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


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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

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:

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:

  1. 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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The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier ? The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from 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

January 24, 2019

SUMMARY

There have been 216 days since work on developing a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was frozen in the wake of the election of Ontario’s new Government. The work of the two Education Standards Development Committees, appointed to recommend reforms in Ontario’s school system (the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee) and in Ontario’s colleges and universities (the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee), still remains on hold. School boards, colleges and universities continue to leave disability barriers in place. They spend public money to create new barriers, without an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in place to stop that from continuing.

In the meantime, It is great that the Globe and Mail recently focused attention on one of the troubling and recurring barriers in Ontario’s school system that we have wanted to raise at the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee one which the Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue. It is the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. The outdated section 265(1)(m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265. (1) It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principals duties as a teacher,

(m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom a 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; ”

We have been concerned that this power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with special education needs away from school. Below we set forth a powerful article in the January 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail focusing on this issue. An earlier January 5, 2019 Globe and Mail article also addresses this issue.

This unfair power is sometimes called the power to exclude a student from school and at other times is called the power to refuse to admit a student to school. It needs to be substantially reined in.

The status quo is unacceptable. Principals have a sweeping discretion to exclude students from school, without any real accountability. Students and their families need not be given proper notice, reasons or due process. Refusals to admit can go on for days, weeks or months. A school board need never track how often students are excluded from school, or for how long, or for what reason.

Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new 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).”

There is a much better way to deal with this issue. The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board passed a detailed motion over one year ago, in January 2018. It called for TDSB to adopt a policy that will ensure that this power is not abused or misused. It includes great ideas on how to deal with this issue.

We support that TDSB SEAC recommendation, which we set out below. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky led the development of that recommendation while he served as chair of TDSB’s SEAC. All are still awaiting a new TDSB policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Earlier this month, TDSB staff told the TDSB SEAC that a draft policy would be shared with them shortly. We do not yet know how much, if any, of the SEAC recommendation will be adopted.

We offer two important observations on the January 9, 2019 Globe and Mail article that is set out below. First, the article, which is otherwise very commendable, incorrectly confuses the issue of exclusions from school or refusals to admit a student to school, on the one hand, with issues surrounding inclusion of students with disabilities in a regular classroom on the other. This can be a distraction from the problems with the use of the power to exclude a student from school.

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 does not even arise when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all. 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.

Second, the Globe article focuses in part on situations where a principal excludes a student from school due to violence. Yet the concern has been raised that principals don’t only refuse students from school due to violence.

When will the Ford Government let us know what it is going to do with the Education Standards Development Committees? As we announced in the January 20, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Government now says it is awaiting the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review before it decides what to do with these Standards Development Committees. The same goes for the Health Care Standards Development Committee, whose work has also been frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election. CBC asked the Ford Government about this freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees in August and November 2018. Back then, the Ford Government did not say it was awaiting David Onley’s report. Had it done so, we would have pressed Mr. Onley to immediately issue an interim report addressing the need to lift that freeze.

We urge one and all to send David Onley a short email as soon as possible. Please tell him if you support the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief on how to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including our call for the Ford Government to immediately lift its freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees . You can email David Onley at [email protected]

MORE DETAILS
Globe and Mail, January 7, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-for-students-with-disabilities-call-on-ontario-to-stop/ Autism advocates push Ontario to ban school exclusions

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO
Staff

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal’s power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.

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.

The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an “outdated” provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.

On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board.

Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is usually done at a principal’s discretion; and it can last for months.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parentrun group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she’s seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.

“We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that’s being used now is we’ll just throw the kids out,” she said.

“Our kids are not disposable.

They’re not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution.

But neither is full exclusion.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson did not address the question of how the minister plans to address the situation.

In an e-mail statement, Kayla Iafelice said that exclusions are not to be used as a form of discipline. She added: “Our government’s top priority will always be to ensure that every student in Ontario has access to a meaningful education in safe and supportive school environments.”

Including special-needs students with behavioural issues in regular classrooms has become a matter of debate in many parts of the country, and some educators wonder if it’s gone too far without a rethinking of how children with diverse needs are taught.

