New Report Reveals that At Majority of Ontarios School Boards, Each School Principal Is a Law Unto Themselves, With Arbitrary Power to Exclude a Student From School ? Real Risk of a Rash of Exclusion of Some Students with Disabilities When Schools Re-Open


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 23, 2020 Toronto: Parents of a third of a million Ontario K-12 students with disabilities have much to fear when schools re-open. A ground-breaking report by the non-partisan AODA Alliance (unveiled today, summary below) shows that for much of Ontario, each school principal is a law unto themselves, armed with a sweeping, arbitrary power to refuse to allow a student to come to school. If schools re-open this fall, there is a real risk of a rash of principals excluding some students with disabilities from school, because well-intentioned, overburdened principals wont know how to accommodate them during COVID-19.

The Education Act gives each school principal the drastic power to refuse to admit to school any person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principals judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils”. A survey of Ontarios 72 school boards, unveiled today, shows that a majority of school boards have no policy reining in their principals sweeping power. Ontarios Ministry of Education gives principals precious little direction. Principals need not keep track of how many students they exclude, or for how long, or for what reason, nor need they report this information to anyone. School Boards are left largely free to do as little as they wish to monitor for and prevent abuse of this power.

This is especially worrisome for students with disabilities. Disproportionately, its students with disabilities who are at risk of being excluded from school.

Todays report details how the most vulnerable students can unjustifiably be treated very differently from one part of Ontario to the next. Of Ontarios 72 School Boards, only 33 Boards have been found to have any policy on this. Only 36 School Boards even responded to the AODA Alliance survey. Only 11 Boards gave the AODA Alliance a policy. A web search revealed that another 22 Boards have a policy on this.

As for the minority of 33 boards that have any policy on point, this report documented wild and arbitrary differences from Board to Board. Some Board policies have commendable and helpful ingredients that all boards should have. Some Board policies contain unfair and inappropriate ingredients that should be forbidden. For example, no Board should impose on a student or their family an arbitrary time limit for presenting an appeal from their exclusion to school.

Every student facing the trauma of an exclusion from school deserves full and equally fair procedures and safeguards, said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. The current arbitrary pattern of patchwork injustice cries out for new leadership now by the Ford Government.

COVID-19 escalates this issues urgency. The Ministry of Education should head off a rash of new exclusions from school this fall before it happens, by immediately directing School Boards to implement common sense restrictions on a principal, outlined in the report, on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Download the entire AODA Alliance report on Refusals to Admit A Student to School by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/july-23-2020-AODA-Alliance-finalized-refusals-to-admit-brief.docx

The AODA Alliances COVID-19 web page details its efforts to ensure that the urgent needs of people with disabilities are met during the COVID-19 crisis.
The AODA Alliance’s Education web page details its ongoing efforts over the past decade to tear down the many barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontarios education system.

Introduction and Summary of the AODA Alliances Report on the Power of Ontario School Principals to Refuse to Admit a Student to School

I. Introduction and Summary
(a) Whats the Problem?
For years, Ontarios Education Act has given every Ontario school principal the drastic power to refuse to admit to school any person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principals judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils”. A student can be excluded from school for part or all of the school day. This report uses the terms refusal to admit and exclusion from school or simply exclusion to mean the same thing.

When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that violates that students right to go to school to get an education. Under the Education Act as interpreted or applied by the Ontario Government and school boards, a student can be excluded from school for days, weeks or even months.

Ontarios Ministry of Education has given School Boards and principals very little direction on how this sweeping power may be used. School Boards are therefore left largely free to do as much or as little as they wish to ensure that this power is not abused by an individual school principal.

A School Board can develop a policy on how a principal can use the power to refuse to admit a student to school; however, a School Board does not have to do so. If it does adopt a policy, it does not have to be a good policy. (b) Taking Stock The AODA Alliance Surveys Ontario School Boards
The AODA Alliance therefore conducted a survey of Ontarios major School Boards to find out what their policies and practices are regarding the exclusion of students from school. The non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities, including for students with disabilities. See its websites Education page.

This report makes public the results of the AODA Alliance’s survey and investigation. It reveals an arbitrary patchwork of different policies around Ontario, unjustifiably treating the most vulnerable students differently from one part of Ontario to the next. There is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to step into the gap, to protect students, and especially students with disabilities.
In an error which the AODA Alliance regrets, the survey was inadvertently not earlier sent to one board, the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, before this report was written. It has just done so, and will make public an addendum to this report if a response is received that alters the results expressed in this report. This error does not diminish this reports findings or recommendations.

School Boards were asked (i) if it has a policy on when-and-how its school principals can refuse to admit a student to school, (ii) whether the Board tracks its principals use of this power, and (iii) how many students have been excluded from school. The AODA Alliance sent its survey to School Boards twice, once in 2019, and once in 2020. The Council of Directors of Education retained private legal counsel to get legal advice before responding to this survey.
(c) The Survey Revealed an Arbitrary Patchwork of Wildly Varying Local Requirements
Of Ontarios 72 School Boards, only 33 Boards have been found to have a written policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Only 36 School Boards responded to the AODA Alliances survey. Of those, only 11 Boards gave the AODA Alliance their policy or procedure on refusals to admit.

Six School Boards told the AODA Alliance that they have no policy on refusals to admit. An extensive web search by the AODA Alliance revealed that another 22 School Boards have a written policy or procedure on this topic. In a number of cases, these were not easy to find. Taken together, a large number of Ontario School Boards revealed a troubling lack of openness and accountability on this subject.

This reports analysis of the 33 policies or procedures on refusals to admit, as obtained by the AODA Alliance, revealed that there are wild variations between the written policies of School Boards across Ontario on excluding a student from school. Some are very short and say very little. Others are far more extensive and detailed.

As for safeguards for vulnerable students and their parents in the face of an exclusion from school, there are arbitrary and unjustified differences from Board to Board. Some Board policies have commendable and helpful ingredients that should be required of all School Boards. Some Board policies contain unfair and inappropriate ingredients that should be forbidden. For example, no Board should use a refusal to admit to facilitate a police investigation, or set an arbitrary time limit in advance for an appeal hearing from a refusal to admit, or give a student or their family an arbitrary time limit for presenting such an appeal.

