Kingston Community Legal Clinic has partnered with the Eastern & Central Transformation Project to provide education law services in Kingston as well as the catchment areas of partnering legal clinics. Matters covered by this project include expulsions, suspensions and special education.
Who do you help?
We help any student who attends or wants to attend primary or secondary school (Kindergarten to Grade 12) in City of Kingston, Townships of South Frontenac and Frontenac Islands. If you live outside of this geographical areas, please contact your local legal clinic to see if they can serve you or if a referral to Kingston Community Legal Clinic would be considered.
How do I get help?
Call Reception at Kingston Community Legal Clinic, (613) 541-0777 extension 0 to complete the intake process.
How much does it cost?
There is no charge for any legal services provided. On rare occasions, we ask that clients cover fees such as court filing costs, but those would be discussed before they are incurred.
Are you sure you can help? The school says they have to follow policy.
School policy is not binding law — in fact, always following policy instead of using case-by-case discretion is against the law. There also can be human rights concerns, which can trump most laws. School staff, while well-versed in how the education system works, are sometimes not fully familiar with the laws.
Why should I fight the suspension?
The quality of education a student receives diminishes with each missed school day. Research has shown that a student missing 20 days of school will receive roughly a 10% lower grade than they would have otherwise (for example, an A could go to a B, or a B to a C). Their behaviour, on average, does not improve after a suspension either.
The suspension is already over. Should I still fight it?
One good reason to challenge a suspension, even if it’s already over and done with, is that schools use a progressive discipline approach. Previous suspensions on record means that discipline in the future will be more harsh. Another is students with exceptional needs are suspended at a far higher rate than those without. Fighting a suspension can be a good first step to working with the school to get the proper accommodations a student needs.
I’m past the deadline for challenging the suspension/expulsion, is it too late?
Not necessarily. Schools sometimes do not properly provide students and parents the correct information required by law when they discipline students. This can push back deadlines. Also, there can be other good reasons to extend the deadline, such as accommodating a parent who may have good reasons why they could not respond in time.
Accommodation of Exceptional Needs
Does the school have to provide support for special education?
When someone provides a service to the public, they have a legal duty to do it in a way that doesn’t impact protected groups unfairly. This does not mean that everyone is delivered services in the exact same way — for example, giving the exact same written test to everyone isn’t fair to someone with visual impairment.
The goal is to give everyone the same quality of education. Different students have different needs to achieve that same quality.
What if the school doesn’t have the resources?
This legal duty to accommodate does have a catch. They have the duty to accommodate “to the point of undue hardship.” Undue hardship can mean a financial burden, or it can be for a different reason, such as if a student’s behaviour is a serious danger to classmates or staff). What amounts to undue hardship varies from case to case, so it is important to get legal consultation when it is an issue.
Does the school have to accommodate my child in kindergarten?
Yes. While schools do not have to offer kindergarten, if they do, they must do so in a non-discriminatory fashion.
Can I get a one-on-one Educational Assistant (EA) for my child? Can I get the same EA as they had last year?
Maybe. Schools are given a lot of discretion in how they educate children, as long as they are meeting their needs. Some children’s needs do reach the level of requiring one-on-one attention. However, being able to get the same EA over a long period of time is unlikely.
Other Common Issues
I am being bullied at school, what can I do?
All schools and school boards are required to have policy and training to deal with bullying. If they are not promptly or satisfactorily addressing the issue, please contact the Legal Clinic for help.
Does the school have to provide transportation to and from school?
No. School boards have wide latitude in whether to provide transportation, and how. If they do provide transportation, they of course have to do so in a non-discriminatory manner — for example, they cannot refuse because a student is in a wheelchair. Also, school boards will have a policy on how they handle transportation, which can help if they are not following it.
My child isn’t being suspended, but they are hardly in class. They are constantly in the hall, or the resource room, or the principal’s office, or being sent home early. Is there anything we can do?
While these actions can be legitimate if used sparingly, schools still do have a duty to educate students. If this is occurring often and there is no plan to fix it, then please contact the Legal Clinic for help.