Teachers report an increase in violence in schools, from threats to physical attacks, that they say makes teaching more difficult.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said there has been some good work over the past few years to recognize and address the issue of violence in classrooms. But “we still have a long way to go because … the supports in the classrooms aren’t necessarily as they should be to make sure that people are safe,” he said.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, noted 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.

Similarly, a survey of parents of children with special needs released in November, 2017, by the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that children with special needs were missing anywhere from half an hour to three hours of school a day, or being told to stay home because of staff shortages. A number of children, the survey found, were sent home because of behavioural incidents at school and these exclusions, which were undocumented, would continue for days or weeks.

The North Vancouver and Greater Victoria school districts passed motions this fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, or are sent home early or dropped off late and being excluded from field trips.

“It is useful, for the school district and for parents, to have formally tracked information about modified instructional schedules. This can help to provide the best possible educational programs for all students,” said Deneka Michaud, a spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

Toronto District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Motion #6 Need for TDSB to Establish A Policy on “Refusals to Admit”

BACKGROUND

At its February 2017 meeting, SEAC received a presentation by the ARCH Disability Law Centre. It raised concerns that school boards, including TDSB, at times inappropriately use “refusals to admit” students to school. This issue can significantly affect students with special education needs and all students with disabilities. A school or principal may tell a their family to keep the student at home for hours, days, or longer, without giving reasons or following safeguards required when a student is suspended or expelled.

ARCH told SEAC it learned that TDSB did not then centrally collect statistics on how often these exclusions occur. ARCH expressed concerns (not limited to TDSB) for example, that a school may tell a family to keep a student with a disability at home, either because proper accommodations have not yet been arranged at school, or because supports, such as a Special Needs Assistant, were away. ARCH said when ARCH lawyers intervene, these situations are more likely corrected (again, not limited to TDSB).

TDSB staff made presentations to SEAC at its May, June and November 2017 meetings. TDSB staff said TDSB has no policy on the use of refusals to admit. Practices can vary from school to school. TDSB has a procedure (not a policy) regarding appeals from a refusal to admit. TDSB staff have been working on draft reforms after SEAC raised this.

Recommendation

SEAC recommends as follows:
TDSB Needs a Refusal to Admit Policy
1. TDSB should promptly adopt a comprehensive, mandatory policy on when TDSB will exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school. What is a Refusal to Admit?
2. The refusal to admit policy should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with the policy.
a) A “refusal to admit” should include any time TDSB formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
b) A refusal to admit includes a TDSB request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
c) A refusal to admit does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but TDSB is willing to let the student attend school. Ensuring Alternative Education to Student Whom TDSB Refuses to Admit to School
3. The “refusal to admit” policy should require TDSB to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program, and that TDSB keeps record of and publicly accounts for its doing so. When a Refusal to Admit is Allowed
4. The policy should specifically spell out the situations when TDSB can consider refusing to admit a student, including:
a) A refusal to admit should only be imposed when necessary to protect health and safety. b) A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary.
c) A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.
d) If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. TDSB should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school.
e) The policy should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.
f) A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days.
g) TDSB should justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the students family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.
h) When TDSB staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.
i) TDSB should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that TDSB staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent. Extension of Refusal to Admit
5. The policy should set these terms:
a) If after a refusal to admit expires, TDSB wants to extend it, TDSB staff must justify it.
b) The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return.
c) An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools.
d) An extension should not be permitted if TDSB has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive education. Fair Procedure
6. The “refusal to admit” policy should set out fair procedures that TDSB must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of TDSB and its employees, including:
a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when TDSB is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
b) The principal should be required to notify the school superintendent in writing that the principal is going to refuse to admit a student and the reasons for this.
c) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
d) The superintendent should independently assess whether TDSB has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the TDSB refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
e) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that TDSB has taken or will be taking to expedite a students return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
f) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps TDSB is taking to expedite the students return to school and time lines for those steps, the TDSB’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
g) These procedures should again be followed any time TDSB extends a refusal to admit.
h) A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the executive superintendent of the Learning Centre where that student ordinarily attends.
i) No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education. Appeals
7. The refusal to admit policy should include a fair and prompt appeal process which includes:
a) The appeal should be to officials at TDSB who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
b) TDSB should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly.
e) On the appeal, the TDSB should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons. Accountability and Transparency of TDSB’s Refusals to Admit
8. The policy should include:
a) TDSB should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.
g) Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has special education needs or otherwise has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school. c) TDSB should centrally collect these reports.
d) TDSB should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve , students with special education needs or any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit. Funding for Emergency Disability Accommodation Needs
9. To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, the TDSB should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