There is no justification for such wild variations from Board to Board, from no policy, to policies that say very little, to substantially better policies. Every student facing an exclusion from school deserves fair procedures and effective safeguards. Every School Board should meet basic requirements of transparency and accountability in their use of this drastic power. No compelling policy objective is served by leaving each School Board to reinvent the wheel here. (d) The Urgently Needed Solution: Action Now by the Ontario Government
This situation cries out for leadership on this issue by Ontarios Ministry of Education. The failure of so many School Boards to even have a policy in this area, the unwillingness of so many School Boards to even answer questions about their policy on this issue, and the fact that policies are so hard to find on line combine to create a disturbing picture. For too much of Ontario, well-intentioned school principals are left to be a law unto themselves. The AODA Alliance expects that these hard-working and dedicated principals neither asked for this nor would like this situation to remain as is.

This issue has serious implications for students with disabilities. Refusals to admit a student to school disproportionately burden some students with disabilities.

The COVID-19 crisis escalates the urgency of this issue. When schools re-open this fall, there is a real risk that there could be a rash of more refusals to admit some students with disabilities to school. This threatens to be the way some overwhelmed and overburdened principals will cope with the stressful uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Education should head off this problem before it happens, by immediately directing School Boards to implement some basic and overdue requirements for refusals to admit a student to school. The Ministry should then develop a comprehensive and broader set of mandatory requirements for all School Boards when exercising the power to refuse to admit a student to school.

Examples of helpful requirements that the Ministry of Education should require, and that this report documents as now in place in one or more School Boards include the following:
1. Refusals to admit should be recognized as an infringement of the students right to go to school to get an education, and as raising potential human rights issues, especially for students with disabilities. The Ontario Human Rights Code has primacy over the Education Act and the power to refuse to admit a student to school.
2. A refusal to admit should only be imposed for a proper safety purpose. A student cannot be refused admission to school for purposes of discipline.
3. Maximum time limits should be set for a refusal to admit, with a process for considering how to extend it if necessary and justified.
4. A refusal to admit a student to school should only be permitted in very rare, extreme cases, as a last resort, after considering or trying all less intrusive alternatives. A principal should be required to take a step-by-step tiered approach to deciding whether to refuse to admit a student to school, first exhausting all less restrictive alternatives, and first ensuring that the students disability-related needs have been accommodated as required under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
5. It should not be left to an individual principal to unilaterally decide on their own to refuse to admit a student to school. Prior approval of a higher authority with the School Board should be required, supported by sufficient documentation of the deliberations.
6. A principal should be required to work with a student and their family on issues well before it degenerates to the point of considering a refusal to admit. The School Board should be required to have a mandatory meeting with the family before a refusal to admit is imposed.
7. A principal should be required to immediately send a letter to the parents of a student whom they are refusing to admit to school, setting out the facts and specifics that are the reasons for the exclusion from school. A senior Board supervisor that approved the decision should be required to co-sign the letter. The letter should also be signed by the Director of Education if the student is to be excluded from all schools in the Board.
8. A School Board that excludes a student from school should be required to put in place a plan for delivering an effective educational program to that student while excluded from school, including the option of face-to-face engagement with a teacher off of school property. This plan should be monitored to ensure it is sufficient.
9. If a student is excluded from school, the School Board should be under a strong duty to work with the student and family to get them back to school as soon as possible.
10. A School Board that excludes a student from school should be required to hold a re-entry meeting with the student and family to transition to the return to school.
11. Any appeals to the Board of Trustees for the School Board from a refusal to admit should assure fair procedures to the student and their family. An excluded student should at least have all the safeguards in the appeal process as does a student who is subjected to discipline.
12. The appeal should be heard by the entire Board of Trustees, and not just a sub-committee of some trustees. An appeal hearing should be held and decided quickly, since the student is languishing at home.
13. A Board of Trustees, hearing an appeal from a refusal to admit, should consider whether the School Board has justified the students initial exclusion from school and its continuation. The burden should be on the School Board to justify the exclusion from school, and not on the student trying to go back to school. At an appeal hearing, the principal should first present why the exclusion from school is justified and should continue, before the student or parents are asked to show why the student should be allowed to return to school.
14. When an appeal is launched, the School Board should be required to first try to resolve the issue short of a full appeal hearing.
15. A students record of a refusal to admit to school should not stain the students official school record.
16. If a School Board directs that a student can only come to school for part of the school day), the same safeguards for the student should be required as for a student who is excluded for the entire day. 17. Any policy in this area should be periodically reviewed and updated.




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New Report Reveals that At Majority of Ontario’s School Boards, Each School Principal Is a Law Unto Themselves, With Arbitrary Power to Exclude a Student From School – Real Risk of a Rash of Exclusion of Some Students with Disabilities When Schools Re-Open


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New Report Reveals that At Majority of Ontario’s School Boards, Each School Principal Is a Law Unto Themselves, With Arbitrary Power to Exclude a Student From School – Real Risk of a Rash of Exclusion of Some Students with Disabilities When Schools Re-Open

July 23, 2020 Toronto: Parents of a third of a million Ontario K-12 students with disabilities have much to fear when schools re-open. A ground-breaking report by the non-partisan AODA Alliance (unveiled today, summary below) shows that for much of Ontario, each school principal is a law unto themselves, armed with a sweeping, arbitrary power to refuse to allow a student to come to school. If schools re-open this fall, there is a real risk of a rash of principals excluding some students with disabilities from school, because well-intentioned, overburdened principals won’t know how to accommodate them during COVID-19.

The Education Act gives each school principal the drastic power to refuse to admit to school any “person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils…”. A survey of Ontario’s 72 school boards, unveiled today, shows that a majority of school boards have no policy reining in their principals’ sweeping power. Ontario’s Ministry of Education gives principals precious little direction. Principals need not keep track of how many students they exclude, or for how long, or for what reason, nor need they report this information to anyone. School Boards are left largely free to do as little as they wish to monitor for and prevent abuse of this power.

This is especially worrisome for students with disabilities. Disproportionately, it’s students with disabilities who are at risk of being excluded from school.

Today’s report details how the most vulnerable students can unjustifiably be treated very differently from one part of Ontario to the next. Of Ontario’s 72 School Boards, only 33 Boards have been found to have any policy on this. Only 36 School Boards even responded to the AODA Alliance survey. Only 11 Boards gave the AODA Alliance a policy. A web search revealed that another 22 Boards have a policy on this.

As for the minority of 33 boards that have any policy on point, this report documented wild and arbitrary differences from Board to Board. Some Board policies have commendable and helpful ingredients that all boards should have. Some Board policies contain unfair and inappropriate ingredients that should be forbidden. For example, no Board should impose on a student or their family an arbitrary time limit for presenting an appeal from their exclusion to school.

“Every student facing the trauma of an exclusion from school deserves full and equally fair procedures and safeguards,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “The current arbitrary pattern of patchwork injustice cries out for new leadership now by the Ford Government.”

