The recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that denying special education services is discrimination will forever change how school boards view special education.
As stated in the decision: “Adequate special education is not a dispensable luxury. For those with severe learning disabilities, it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children in British Columbia.”
The case centred around Jeffrey Moore, a severely dyslexic student who lost access to special-education services when the North Vancouver school district closed its diagnostic centre. The Supreme Court justices ruled this was discrimination.
Despite budgetary constraints, the school district was required to provide special-education services.
The direction to school boards is clear. Human rights cannot be compromised due to budgetary goals. Accommodation is not a question of mere efficiency, nor can it be compromised for district initiatives. “Specialized and discretionary initiatives cannot be compared with the accommodations necessary in order to make the core curriculum accessible to severely learning disabled students.”
Though the province was not found responsible for discrimination, it was noted that there was inadequate funding provided by the provincial government for special-education services.
Specifically, the decision states that: “the District’s budgetary crisis was created, at least in part, by the Province’s funding shortfalls.” What the Moore family had to endure is not isolated, as parents of children with special needs often face roadblocks to support.
It’s unfortunate, though, that local and provincial government would rather spend more funds fighting the parents of vulnerable children in court than adequately addressing the child’s needs. Hopefully, the suffering most parents of children with special needs go through will end, and school boards and the provincial government will treat special education as a human right rather than a dispensable program.
The courts have given them few other options.