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Overlooking key information

Friday, November 15, 2019

This unfair decision led to the discovery of missed information and a decision was overturned.

Isabella was helping friends who had recently immigrated to Canada and had attempted to register their three children in school. The family was told by the school district that their children were ineligible for enrollment because they did not fall within the definition of “ordinarily resident” as outlined in the School Act. The family was told that they would have to enroll as international students and pay a fee of $12,000 per child.

Isabella felt strongly that her friends’ circumstances met the criteria for “ordinarily resident” under the Ministry of Education’s Eligibility of Students for Operating Grant Funding policy and reported this issue to the district’s Assistant Superintendent, but was unsatisfied with the response she received.

Believing the school district’s decision to be unfair, Isabella contacted us for help.

We investigated whether the school district followed a reasonable procedure for determining that Isabella’s friends’ circumstances did not fall within the definition of “ordinarily resident”.

The School Act states that a board must provide free of charge to every student of school age resident in British Columbia and enrolled in an educational program in a school operated by the board, instruction in an educational program. The Act goes on to say that a student is a resident in British Columbia if the student and the guardian of the student are ordinarily resident in British Columbia.

While the Act does not define the term “ordinarily resident”, the ministry states in the policy that boards of education must determine, in a fair and even-handed manner, whether an applicant falls within the common law meaning of “ordinarily resident”.

Based on the information Isabella provided to the district in support of the family’s enrollment application, it appeared that the criteria applied. We contacted the Superintendent to ask for more information about how the district made its decision in determining that the family did not fall within the definition of “ordinarily resident” and were therefore not eligible for operating grant funding. The district had over-weighed the family’s immigration status in its determination of “ordinarily resident”.

The district Superintendent informed us that they reviewed the information Isabella had provided on behalf of her friends. He also admitted that that the district discovered it had missed an additional submission Isabella had provided. Due to the error, the district reconsidered the family’s enrollment application, including reviewing the new information Isabella had provided that was missed, and determined that they met the definition of “ordinarily resident”.

The Superintendent indicated that the district contacted both Isabella and her friends to let them know what had happened and to confirm the children’s enrollment in the school.