COVID-19 escalates this issue’s urgency. The Ministry of Education should head off a rash of new exclusions from school this fall before it happens, by immediately directing School Boards to implement common sense restrictions on a principal, outlined in the report, on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Download the entire AODA Alliance report on Refusals to Admit A Student to School by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/july-23-2020-AODA-Alliance-finalized-refusals-to-admit-brief.docx

The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page details its efforts to ensure that the urgent needs of people with disabilities are met during the COVID-19 crisis.

The AODA Alliance‘s Education web page details its ongoing efforts over the past decade to tear down the many barriers impeding students with disabilities in Ontario’s education system.

Introduction and Summary of the AODA Alliance’s Report on the Power of Ontario School Principals to Refuse to Admit a Student to School

I. Introduction and Summary

(a) What’s the Problem?

For years, Ontario’s Education Act has given every Ontario school principal the drastic power to refuse to admit to school any “person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils…”. A student can be excluded from school for part or all of the school day. This report uses the terms “refusal to admit” and “exclusion from school” or simply “exclusion” to mean the same thing.

When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that violates that student’s right to go to school to get an education. Under the Education Act as interpreted or applied by the Ontario Government and school boards, a student can be excluded from school for days, weeks or even months.

Ontario’s Ministry of Education has given School Boards and principals very little direction on how this sweeping power may be used. School Boards are therefore left largely free to do as much or as little as they wish to ensure that this power is not abused by an individual school principal.

A School Board can develop a policy on how a principal can use the power to refuse to admit a student to school; however, a School Board does not have to do so. If it does adopt a policy, it does not have to be a good policy.

(b) Taking Stock – The AODA Alliance Surveys Ontario School Boards

The AODA Alliance therefore conducted a survey of Ontario’s major School Boards to find out what their policies and practices are regarding the exclusion of students from school. The non-partisan grassroots AODA Alliance advocates for accessibility for people with disabilities, including for students with disabilities. See its website’s Education page.

This report makes public the results of the AODA Alliance‘s survey and investigation. It reveals an arbitrary patchwork of different policies around Ontario, unjustifiably treating the most vulnerable students differently from one part of Ontario to the next. There is a pressing need for the Ontario Government to step into the gap, to protect students, and especially students with disabilities.

In an error which the AODA Alliance regrets, the survey was inadvertently not earlier sent to one board, the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, before this report was written. It has just done so, and will make public an addendum to this report if a response is received that alters the results expressed in this report. This error does not diminish this report’s findings or recommendations.

School Boards were asked (i) if it has a policy on when-and-how its school principals can refuse to admit a student to school, (ii) whether the Board tracks its principal’s use of this power, and (iii) how many students have been excluded from school. The AODA Alliance sent its survey to School Boards twice, once in 2019, and once in 2020. The Council of Directors of Education retained private legal counsel to get legal advice before responding to this survey.

(c) The Survey Revealed an Arbitrary Patchwork of Wildly Varying Local Requirements

Of Ontario’s 72 School Boards, only 33 Boards have been found to have a written policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Only 36 School Boards responded to the AODA Alliance’s survey. Of those, only 11 Boards gave the AODA Alliance their policy or procedure on refusals to admit.

Six School Boards told the AODA Alliance that they have no policy on refusals to admit. An extensive web search by the AODA Alliance revealed that another 22 School Boards have a written policy or procedure on this topic. In a number of cases, these were not easy to find. Taken together, a large number of Ontario School Boards revealed a troubling lack of openness and accountability on this subject.

This report’s analysis of the 33 policies or procedures on refusals to admit, as obtained by the AODA Alliance, revealed that there are wild variations between the written policies of School Boards across Ontario on excluding a student from school. Some are very short and say very little. Others are far more extensive and detailed.

As for safeguards for vulnerable students and their parents in the face of an exclusion from school, there are arbitrary and unjustified differences from Board to Board. Some Board policies have commendable and helpful ingredients that should be required of all School Boards. Some Board policies contain unfair and inappropriate ingredients that should be forbidden. For example, no Board should use a refusal to admit to facilitate a police investigation, or set an arbitrary time limit in advance for an appeal hearing from a refusal to admit, or give a student or their family an arbitrary time limit for presenting such an appeal.

There is no justification for such wild variations from Board to Board, from no policy, to policies that say very little, to substantially better policies. Every student facing an exclusion from school deserves fair procedures and effective safeguards. Every School Board should meet basic requirements of transparency and accountability in their use of this drastic power. No compelling policy objective is served by leaving each School Board to reinvent the wheel here.

(d) The Urgently Needed Solution: Action Now by the Ontario Government

This situation cries out for leadership on this issue by Ontario’s Ministry of Education. The failure of so many School Boards to even have a policy in this area, the unwillingness of so many School Boards to even answer questions about their policy on this issue, and the fact that policies are so hard to find on line combine to create a disturbing picture. For too much of Ontario, well-intentioned school principals are left to be a law unto themselves. The AODA Alliance expects that these hard-working and dedicated principals neither asked for this nor would like this situation to remain as is.

This issue has serious implications for students with disabilities. Refusals to admit a student to school disproportionately burden some students with disabilities.

The COVID-19 crisis escalates the urgency of this issue. When schools re-open this fall, there is a real risk that there could be a rash of more refusals to admit some students with disabilities to school. This threatens to be the way some overwhelmed and overburdened principals will cope with the stressful uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Education should head off this problem before it happens, by immediately directing School Boards to implement some basic and overdue requirements for refusals to admit a student to school. The Ministry should then develop a comprehensive and broader set of mandatory requirements for all School Boards when exercising the power to refuse to admit a student to school.