Interim Safeguards
10. Starting immediately, and until a new refusal to admit policy is approved, TDSB should require that any formal or informal refusal to admit a student be in writing, with reasons for it, and with the student’s family being told of their right to appeal under the existing TDSB appeal procedure. TDSB should require that any refusals to admit during this period be centrally reported in writing, with statistics reported quarterly to the Board, the public and SEAC.



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The Ford Government Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from 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 Continues Its Freeze on the Work to Remove Barriers in Ontario’s Education System Against Hundreds of Thousands of Students With Disabilities, While the Media Shines A Much-Needed Spotlight on One Troubling Barrier – The Sweeping Power of School Principals to Exclude a Student from School

January 24, 2019

          SUMMARY

There have been 216 days since work on developing a new Education Accessibility Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was frozen in the wake of the election of Ontario’s new Government. The work of the two Education Standards Development Committees, appointed to recommend reforms in Ontario’s school system (the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee) and in Ontario’s colleges and universities (the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee), still remains on hold. School boards, colleges and universities continue to leave disability barriers in place. They spend public money to create new barriers, without an AODA Education Accessibility Standard in place to stop that from continuing.

In the meantime, It is great that the Globe and Mail recently focused attention on one of the troubling and recurring barriers in Ontario’s school system that we have wanted to raise at the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee – one which the Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified as a human rights issue. It is the sweeping and arbitrary power of any school principal to exclude a student from school. The outdated section 265(1)(m) of Ontario’s Education Act provides:

“265.  (1)  It is the duty of a principal of a school, in addition to the principal’s duties as a teacher,…

… (m) subject to an appeal to the board, to refuse to admit to the school or classroom 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; …”

We have been concerned that this power can be and is misused, especially to keep some students with special education needs away from school. Below we set forth a powerful article in the January 9, 2019 edition of the Globe and Mail focusing on this issue. An earlier January 5, 2019 Globe and Mail article also addresses this issue.

This unfair power is sometimes called the power to exclude a student from school and at other times is called the power to refuse to admit a student to school. It needs to be substantially reined in.

The status quo is unacceptable. Principals have a sweeping discretion to exclude students from school, without any real accountability. Students and their families need not be given proper notice, reasons or due process. Refusals to admit can go on for days, weeks or months. A school board need never track how often students are excluded from school, or for how long, or for what reason.

Last September, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released a new 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).”

There is a much better way to deal with this issue. The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of the Toronto District School Board passed a detailed motion over one year ago, in January 2018. It called for TDSB to adopt a policy that will ensure that this power is not abused or misused. It includes great ideas on how to deal with this issue.

We support that TDSB SEAC recommendation, which we set out below. AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky led the development of that recommendation while he served as chair of TDSB’s SEAC. All are still awaiting a new TDSB policy or procedure on refusals to admit a student to school. Earlier this month, TDSB staff told the TDSB SEAC that a draft policy would be shared with them shortly. We do not yet know how much, if any, of the SEAC recommendation will be adopted.

We offer two important observations on the January 9, 2019 Globe and Mail article that is set out below. First, the article, which is otherwise very commendable, incorrectly confuses the issue of exclusions from school or refusals to admit a student to school, on the one hand, with issues surrounding inclusion of students with disabilities in a regular classroom on the other. This can be a distraction from the problems with the use of the power to exclude a student from school.

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 does not even arise when the principal forbids that student from even coming to school at all. 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.

Second, the Globe article focuses in part on situations where a principal excludes a student from school due to violence. Yet the concern has been raised that principals don’t only refuse students from school due to violence.

