Bench Press: Special Needs; Special Education - LawNow Magazine

Bench Press: Special Needs; Special Education

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that a British Columbia school district discriminated against a dyslectic student when it did not provide the remedial help he needed at his public school. The child ended up in private school, at great expense to his parents. The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal found that the boy had been denied “a service customarily available to the public”, ordered systemic remedies to be undertaken by the school district and the province, and ordered that the parents be reimbursed their tuition expenses. The Tribunal’s decision was set aside and the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the parents’ appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the Tribunal’s decision. The Court wrote:

“There is no dispute that J.’s dyslexia is a disability. There is equally no question that any adverse impact he suffered is related to his disability. The question then is whether J. has, without reasonable justification, been denied meaningful access to the general education available to all children in British Columbia based on his disability.”

The Court concluded that he had. It ruled that the district did not provide the intensive remediation needed to give him access to the education to which he was entitled. Private school became the only alternative. The Court rejected the District’s argument that it faced a budget crisis. It found that the District had other budgetary options, that cuts were made disproportionately to special needs programs, and that it undertook no assessment of what alternatives could be reasonably available to accommodate special needs students.

Moore v. British Columbia (Education) 2012 SCC 61 (CanLII)


Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell is the former Editor and Legal Writer for LawNow at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

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