It would appear that parents are willing to seek judicial review to have their child remain in a particular school, even when it might not be safe.
That was the situation resulting in a January 3, 2012 decision of the Divisional Court regarding a Peel District School Board family. The parent of two elementary aged students had received threatening emails from a computer in their child’s elementary school, which also threatened the students. Following an inconclusive investigation, which involved police, the principal and senior administration made the decision to move the students to another school. The parents sought an injunction to keep their children at the school, despite the safety issue.
While there have been cases in the past where parents have sought to have their child attend a particular school, I am not aware of any cases where they did so in the face of such a safety concern.
Generally the Ontario Courts have accepted that a school board’s students do not have a right to attend a particular school and that school boards have the right to place students at a school that they deem appropriate.
The Court upheld the decision of the Board to move the children as being “reasonable” - the standard of review for the decision made. The Divisional Court’s application of the standard of reasonableness supports the position of school boards that they have expertise in educating children and their decisions should receive some deference from the Courts.
This decision also highlights the significance of students attending their local school. Many parents feel that it is a right to attend their local school, even in circumstances when it is not appropriate. The elevation of a desire to attend a local school to a “right” in the minds of parents means that decisions to move students that are initiated by school boards must be done very carefully and in circumstances where there are reasonable programming or safety grounds to require such a move.
The decision also supports the impression, which many educators express, that parents are becoming increasinly litigious. Certainly, the number of human rights applications that parents are brining would support such a conclusion. This impression may be impacting the decisions made or the interactions that take place between administrators and parents.
Providing administrators with updated professional development about the law in the education sectors so that they can appreciate the various legal issues that they might encounter as principals is one method of reducing communication issues between administrators and parents as well as reducing the anxiety level of administrators in the age of increasinly litigious parents.
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