Examples of helpful requirements that the Ministry of Education should require, and that this report documents as now in place in one or more School Boards include the following:

  1. Refusals to admit should be recognized as an infringement of the student’s right to go to school to get an education, and as raising potential human rights issues, especially for students with disabilities. The Ontario Human Rights Code has primacy over the Education Act and the power to refuse to admit a student to school.
  2. A refusal to admit should only be imposed for a proper safety purpose. A student cannot be refused admission to school for purposes of discipline.
  3. Maximum time limits should be set for a refusal to admit, with a process for considering how to extend it if necessary and justified.
  4. A refusal to admit a student to school should only be permitted in very rare, extreme cases, as a last resort, after considering or trying all less intrusive alternatives. A principal should be required to take a step-by-step tiered approach to deciding whether to refuse to admit a student to school, first exhausting all less restrictive alternatives, and first ensuring that the student’s disability-related needs have been accommodated as required under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
  5. It should not be left to an individual principal to unilaterally decide on their own to refuse to admit a student to school. Prior approval of a higher authority with the School Board should be required, supported by sufficient documentation of the deliberations.
  6. A principal should be required to work with a student and their family on issues well before it degenerates to the point of considering a refusal to admit. The School Board should be required to have a mandatory meeting with the family before a refusal to admit is imposed.
  7. A principal should be required to immediately send a letter to the parents of a student whom they are refusing to admit to school, setting out the facts and specifics that are the reasons for the exclusion from school. A senior Board supervisor that approved the decision should be required to co-sign the letter. The letter should also be signed by the Director of Education if the student is to be excluded from all schools in the Board.
  8. A School Board that excludes a student from school should be required to put in place a plan for delivering an effective educational program to that student while excluded from school, including the option of face-to-face engagement with a teacher off of school property. This plan should be monitored to ensure it is sufficient.
  9. If a student is excluded from school, the School Board should be under a strong duty to work with the student and family to get them back to school as soon as possible.
  10. A School Board that excludes a student from school should be required to hold a re-entry meeting with the student and family to transition to the return to school.
  11. Any appeals to the Board of Trustees for the School Board from a refusal to admit should assure fair procedures to the student and their family. An excluded student should at least have all the safeguards in the appeal process as does a student who is subjected to discipline.
  12. The appeal should be heard by the entire Board of Trustees, and not just a sub-committee of some trustees. An appeal hearing should be held and decided quickly, since the student is languishing at home.
  13. A Board of Trustees, hearing an appeal from a refusal to admit, should consider whether the School Board has justified the student’s initial exclusion from school and its continuation. The burden should be on the School Board to justify the exclusion from school, and not on the student trying to go back to school. At an appeal hearing, the principal should first present why the exclusion from school is justified and should continue, before the student or parents are asked to show why the student should be allowed to return to school.
  14. When an appeal is launched, the School Board should be required to first try to resolve the issue short of a full appeal hearing.
  15. A student’s record of a refusal to admit to school should not stain the student’s official school record.
  16. If a School Board directs that a student can only come to school for part of the school day), the same safeguards for the student should be required as for a student who is excluded for the entire day.
  17. Any policy in this area should be periodically reviewed and updated.



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Student in Wheelchair Forced to Listen to Lecture From Top of Stairs


By Brinkwire on February 16, 2020

The University of Hull has launched an investigation after a disabled student shared a photo on Twitter showing how its lecture theatres are inaccessible for wheelchair users.

The photo shows Sarah-Marie Da Silva, a zoology student, sitting in the doorway of a lecture theatre which has no accessible ramp allowing her proper access to the room. She added in another Tweet: “As a wheelchair user, I don’t have any option , most days I don’t even have a desk.”

Da Silva told the Tab that the university has repeatedly failed to accommodate her disability.

The incident occurred last Friday, when she ended up stuck in the corner of the stairwell after realising there was no means for her to get down into the room.

“I turned and saw the stairs and panicked, I stopped,” she told the Tab. “The next 10 minutes was people arriving, them looking at me and then sometimes asking what was going on. I just told them I can’t get down and to just go past me.”

The first-year student said the problems started with her first lecture in September, in a lecture theatre where access to the room was at floor level.

“Everyone walked up the stairs to take their seats and I was left with nowhere to go ” no desk, no seats next to me for other students and I’m right next to the lecturer. I was made to feel like an ‘other’,” she said.

Da Silva told the Tab she had raised the issue “countless times”. But the student added that, while the university had made room changes for some of her lectures, she still repeatedly found they were held in inaccessible spaces.

“A lot of the time there are no desks for me. If there are, they’re moveable desks, but the wheels are always locked and I can’t bend down that far to unlock them, so everyone in the theatre looks on at me whilst I struggle to get a desk,” she told the Tab.

Dr Anji Gardner, Hull’s Director of Student Services, said: “We’re very sorry that this has happened, clearly it is not acceptable. We take these matters very seriously and are looking into what has happened.

“We are committed to working with our students to put in place any additional support or adjustments where needed. Unfortunately, it is clear this hasn’t happened in this case. We will immediately look into this and ensure that we take necessary steps to make sure this does not happen again.”

Piers Wilkinson, disabled students’ officer, for the National Union of Students, said: “Universities across the sector are still consistently failing to provide basic access for disabled students. Disabled students deserve inclusive access to the entire university experience, and that starts with being able to get into our lectures.”

Original at https://en.brinkwire.com/canada/student-in-wheelchair-forced-to-listen-to-lecture-from-top-of-stairs/




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Jasmin Simpson Challenges Discriminatory Student Loans Programs


BakerLaw, December 9, 2019

From January 14-16, 2020, Jasmin Simpson will finally get her day in court.

Jasmin, who is blind, Deaf, and has lupus, has been waiting for this for nearly two decades. She graduated from Gallaudet University with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Social Work in 2008. Jasmin took 60% longer to complete her degrees than her peers without disabilities. She also accrued 60% more debt.

This is because student loan debt is capped by year, not by program or by degree. As a result, students who take longer to graduate because of their disabilities (because of the need to take a preparatory course, the decision to enroll in programs specifically designed for students with disabilities, the need to withdraw due to illness or disability, the need to take a reduced course load, or other disability-related reasons) can graduate with twice as much – or even more – debt relative to non-disabled students.

As a result, Jasmin is challenging the federal and Ontario governments’ student loan programs –
the Canada Student Loan Program and Ontario Student Assistance Plan respectively – under section 15(1) of the Charter, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The Charter is being used to challenge the application of the cap, rather than a program cap to students with disabilities who take longer because of their disability.

The federal government tried to settle the case by making two irrelevant changes to its program and offered to cancel 100% of Jasmin’s debt (not just the extra 60%). She refused, because the changes didn’t redress the discrimination she experienced and because she believes other students with disabilities should not accumulate discriminatory debt like she did.
(To find the links for the following references go to the link at the bottom of the article)
You can read Jasmin’s written submissions here (link). Canada and Ontario’s responses can be found here (link) and here (link). Jasmin’s written reply to the governments’ arguments can be found here (link).

This case is similar to the “1 person, 1 fare” decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency, which held that persons with disabilities who require more than 1 seat on an aircraft due to their disability should only be required to pay 1 fare. You can read the decision of the Canadian Transportation Agency below. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld this decision by refusing leave to appeal.

Jasmin’s case will be heard at the Superior Court of Justice, located at Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, from January 14-16, 2020. Two sign language interpreters will be present to interpret the proceedings.