When will the Ford Government let us know what it is going to do with the Education Standards Development Committees? As we announced in the January 20, 2019 AODA Alliance Update, the Government now says it is awaiting the report of the David Onley AODA Independent Review before it decides what to do with these Standards Development Committees. The same goes for the Health Care Standards Development Committee, whose work has also been frozen since the June 2018 Ontario election. CBC asked the Ford Government about this freeze on the work of Standards Development Committees  in August and November 2018. Back then, the Ford Government did not say it was awaiting David Onley’s report. Had it done so, we would have pressed Mr. Onley to immediately issue an interim report addressing the need to lift that freeze.

We urge one and all to send David Onley a short email as soon as possible. Please tell him if you support the AODA Alliance’s January 15, 2019 brief on how to strengthen the AODA’s implementation and enforcement, including our call for the Ford Government to immediately lift its freeze on the Education and Health Care Standards Development Committees . You can email David Onley at [email protected]

          MORE DETAILS

 Globe and Mail,  January 7, 2019

Originally posted at https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-advocates-for-students-with-disabilities-call-on-ontario-to-stop/

Autism advocates push Ontario to ban school exclusions

By CAROLINE ALPHONSO

Staff

Autism advocates in Ontario are calling on the province to remove a principal’s power to exclude students from school for an indefinite period, saying it is being misused as a disciplinary measure that disproportionately targets children with special needs.

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.

The Ontario Autism Coalition (OAC) wrote in a recent letter to Education Minister Lisa Thompson that principals are using what it deemed an “outdated” provision in the Education Act to exclude children from school. The group said it violates the rights of children to an inclusive education and has requested a meeting with the minister.

On Saturday, The Globe highlighted the story of Grayson Kahn, a seven-year-old boy diagnosed with autism who was expelled in November from his school in Guelph, Ont., after an incident in which he struck an educational assistant, leaving her with bruises, scrapes and a concussion. Expulsions such as Grayson’s are rare and involve a report by the principal and a hearing by a committee of the school board.

Advocates for students with disabilities say exclusions are much more common and are generally informal: Parents are often given verbal notice; it is usually done at a principal’s discretion; and it can last for months.

Laura Kirby-McIntosh, president of the OAC, said in an interview on Sunday that her parentrun group understands that principals are struggling to support children with very complex needs, but refusing to admit them to school is problematic. She said she’s seen one child being excluded from school for a year. Her own son was excluded for six months.

“We recognize as an organization that our kids are challenging to educate. The solution to that is complex. But the solution that’s being used now is we’ll just throw the kids out,” she said.

“Our kids are not disposable.

They’re not easy to educate. And for some of them, it may be that full inclusion is not the solution.

But neither is full exclusion.”

A spokeswoman for Ms. Thompson did not address the question of how the minister plans to address the situation.

In an e-mail statement, Kayla Iafelice said that exclusions are not to be used as a form of discipline. She added: “Our government’s top priority will always be to ensure that every student in Ontario has access to a meaningful education in safe and supportive school environments.”

Including special-needs students with behavioural issues in regular classrooms has become a matter of debate in many parts of the country, and some educators wonder if it’s gone too far without a rethinking of how children with diverse needs are taught.

Teachers report an increase in violence in schools, from threats to physical attacks, that they say makes teaching more difficult.

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, said there has been some good work over the past few years to recognize and address the issue of violence in classrooms. But “we still have a long way to go because … the supports in the classrooms aren’t necessarily as they should be to make sure that people are safe,” he said.

People for Education, an Ontario advocacy group, noted 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.

Similarly, a survey of parents of children with special needs released in November, 2017, by the BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils found that children with special needs were missing anywhere from half an hour to three hours of school a day, or being told to stay home because of staff shortages. A number of children, the survey found, were sent home because of behavioural incidents at school and these exclusions, which were undocumented, would continue for days or weeks.

The North Vancouver and Greater Victoria school districts passed motions this fall to record how many children with special needs are being asked to stay home, or are sent home early or dropped off late and being excluded from field trips.

“It is useful, for the school district and for parents, to have formally tracked information about modified instructional schedules. This can help to provide the best possible educational programs for all students,” said Deneka Michaud, a spokeswoman for the North Vancouver School District.

