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A lesson learned

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sometimes a decision is reasonable but the reasons provided are inadequate.

Ryan’s children went to a school slated for closure at the end of the school year. The school district informed Ryan that the following year his children would attend another local elementary school, which was about four kilometres from their home. Ryan requested a district transfer to a school that was walking distance from home but his request was denied.

Ryan escalated the issue to the school district superintendent but was told that he would not overturn the decision because staff had appropriately applied the district’s catchment policy. He also denied Ryan’s request for the Board to consider changing its catchment boundaries. The letter he received from the Board denying his appeal did not provide him with adequate reasons for their decision.

Frustrated, Ryan called us for assistance.

We investigated whether the Board provided adequate reasons for its appeal decision.

The written explanation of the Board’s decision should include the information it relied on to make its decision and to connect the decision with that information.

In Ryan’s situation, the reasons and information provided by the Board were not sufficient. As such, we raised our concerns about the adequacy of the Board’s decision.

The concerns raised were passed on to the Board which resulted in Ryan receiving a second letter. This letter acknowledged his concerns, referenced the evidence considered, and explained how the Board arrived at its decision based on the evidence provided. The Board also clarified that the information Ryan provided did not demonstrate that the school decision would have affected the health, safety or education of his children.

As the steps the Board took were adequate to settle the fairness issues identified, and as this new information established that the underlying decision was reasonable, we concluded our investigation.