Laura LepineLaura Lepine is an Associate at BakerLaw

Original at https://www.bakerlaw.ca/blog/jasmin-simpson-challenges-discriminatory-student-loans-programs-for-students-with-disabilities/




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The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School


There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities http://www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

September 10, 2019

SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work. MORE DETAILS
New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163
Date of Issue: September 9, 2019
Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified
Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals
Directors of Education
Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools Principals of Elementary Schools
Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose
All school boards1 in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.2 The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:
* allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
* make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
* put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.
In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”3

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals
When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents4 can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:
* a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including: o a primary point of contact;
o supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
* information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
o a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal; o a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
o a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
* information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
o any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals; o the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student; o other accommodations available;
o the rights of other students and the needs of the school community; o any training or certification of the service animal;
o any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
* consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
* information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
o the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records); o the type of support the service animal will provide to the student; o who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
o a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal); o how the animal will be readily identifiable;
o transportation of the animal to and from school;
o time line for implementation;
* if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
* if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

* total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals; * whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students; * the number of requests approved and denied;
* if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education; * species of service animals requested and approved;
* types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting
School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific data collected.
1 In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.
2 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.
3 Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2018), pp. 5960.
4 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).




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The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

The Ford Government Issues a Very Weak Policy Directive to Ontario School Boards on Addressing Requests by a Student with a Disability to Bring Their Service Animal to School – There Is No Assurance It Will Make It Easier for Students with Disabilities to Bring a Service Animal to an Ontario School

September 10, 2019

          SUMMARY

On September 9, 2019, the Ford Government issued a palpably weak policy direction to Ontario school boards on how to handle requests by students with disabilities to permit them to bring a service animal to school. It is good that this policy direction requires every Ontario school board to develop a policy for dealing with such requests. However, it falls far short of what students with disabilities and their families need. It does not require those school board policies to be good. It does not ensure that students with disabilities will be more readily able to bring a service animal to school than has been the case in the past, even though the Tories talked about making that easier, during the 2018 Ontario election campaign.

The Ford Government’s new policy direction to school boards, set out below, reads as if the school boards themselves wrote it, in order to require little of them, while appearing to show provincial leadership. The provincial policy wastefully requires each of over 70 school boards to reinvent the wheel. It burdens students with disabilities and their families with having to once again lobby every one of those school boards. Doug Ford’s policy directive provides no assurance of consistency across the province.

There are several deficiencies with the new provincial policy directive. For example:

* The provincial policy directive ultimately leaves it to over 70 school boards to invent their own rules on when they will permit a student with a disability to bring a service animal to school. In that regard, it largely sets no provincial standards at all. Each school is to decide each case, on a case-by-case basis. That really says nothing new.

* While the new provincial policy directive  refers in brief and summary terms to the duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code, Doug Ford’s policy new directive ultimately leaves it to school boards to decide when it is “appropriate” to allow a student to bring a service animal to school. The Ontario Human Rights Code does not, however, make the test a sweeping open-ended and unpredictable one of “appropriateness”.

* The provincial policy erroneously does not direct school boards that they should allow for trial periods with a service animal before refusing this accommodation outright for a student.

* The provincial policy directive erroneously focuses on requiring or considering documentation from “medical professionals.” Of course, it should be open to a student with a disability or their family to bring forward medical documentation if they wish. However, doctors likely have no expertise in this area. People with disabilities have for years battled against the undue medicalization of their disability accessibility and accommodation needs.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a seriously flawed decision in this area. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board had wrongly refused to let a student with autism bring his autism service dog to school. The family took the case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Shockingly, the family lost the case.

In a detailed article to be published in the National Journal of Constitutional Law, AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky shows that the human rights ruling is riddled with errors. Doug Ford’s new provincial policy directive does not address and solve those problems. That article can be downloaded by visiting https://www.aodaalliance.org/whats-new/how-ontarios-human-rights-tribunal-went-off-the-rails-in-an-important-disability-accessibility-case-read-the-new-article-by-aoda-alliance-chair-david-lepofsky-on-the-tribunals-ruling-against-an/

Here, the Ford Government had a great opportunity to do much better that it has done. For years, Ontario has had a patchwork of different practices from school board to school board. Some allow service animals. Some do not. Some have no policy. The Ford Government could and should have surveyed the policies of those Ontario school boards that allow service animals, and drawn on the best of them to create a strong, inclusive provincial policy for all school boards to follow, that would be more favourable to meeting the needs of students with disabilities . Instead, the Ford Government dropped the ball and did a tremendous disservice to students with disabilities.

Perhaps the most stunning illustration of the deficiency in this new provincial policy is that under it, the family that fought the Waterloo Catholic District School Board a few years ago in that human rights case could well have ended up with the same refusal from that school board, had this provincial policy been in place at that time. It is a matter of public record that the mother of the student in that case, Ms. Amy Fee, has since won a seat in the Ontario Legislature, as a Conservative MPP. The Ford Government should have been prepared to do better for her and for the other families in her situation.

The Ford Government should quickly issue a supplemental policy to strengthen its weak September 9, 2019 provincial directive to school boards. It will also now be up to the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee to try to set strong provincial accessibility standards in this area. The Ford Government had frozen its work for over one year. It is having its first preliminary conference call this afternoon to initiate the resumption of its work.

MORE DETAILS

New Ford Government Policy Direction to Ontario School Boards on Allowing Students with Disabilities to Bring A Service Animal to School in Ontario

Originally posted at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm163.pdf

Policy/Program Memorandum No. 163

Date of Issue: September 9, 2019

Effective: Subject: Until revoked or modified

Application: School Board Policies on Service Animals

Directors of Education

Supervisory Officers and Secretary-Treasurers of School Authorities Executive Director, Provincial and Demonstration Schools

Principals of Elementary Schools

Principals of Secondary Schools

Purpose

All school boards[1] in Ontario are required to develop, implement, and maintain a policy on student use of service animals in schools.[2] The purpose of this memorandum is to provide direction to school boards on the development and implementation of their policy. The ministry’s expectations regarding the components of a board’s policy are identified in this memorandum as well as the implementation and reporting requirements.

School boards are expected to:

  • allow a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school when doing so would be an appropriate accommodation to support the student’s learning needs and would meet the school board’s duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Ontario Human Rights Code;
  • make determinations on whether to approve requests for a service animal on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual needs of each student;
  • put in place consistent and transparent processes that allow for meaningful consideration of requests for service animals to accompany students in school.