Toronto District School Board Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Motion #6 Need for TDSB to Establish A Policy on “Refusals to Admit”

BACKGROUND

At its February 2017 meeting, SEAC received a presentation by the ARCH Disability Law Centre. It raised concerns that school boards, including TDSB, at times inappropriately use “refusals to admit” students to school. This issue can significantly affect students with special education needs and all students with disabilities. A school or principal may tell a their family to keep the student at home for hours, days, or longer, without giving reasons or following safeguards required when a student is suspended or expelled.

ARCH told SEAC it learned that TDSB did not then centrally collect statistics on how often these exclusions occur. ARCH expressed concerns (not limited to TDSB) for example, that a school may tell a family to keep a student with a disability at home, either because proper accommodations have not yet been arranged at school, or because supports, such as a Special Needs Assistant, were away. ARCH said when ARCH lawyers intervene, these situations are more likely corrected (again, not limited to TDSB).

TDSB staff made presentations to SEAC at its May, June and November 2017 meetings. TDSB staff said TDSB has no policy on the use of refusals to admit. Practices can vary from school to school. TDSB has a procedure (not a policy) regarding appeals from a refusal to admit. TDSB staff  have been working on draft reforms after SEAC raised this.

Recommendation

SEAC recommends as follows:

TDSB Needs a Refusal to Admit Policy
  1. TDSB should promptly adopt a comprehensive, mandatory policy on when TDSB will exercise any power to refuse to admit a student to school.
What is a Refusal to Admit?
  1. The refusal to admit policy should have no loopholes that would let a principal or teacher exclude a student informally without complying with the policy.
  2. a) A “refusal to admit” should include any time TDSB formally or informally asks or directs that a student not attend school, or that the student be removed from school, whether in writing or in a discussion
  3. b) A refusal to admit includes a TDSB request or direction that a student only attend school for part of the regular school day.
  4. c) A refusal to admit does not include a situation where a family requests that a student be absent from school for all or part of a school day, but TDSB is willing to let the student attend school.
Ensuring Alternative Education to Student Whom TDSB Refuses to Admit to School
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should require TDSB to ensure that a student, excluded from attending school, is provided an equivalent and sufficient educational program, and that TDSB keeps record of and publicly accounts for its doing so.
When a Refusal to Admit is Allowed
  1. The policy should specifically spell out the situations when TDSB can consider refusing to admit a student, including:
  2. a) A refusal to admit should only be imposed when necessary to protect health and safety.
  3. b) A refusal to admit should go no further and last no longer than is necessary.
  4. c) A principal should only resort to a refusal to admit if the principal can demonstrate that the student presents an imminent risk to health or safety which cannot be addressed by lesser measures, such as suspension.
  5. d) If a refusal to admit is to take place, the first resort should be to exclude the student from a specific class, accommodating that student in another class. Only if that can’t be sufficient, should a principal consider excluding the student from that school, accommodating the student at another school. TDSB should only refuse to admit a student from any and all schools if it is impossible to accommodate them at any other school.
  6. e) The policy should give clear examples of the circumstances when a refusal to admit is permitted, and when it is not permitted.
  7. f) A refusal to admit should not be allowed to last more than five consecutive school days.
  8. g) TDSB should justify the refusal to admit. It should not be for the student or the student’s family to justify why the student should be allowed to attend school.
  9. h) When TDSB staff decide whether to refuse to admit a student, they should take into account all mitigating considerations that are considered when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.
  10. i) TDSB should not refuse to admit a student with a disability on the ground that TDSB staff believe they cannot accommodate the student’s needs, e.g. because staff is absent.
Extension of Refusal to Admit
  1. The policy should set these terms:
  2. a) If after a refusal to admit expires, TDSB wants to extend it, TDSB staff must justify it.
  3. b) The student’s family need not prove why the student should be allowed to return.
  4. c) An extension of a refusal to admit must first consider excluding the student from a single class, and then the option of excluding the student from that school, and only as a last resort, excluding the student from all schools.
  5. d) An extension should not be permitted if TDSB has not put in place an effective alternative option for the student to receive education.
Fair Procedure
  1. The “refusal to admit” policy should set out fair procedures that TDSB must follow when refusing to admit a student. These procedures should ensure accountability of TDSB and its employees, including:
