The best case scenario would simply be to remind the school district of their obligations. The worst case scenario would involve hiring a lawyer to force them to do what they should have done in the first place. Here is a roadmap to help you get what your child needs.
- It’s very important that you document every communication with the school or school district. Every phone call should be logged, noting who you spoke to and the subject. Emails should be saved and copies made of every letter sent or received. If you have a meeting with school staff, follow up with a summary in writing of what you understood to be said in the meeting and email it to anyone in that meeting.
- Know your rights! You have the right to be meaningfully consulted on your child’s education. Your child also has a right to the accommodations necessary so that they can reach their own personal potential. Read and understand the Hewko and Moore decisions.
- Each school district has written policies and procedures on how to deal with problems and challenging decisions.
- Although policies may have different names, when you disagree with a decision in regards to your child’s education the procedure is to move up to the next level of authority in your school district. You must appeal to each person who is responsible for your child’s education in this order before you move to the next level:
District Administration – who is responsible for special needs supports for your child?
Ministry of Education – Appeal to Superintendent of Achievement
Always be professional and communicate clearly
- Clearly state what you are requesting. Then, why it is important. Give examples of how it can be achieved (how it’s done at home, or how other students elsewhere do it). Use Hewko language (instructional control, meaningful consultation).
- Pick your battles. Determine when you need to get involved. There will be lots of issues – some small and some large – and educators need to understand that when you do approach them with an issue it is important and needs to be dealt with in a timely manner. Also always remember to reinforce good behaviour – are school staff doing something good?
- Always be prepared for meetings. Practice ahead of time. Stay on message. Write the request out, read it, practice it, check it (make sure you know exactly what you are asking, who you are asking and why you are asking for it).
- Emotional? Bring a trusted person with you to meetings. Get someone to review your correspondence to make sure you are not inflammatory and that you are clear in your message.
Keep EVERYTHING in writing
- Take meeting minutes if IEP’s, teacher meetings, meetings with principal or resource teacher
- Email the minutes within a week of the meeting
- Make a written account of conversations and email them to interested parties asking for clarification
Use a deadline for all requests
- “I request that we have a meeting set up for next week, if I do not hear back with a response by Friday November 29th I will consider that a denial of this request.”
- Be willing to escalate in a timely manner if your child’s needs are not being met
Appeals through a Section 11 of the BC School Act:
- All school boards must have appeal procedures to help resolve disputes. The ministry expects that the appeal procedures will be based on principles of administrative fairness, which include the right of students and parents/guardians: to be heard by the school board; to be consulted in decisions affecting them; and to an impartial school board decision based on relevant information.
- A “section 11” is a mechanism to ask the school board of trustees to override a decision by a school employee. Thus it is important to have in writing, who made the decision you disagree with and what you want instead.
- In addition, the School Act provides for an appeal to the Ministry Superintendent of Achievement in certain circumstances.
- All districts should have their appeals procedure published on their website.
Human Rights Tribunal (HRT)
One parent left Coquitlam and moved to Surrey so that her child could access ABA. They took the Coquitlam School district to the Human Rights Tribunal and won. Later, another parent won the right to keep her childs effective EA instead of having to go through a bumping process that would have destabilized her daughter’s education. HRT seems to be a more effective tool than a Section 11. Both can be done without a lawyer, but can be more effective with a lawyer.
Threatening to do either a HRT or Section 11, can affect a better decision for your child.
If you wish to pursue a Human Rights Tribunal ask for help on our Autism Support Network Closed parent group on Facebook.
You can find more resources at BCEdAccess resources.
NOTE – School Boards MUST obey the law and operate in the spirit of Hewko
Be prepared to take the next step! Many parents do access quality education and appropriate support for their children in school and usually with a large amount of advocacy and quite often a lawyer! Remember that the Hewko and Moore parents spent thousands of hours – years of their lives – achieving legal precedent – parents need to be prepared to use it!
ABA in Schools – Autism Support Network activities:
- Supporting parents to access quality ABA support for their children when they enter school by educating parents through presentations, web based videos and by providing one-on-one support.
- Working with government and district administration to communicate the needs of children with autism and their families in order to affect systemic change.
Subscribe to the ASN email to get notices of our presentations. To best understand what ABA can look like in the school system, and to fully understand the right to consultation and the right to have an EA or ABA SW who has instructional control, watch the videos ABA in Schools and Advocacy at https://autismsupportbc.ca/web-series-workshops/.
Please feel free to contact the Autism Support Network at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time if you have any questions or concerns.