This memorandum applies to all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools, including extended-day programs operated by school boards. However, this memorandum does not apply to licensed child-care providers, including those operating on the premises of publicly funded schools.

Context

 

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting school boards in providing appropriate accommodations to all students with demonstrable learning needs, including special education programs and services in Ontario’s schools.

The term “service animal” refers to any animal that provides support to a person with a disability. Traditionally, service animals have been dogs, and dogs remain the most common species of service animal; however, other species may also provide services to individuals with disabilities. The types of functions performed by service animals are diverse, and may or may not include sensory, medical, therapeutic, and emotional support services.

In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (the “AODA”) sets out a framework related to the use of service animals by individuals with a disability. The Blind Persons’ Rights Act sets out a framework specifically for the use of guide dogs for individuals who are blind.

People with disabilities who use service animals to assist them with disability-related needs are protected under the ground of “disability” in the Ontario Human Rights Code. Under the Human Rights Code, school boards have a duty to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities up to the point of undue hardship. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (2018) states that: “Depending on a student’s individual needs and the nature of the education service being provided, accommodations may include . . . modifying ‘no pets’ policies to allow guide dogs and other service animals.”[3]

Nothing in this memorandum detracts from other legal obligations of school boards under applicable law, including the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Definition of “Service Animal”

 

In the context of this memorandum, “service animal” means an animal that provides support relating to a student’s disability to assist that student in meaningfully accessing education. Due consideration should be given to any documentation on how the service animal assists with the student’s learning needs, and disability-related needs (e.g., documentation from the student’s medical professionals).

School boards must make a determination, on a case-by-case basis, as to whether a service animal may accompany a student taking into account all the circumstances, including the needs of the student and the school community and a school board’s obligation to provide meaningful access to education.

School boards may also consider including service animals in training in their service animal policies.

Components of School Board Policies on Service Animals

When developing their policy on student use of service animals, school boards must respect their obligations under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Blind Persons’ Rights Act, and collective agreements as well as other applicable laws and government policies. When developing their policies on student use of service animals, school boards are encouraged to consult with local partners, as appropriate.

Each school board policy on student use of service animals must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

Communication Plan. The school board policy should say how the school board will inform the school community about the process by which parents[4] can apply to have their child’s service animal in the school. It should also say how it will inform the school community of the presence of any service animals at the school.

Process. The school board policy should lay out how requests for students to be accompanied by service animals in schools can be made and the steps in the school board decision-making process. School board processes must be timely, equitable, and readily available, and decisions must be based on a student’s individual strengths and needs.

Policies should include the following:

  • a clearly articulated process for a parent to follow when making a request for a student to be accompanied by a service animal in school, including:
    • a primary point of contact;
    • supporting materials for initiating requests(e.g., templates);
  • information around the process through which a determination is made about whether or not a service animal is an appropriate accommodation. This could include:
    • a meeting or meetings for all appropriate parties(e.g., parents, school staff) to discuss the request for a service animal;
    • a list of documentation that a parent must provide;
    • a list identifying who must be consulted in making the determination;
  • information about the factors the board will consider when making a case-by-case determination, including:
    • any documentation on how the service animal supports the student’s learning needs and/or disability-related needs, including documentation from the student’s medical professionals;
    • the disability-related needs and learning needs of the student;
    • other accommodations available;
    • the rights of other students and the needs of the school community;
    • any training or certification of the service animal;
    • any special considerations that may arise if the animal is a species other than a dog;
  • consideration of privacy rights of the student seeking to bring a service animal to school;
  • information about how the school board will document its decision regarding a request. For example, if a school board approves a request, that information could be recorded in the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), if one exists;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: a process for developing a plan that addresses:
    • the ongoing documentation required for the animal(e.g., annual vaccination records);
    • the type of support the service animal will provide to the student;
    • who will be the handler of the service animal while at the school;
    • a plan for how the care of the animal will be provided(including supporting the safety and biological needs of the animal);
    • how the animal will be readily identifiable;
    • transportation of the animal to and from school;
    • time line for implementation;
  • if the school board approves a request for a service animal: strategies for sharing information with members of the broader school community who may be impacted by the decision (e.g., other students, parents, educators, school staff, volunteers, Special Education Advisory Committees) and organizations that use the school facilities (e.g., licensed child-care providers operating in schools of the board), while identifying how the student’s privacy will be considered;
  • if the school board denies a request for a service animal: a statement that the school board will provide a written response to the family that made the request in a timely manner.

Health, Safety, and Other Concerns. The school board policy should include a protocol for the board to hear and address concerns from other students and staff who may come in contact with a service animal, and from parents of other students, including health and safety concerns such as allergies and fear or anxiety associated with the animal. Wherever possible, school boards should take steps to minimize conflict through cooperative problem-solving, and/or other supports which may include training for staff and students.

Roles and Responsibilities. The school board policy should clearly outline the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, and school staff regarding service animals at school, taking into account local circumstances.

Training. The school board policy should consider strategies for providing training related to service animals, as appropriate, for school staff who have direct contact with service animals in schools.

Review of School Board Service Animal Policies and Data Collection. The school board policy should be reviewed by the board on a regular basis.

School boards are expected to develop a process for data collection and to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to:

  • total number of requests for students to be accompanied by service animals;
  • whether requests are for elementary or secondary school students;
  • the number of requests approved and denied;
  • if denied, the rationale for the decision, including a description of other supports and/or services provided to the student to support their access to education;
  • species of service animals requested and approved;
  • types of needs being supported (e.g., medical, physical, emotional).

School boards should use this data to inform their cyclical policy reviews.

Implementation

School boards must implement and make publicly available on their websites their newly developed or updated policies and procedures on student use of service animals by January 1, 2020.

School Board Reporting

School boards are required to report to the Ministry of Education, upon request, regarding their activities to achieve the expectations outlined in this memorandum. This could include specific

data collected.

[1] In this memorandum, school board(s) and board(s) refer to district school boards and school authorities. This memorandum also applies to Provincial and Demonstration Schools.

[2] 2. This policy is established under the authority of paragraph 29.5 of subsection 8(1) of the Education Act and school boards are required to develop their policies on service animals in schools in accordance with this policy.

[3] Policy on Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities (Ontario: Ontario Human Rights

Commission, 2018), pp. 59–60.

[4] 4. In this memorandum, parent(s) refers to parent(s) and guardian(s).