  2. a) A student and their families should have all the procedural protections that are required when TDSB is going to impose discipline such as a suspension or expulsion.
  3. b) The principal should be required to notify the school superintendent in writing that the principal is going to refuse to admit a student and the reasons for this.
  4. c) The prior review and approval of the superintendent should be required. If it is an emergency, then the superintendent should be required to review and approve this decision as quickly afterwards as possible, or else the refusal to admit should be terminated.
  5. d) The superintendent should independently assess whether TDSB has sufficient grounds to refuse to admit, and has met all the requirements of the TDSB refusal to admit policy (including ensuring alternative education programming is in place for the student).
  6. e) The principal should be required to immediately notify the student and his or her family in writing of the refusal to admit, the reasons for it, and the duration. That should include outlining steps that TDSB has taken or will be taking to expedite a student’s return to school and provide an expected timeline for the completion of these steps.
  7. f) The principal should immediately tell the student and the student’s family, in clear and plain language, in writing, what a refusal to admit is, its duration, the reasons for it, the steps TDSB is taking to expedite the student’s return to school and time lines for those steps, the TDSB’s process for reviewing that decision, and the family’s right to appeal it (including how to use that right of appeal). This should be provided in a language that the family speaks.
  8. g) These procedures should again be followed any time TDSB extends a refusal to admit.
  9. h) A refusal to admit should not be extended for an accumulated total of more than 15 days (within a surrounding 30 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the executive superintendent of the Learning Centre where that student ordinarily attends.
  10. i) No refusal to admit should be extended for an accumulated total of more than 20 days (within a surrounding 45 day period) without the independent review and written approval of the Director of Education.
Appeals
  1. The refusal to admit policy should include a fair and prompt appeal process which includes:
  2. a) The appeal should be to officials at TDSB who had no involvement with the initial decision to refuse to admit or any extensions of it.
  3. b) TDSB should promptly inform the student and the student’s family about how to start an appeal, who decides the appeal, the procedures for the appeal, that the student and family can present reports, support people or experts or any other information they wish, and can have a representative, either a lawyer or other person, to speak for them or assist them with the appeal.
  4. c) The appeal should include an in-person meeting with the student and family.
  5. d) The appeal should be heard and decided very promptly.
  6. e) On the appeal, the TDSB should have the burden to prove that the refusal to admit was justified, that it went no further and lasted no longer than was necessary, and that proper alternative education programming was provided or offered.
  7. f) A decision on the appeal should promptly be provided in writing with reasons.
Accountability and Transparency of TDSB’s Refusals to Admit
  1. The policy should include:
  2. a) TDSB should set a unique code for marking attendance for a student who is absent from school for all or part of a day due to a refusal to admit.
  3. g) Each principal should be required to immediately report to their superiors in writing whenever a student is excluded from school, including the student’s name, whether the student has special education needs or otherwise has a disability, the reason for the exclusion, the intended duration of the exclusion, and the substitute educational programming that will be provided to the student while excluded from school.
  4. c) TDSB should centrally collect these reports.
  5. d) TDSB should make public quarterly aggregated data (without any names or identifying information) on the number of refusals to admit, reasons for them, percentage that involve , students with special education needs or any kind of disability, the number of days missed from school, and measures to provide alternative education during refusals to admit.
Funding for Emergency Disability Accommodation Needs
  1. To help ensure that refusals to admit are not used due to a failure to accommodate a student’s disability up to the point of undue hardship, the TDSB should create an emergency fund for accelerating education disability accommodations needed to facilitate a student’s remaining at or promptly returning to school, in connection with an actual or contemplated refusal to admit.

Interim Safeguards

Starting immediately, and until a new refusal to admit policy is approved, TDSB should require that any formal or informal refusal to admit a student be in writing, with reasons for it, and with the student’s family being told of their right to appeal under the existing TDSB appeal procedure. TDSB should require that any refusals to admit during this period be centrally reported in writing, with statistics reported quarterly to the Board, the public and SEAC.



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