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Advocates allowed

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Demonstrating some flexibility is often enough to resolve a procedural logjam.

Kim disagreed with School District 68’s decision to restrict her son, Ben, to part-time attendance at school as part of the District’s plan to better integrate Ben into the school environment. Kim scheduled an appeal hearing with the Board of Trustees but complained that the District was unfairly limiting the number of advocates that she could have attend and speak on Ben’s behalf. Kim had asked for three advocates to attend the hearing but the District told her they would only permit two. She also wanted two of the advocates to speak on Ben’s behalf but was told that only she and her husband or an advocate would be allowed to speak.

Kim asked the School District to explain the reasons for its decision and after receiving the District’s response, Kim contacted us for help.

The focus of our investigation was whether the School District followed a fair process in responding to Kim’s requests and whether it provided adequate reasons for their decisions.

We reviewed the relevant provisions of the School Act and related School District Bylaw and Administrative Procedures. We also spoke to the School District’s Secretary Treasurer about the Bylaw and Administrative Procedures.

The School District told us there were concerns about the family’s privacy if too many advocates attended the hearing. We questioned whether this explanation was reasonable because the proposed attendees had been present at earlier stages of the appeal process and were otherwise involved with the family’s appeal.

Based on the correspondence we reviewed, we did not think the School District had provided Kim with adequate reasons for the decisions made regarding the appeal hearing restrictions.

Following our conversation, the Secretary Treasurer told us that the District reconsidered the issues and decided that Kim could have additional support people at the hearing within reason and that one additional representative would be permitted to speak at the hearing in addition to Kim and her husband. The Secretary Treasurer also said she would write to Kim with a clear explanation of these decisions.

As the District reconsidered its decisions in line with what their policy permitted and what was reasonable in the circumstances and clearly explained its decisions to Kim, we were satisfied the fairness issues we identified were addressed.