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How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities

www.aodaalliance.org [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

How Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Went Off the Rails in an Important  Disability Accessibility Case–Read the New Article by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the Tribunal’s Ruling Against an 8-Year-Old Student With Autism Who Wanted to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School

July 5, 2019

          SUMMARY

Two years ago, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rendered a controversial and deeply troubling decision about the rights of students with disabilities in Ontario schools. An 8-year-old boy with autism wanted to bring his certified autism service dog to school with him. The school board refused. His family filed a human rights complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The Tribunal ruled in favour of the school board and against the student.

Many reacted with surprise or shock at this ruling. Now you have a chance to delve deeper and see what went wrong. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky has written a 28-page article analyzing this human rights decision. He found that there are several problems with the decision. His article is entitled “Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School.”

In the fall of 2020, this article will be published in volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law. You don’t need any legal training or background to read this article.

Below we set out this article’s introduction. You can download the entire article in an accessible MS Word format by clicking here https://www.aodaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASD-Dog-Article-by-David-Lepofsky-Accepted-for-Publication-in-the-NJCL-dated-july-4-2019.docx

The published text of this article next year may have minor editorial changes.

The AODA Alliance has pressed the Ford Government for over a year to get the Education Standards Development Committee back to work, developing recommendations for what should be included in an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the AODA. Among other things, we plan to propose detailed standards to bind all schools on letting students with autism bring their qualified service animal to school.

AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. On March 7, 2019, the Ford Government said it was lifting that freeze. Yet no date for the next meeting of that AODA Standards Development Committee is set.

There have been 155 days since the Ford Government received the final report of the Independent Review of the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Lieutenant Governor David Onley. That report found that Ontario is full of “soul-crushing” barriers that impede over 1.9 million Ontarians with disabilities. It calls on the Ontario Government to show new leadership and to take strong action on accessibility for people with disabilities. the Ford Government has not announced a plan to implement the Onley Report.

          MORE DETAILS

Excerpt from the Article ” Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal Bungles the School Boards’ Human Rights Duty to Accommodate Students with Disabilities – J.F. v Waterloo District Catholic School Board – An Erroneous Rejection of A Student’s Request to Bring His Autism Service Dog to School” by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to be Published in Volume 40.1 of the National Journal of Constitutional Law

A child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience anxiety, challenges in self-regulating their mood and behaviours, and difficulty adjusting to transitions. Helpful measures to address these needs contribute to a child’s developmental progress. An autism service dog can help with these needs.

ASD’s emotional, behavioural and communicational impacts on a child cannot be measured, day-by-day, by a blood test or thermometer. It is typically not possible to isolate and quantify exactly when and how an intervention such as a service dog has helped, any more than an omelet can be unscrambled. This does not derogate from the benefits experienced from using such a service dog. For children with ASD, as with many others, trial and error is so often the best approach.

This article examines a troubling case where a school board, and then Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, each got it wrong when it came to accommodating a student with ASD. In J.F. v. Waterloo District Catholic School Board, an eight-year-old boy with ASD benefitted at home from a trained autism service dog. His family asked the school board to let him bring the service dog to school, to help accommodate his ASD. The school board said no. The Tribunal sided with the board.

There was no showing that board employees, addressing this issue, had prior knowledge, experience or expertise with autism service dogs, or that those officials tried to observe the boy outside school when using the autism service dog. There was no indication that the board took any proactive steps to learn about the benefits of these service dogs, or considered a trial period with this boy bringing his autism service dog to school.

In contrast, some other Ontario school boards let students with ASD bring a service dog to school. If other school boards can do so, the Waterloo District Catholic School Board could do the same, rather than putting barriers in the path of a vulnerable student.

The boy’s family filed a human rights complaint against the school board. It alleged a violation of his right to equal treatment in education without discrimination due to his disability, guaranteed by s. 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The family argued that the board failed to fulfil its substantive duty to accommodate (its duty to provide a disability-related accommodation he needed), and its procedural duty to accommodate (its duty to adequately investigate his disability-related needs and the options for accommodating them). In a widely-publicized and erroneous decision, the Tribunal ruled against the boy on both scores.

The school board and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario failed to properly apply human rights principles to a vulnerable student with an undisputed disability. This case provides a powerful illustration of a Human Rights Tribunal that failed to properly apply both the human rights procedural duty to accommodate and the substantive duty to accommodate. The school board’s failure to fulfil its procedural duty to accommodate this boy’s disability also serves to substantially weaken the board’s claim that it met its substantive duty to accommodate.

As well, this case illustrates unfair accessibility barriers that students with disabilities too often face in Ontario’s education system. It shows how families must repeatedly fight against the same barriers, at school board after school board. This case also highlights serious flaws in Ontario’s controversial system for enforcing human rights. It shows why Ontario needs a strong and effective Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to remove such recurring disability accessibility barriers in Ontario’s education system.

Had this school board redirected more of its effort and public money towards working out a way to let this student bring his autism service dog to school, rather than fighting against him, a more positive outcome here was likely. Instead the Board marshalled its formidable legal resources to fight against this boy.

This article first delineates the case’s largely undisputed facts. It then explores the evolution of the procedural duty to accommodate in human rights law. The importance of the duty to accommodate in the education context is then investigated.

Attention next turns to problems in the Tribunal’s reasoning that led it to find that the school board did not violate the procedural duty to accommodate. After that, serious problems are identified with the Tribunal’s finding that the school board did not violate its substantive duty to accommodate.

This article concludes with a look more broadly at this case’s implications. This case typifies problems since 2008 with the way human rights are enforced in Ontario. This case also illustrates the need for the Ontario Government to adopt a reformed approach to the education of students with disabilities in Ontario schools as well as the need for an Education Accessibility Standard to be enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.



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Disability Advocates Call for Action Limiting When Principal Can Exclude Student from School


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 30, 2019 Toronto: At a news conference in the Queen’s Park Media Studio today at 10:30 a.m., disability advocates will unite to demand that the Ford Government rein in the sweeping power of school principals to exclude a student from school. The Ford Government has so far announced nothing on this. It hasn’t answered the Ontario Autism Coalition’s December 13, 2018 letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson, which asks the minister to meet about exclusions. It hasn’t publicly responded to recent media focusing on this issue. See e.g. the Globe and Mail.

“School principals have a sweeping, unmonitored discretion to exclude students from school. It’s an especially unfair barrier for students with disabilities, who are too often forced to stay home because the school is failing to provide appropriate supports,” said Laura Kirby McIntosh, President of the Ontario Autism Coalition, a non-profit political advocacy group for people with autism and their families. The principal just has to think that the student “would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils;” (Education Act s. 265)

“In over 5,000 Ontario schools, each principal is allowed to be a law unto themselves. They are not required to keep track of how many students they exclude, or for how long, or for what reason, or to report this information to anyone. They don’t have to tell the student and their family the reason for their exclusion from school or to advise them of their right to appeal,” said David Lepofsky, visiting professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance (which campaigns for disability accessibility, including in Ontario’s education system.)

