a “strategic planning” model of decision making. This model emphasizes inclusion, a principle supported and promoted by the Ombudsman. Students, parents, teachers, teacher aides and all others whose work impacts students must have the opportunity to be heard in decisions that affect them.

Real power sharing is essential if partnerships in education are to become more effective. Giving proper consideration to each partner in the system requires redefining roles and responsibilities and changing the “top down” structure of the organization. Adopting a style of management in which everyone participates requires that people overcome ingrained habits. Employee groups often perceive management to be committed to maintaining strong central control. Management perceives, at times, that unions are more concerned with protecting the rights of their members than meeting the needs of children. Parents and students perceive that teachers and principals are reluctant to include them in the classroom and in the local school. Students often feel like pawns in the power games being played out by adults.

Effective management seeks to:

  • empower individuals to make decisions
  • foster an atmosphere of trust and risk taking
  • accord fair due process to all
  • reflect a shared vision in decision making
  • communicate openly and honestly
  • achieve consensus in decision making
  • provide adequate information for decision making

Any type of fair and inclusive management, regardless of the name we give it, challenges administrators and staff to consider the paramount interests of students above and beyond professional self-interest. Board members, administrators and union representatives can delegate to working groups a role in reaching decisions that affect the workplace and the learning environment for students. School staff require a clear mandate from school boards to carry out their functions. In turn, they need to develop ways of consulting with students, parents and communities, and working in co-operation with them. The onus is on the school board and staff to shift the perception of many citizens that school district organization is hierarchical and closed, with all decisions coming down from the top level.

Whatever changes are made in the structure and administration of the school system, and however responsibilities are redistributed, all steps in the process must be fair and equitable to all concerned.

V. SUMMARY OF OMBUDSMAN’S SUGGESTIONS

The Ombudsman has had jurisdiction for schools for just over two years. This report is intended to summarize our experiences to date and to make suggestions for improvement in a non-confrontational and constructive way. The following suggestions are made in that spirit.

1. That the government consider an amendment to the School Act to provide for and require the creation and operation of local, district and provincial student councils so that students can participate more effectively in the education system and have a voice in decisions that affect them.

2. That school districts consult with local community agencies and municipal officials on how to make school facilities more available for the use of the whole community for a greater portion of the year.

3. That school districts improve parental participation in schools at the local, district and provincial levels by:

  • developing volunteer programs to recruit, train, support and supervise volunteers in local schools
  • providing facilities and staff support for volunteer programs
  • supporting the formalization of local and district parent advisory councils
  • developing policies and procedures that encourage communication between local, district and provincial Parent Advisory Councils, and local school districts

4. That school districts, in consultation with government, relevant consumer groups, service providers and professional schools and organizations, review current methods of integrating multi-disciplinary service delivery for children, youth and their families, with the objectives of:

  • ensuring easy access to needed services for children and youth with unique or exceptional needs
  • reducing the need for multiple assessments when more than one service may be required by a child or youth with unique or exceptional needs
  • establishing multi-disciplinary , cross-ministry methods of case management that invite the service recipient to consent to and participate in service planning and decision making
  • encouraging multi-disciplinary methods of professional education, research and staff development, paying particular attention to the training needs of front-line service providers who work with students who have unique or exceptional needs
  • using the services of child psychiatrists and psychologists in a more flexible and economical way as diagnosticians, consultants, researchers and trainers.

5. That the Ministry of Education and school districts include students with unique or exceptional needs, including students who have “dropped out” of school, on the Student Support Services Committee and the Special Education Advisory Committee, to ensure that the needs and interests of all students are effectively represented.

6. That school districts develop policy to ensure that all students and/or their parent(s) have the freedom to bring an advocate to interviews or meetings with school or district personnel.

7. That the Ministry of Education consider providing direction and guidance to school districts by establishing by regulation under the School Act a provincial appeal procedure for all districts that satisfies the requirements of natural justice and administrative fairness. Such a procedure should encourage the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation. Although the School Act gives the responsibility to school boards for establishing appeal procedures, if these procedures differ from district to district, there may be regional disparities and some may be more fair than others. Students and parents must have access to a fair and equitable appeal process regardless of where they reside, and must be assured that there will be no reprisal for initiating an appeal.

8. That school boards, employees and the Ministry of Education ensure that no collective agreements negatively affect students or violate the principles stated in this report.

9. That the government establish by legislation a Provincial Statement of Principles, specifying the rights of all children, as a guide for all public services to children. The principles must be consistent with the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the new Child, Family and Community Service Act and this report.

10. That school districts ensure that their policies and procedures for maintaining student discipline treat children and youth with behaviour problems as persons with unique or exceptional needs, and that they develop constructive alternatives, based on an integrated model of service delivery, to using out-of-school suspensions for inappropriate or challenging behaviour .

11. That schools explore ways of scheduling teacher-parent consultations to accommodate working parents.

12. That school boards and the Ministry of Education explore training opportunities for teachers and other staff on how to best support children and youth with unique or exceptional needs.

 

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