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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 18, Number 4, January/February 2006

Special needs tribunal

A recent human rights judgment could have a profound impact on the provision of services to students with special needs in BC. A Human Rights Tribunal ordered compensation for the family of a North Vancouver student with a severe learning disability, but went much further and directed the ministry and the school district to make significant changes in providing services.

The compensation for the family includes cost of a tutor, tuition at private schools that specialize in learning disabilities, transportation to the schools, and the cost of expert advice for the Human Rights hearing. The tribunal also ordered the ministry, within one year, to:

  1. make available funding for SLD students at actual incidence levels [this refers to a cap on the number of high incidence, low cost that would be funded under the old targeted special education funding system].
  2. establish mechanisms for determining that the support and accommodation services provided to SLD students in the province are appropriate and meet the stated goals of the School Act and the Special Needs Student Order.
  3. ensure that all districts have in place early-intervention programs so that SLD students can be identified early and appropriate intensive remediation services provided.
  4. ensure that all school districts have in place a range of services to meet the needs of SLD students.

The tribunal ordered the North Vancouver School District to have the last three of these items in place within a year.

These orders apply specifically to severe learning disabilities. However, if this judgment is upheld in expected appeals to the courts, one could expect that parents of students with many other special needs might seek the help of human rights tribunals in getting adequate supports in the public schools for meeting their child’s special needs.

– Larry Kuehn

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