“Many families have contacted ARCH Disability Law Centre when their child has been denied access to school via formal exclusions or otherwise. It is not unusual in these circumstances that the ultimate problem is that the school has failed to meet its duty to accommodate the student’s disability. With legal assistance, students are more likely to receive appropriate accommodations to facilitate their return to school. Without this assistance, there are many cases where students have endured many months of exclusion,” said Luke Reid, Staff Lawyer at ARCH.

At the news conference, the AODA Alliance and Ontario Autism Coalition will jointly call on the Ford Government to take these immediate actions:

1. The Minister of Education should now convene a summit of key stakeholders to get input on legislation and policy changes to fix this festering mess.
2. In the interim, the Minister of Education should immediately issue a policy direction to school boards, imposing restrictions on when and how a principal may exclude a student from school.

Contact:
? David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
? Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected] 416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism Background Facts

* There are at least 340,000 students with special education needs in Ontario or 1 out of every 6 students in Ontario-funded schools. That figure does not include all students with disabilities. Therefore at least one-third of a million students with disabilities are exposed to the principal’s arbitrary power to refuse to admit them to school.

* Section 265 of the Education Act requires each school principal to refuse to admit ‘a person whose presence in the school or classroom would in the principal’s judgment be detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils.’

* In the absence of proper oversight of school boards by the Ministry of Education, it is hard to find out whether a school board has a policy on the use of the principal’s power to exclude a student from school, or how often students are excluded from school, or for how long they are kept out. The AODA Alliance has a team of Osgoode Hall Law School law students now surveying the boards and their websites.

* It is wrong to confuse the issue of exclusions from school with the issue of when students with special education needs should be included in the regular classroom. When a principal refuses to admit a student to school, that means that the student is entirely shut out from school, pure and simple. They are excluded from any and all classrooms, be it inclusion in the regular classroom or taking part in a separate or special education class. Any discussion over whether a student should be placed in the regular classroom (inclusion or integration) or in a special education classroom cannot even begin when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all.

* In January 2018, the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board submitted a detailed recommendation to the school board trustees. It recommended that the TDSB place clear limits on when a principal can refuse to admit a student to school. One year later, the TDSB just circulated a draft procedure on exclusions from school, which incorporates some of SEAC’s recommendations.

* In a January 7, 2019 article, the Globe and Mail reported that:

“A Globe and Mail analysis found that families with children who have intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly being asked to pick up kids early, start the school day later or simply keep them home for days. Most school districts don’t formally track these exclusions or shortened days. Informally, parent and advocacy groups have documented the problem and have seen a rise in the incidence of these events.”

* “People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, has reported an increase in the number of elementary and secondary school principals who report recommending a special-education student stay home for at least part of a day. The organization found 58 per cent of elementary school heads and 48 per cent of high school principals made the request, up from 48 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in 2014.”

* A recent report by ARCH Disability Law Centre and its partners found that more than half of all students with intellectual disabilities experienced a “shortened day,” losing on average, almost 4 hours out of a 6 hour school day. Almost half of all parents surveyed reported that they had to keep their child home at one time or another as a result of accommodation issues. Finally, the report stated that 25% of parents reported that they had been “told” not to bring their child to school that day, with many of them stating that no reasons were given or that when they were given, they often related to staffing shortages or other accommodation issues.

* The Ministry of Education’s policy directive to school boards PPM-145, available at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/145.pdf states:

“In Part X of the Education Act, clause 265(1)(m) permits a principal to “refuse to admit” to the school or to a class someone whose presence in the school would be “detrimental to the physical or mental well-being of the pupils”. This provision is frequently referred to as the “exclusion provision.” Exclusion is not to be used as a form of discipline. If a principal does decide that it is necessary to exclude a student from the school, the principal is expected to notify the student’s parents of the exclusion as soon as possible in the circumstances, and to inform them of their right to appeal under clause 265(1)(m).”

* Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a policy on accessible education for students with disabilities. Its recommendations to the Ontario Government included, among other things:

9. Identify and end the practice of exclusion wherein principals ask parents to keep primary and secondary students with disabilities home from school for part or all of the school day (and the role that an improper use of section 265(1)(m) of the Education Act may be playing in this practice).

* The AODA Alliance survey of school boards, still in progress, has yielded the following partial and interim results so far:

* Based on results so far, only about 10% of boards, or 9 boards, have provided a policy that addresses refusals to admit. Four school boards told the AODA Alliance that they wouldn’t say if they had a policy until research approval was obtained from a Research Advisory Committee.

* Before the 2018 Ontario election, a Government-appointed committee was investigating disability barriers in Ontario’s school system, in order to recommend reforms under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky is a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. He planned to put the problem of exclusions from school on that committee’s agenda. However, the work of that committee has been frozen for the past 7 months in the wake of last June’s Ontario election. This is so despite the fact that the Conservative Party, while in opposition, had demanded that the former Ontario Government establish that very committee. For more on that issue, visit www.aodaalliance.org/education

* If each school board used a unique attendance code to mark the absence of a student due to the principal’s refusing to admit the student to school, school boards and the Ontario Government would have instant access to comprehensive data on the amount of time that students are kept from attending school on this ground. However, the province does not direct that a unique attendance code be used for that purpose. The Ministry of Education’s policy direction entitled
“Enrolment Register Instructions for Elementary and Secondary Schools” for 2018-2019 states: the following on the duty of school boards to keep records on the refusal to admit a student to school: (which, as far as we have ascertained, is not provincially monitored and enforced)

“Excluded Pupils
Pupils excluded under clause 265(1)(m) of the Education Act should not be demitted from the enrolment register as the school board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

During the exclusion period, the pupil’s absence is recorded with a “G” on the Daily Attendance Record. An excluded student can remain on the enrolment register until the end of the current school year if the board is actively working to re-integrate the pupil back into the education system.

Retain the following for audit purposes:
? Documentation that shows the reason for the exclusion.
? Documentation of successful notification of exclusion and the response between the school board and the pupil (if the pupil is an adult) or the pupil’s parent or guardian
? Documentation of the plan (signed by the principal) to re-integrate the pupil into the education system.
? Documentation of communication with other parties involved with re-engaging the pupil (e.g. social agencies.)
? Data on the number of students who have been excluded during the school year (including the name of the student, OEN, length of exclusion, and the reason for exclusion.)”



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