Our last article discussed the Kindergarten to Grade Twelve (K-12) AODA Education Standards Committee’s recommendations for limiting school exclusions of students with disabilities. In this article, we explore the Committee’s recommendations for fair procedures when these exclusions are needed.
Fair Procedures for School Exclusions of Students with Disabilities
Exclusion procedures should include protection for students and families, similar to procedures for suspending or expelling students. The school board superintendent should assess the board’s grounds for exclusion, and its alternative education plan for the student. In addition, the assessment should verify whether the proposed exclusion complies with the board’s exclusion policy. Based on this assessment, the superintendent should approve each exclusion before it takes place, or approve an existing exclusion as soon as possible.
Likewise, the school board’s director, or their designate, should approve any exclusion lasting for fifteen (15) out of thirty (30) days. The superintendent and principal should then sign a letter alerting the family to:
- The reason for the exclusion
- How long the exclusion will be
- The process for reviewing the exclusion
- The right to an appeal
- Steps for ensuring alternative education, and a swift return to school, with a timeline
To ensure that all parents understand this information, the letter should be:
- Translated, if needed
- In plain language
- Available in accessible formats
During the exclusion, families should continue to meet with the school board to plan appropriate accommodations for the student’s return to school.
Process to Appeal Exclusions
In addition, school boards should have processes allowing families to appeal their child’s exclusion from school. School boards should allow parents or guardians to start an appeal at any time during the exclusion.
Moreover, there should be no time limit for:
- The appeal, as a whole
- Appeal hearings
- Parents’ or guardians’ oral presentations during hearings
After parents or guardians begin the appeal process, the school board should write a report outlining:
- Reasons for the exclusion
- Plans for the student’s return to school
- Other relevant details
The school board should then hold a pre-appeal meeting with the family to attempt to resolve the exclusion. At this meeting, school board staff explain the appeal procedure and provide the family with any information they require.
Within fifteen (15) business days of parents’ or guardians’ notice of appeal, the board of trustees should hold an appeal hearing. However, families and school board staff can agree to extend this time limit. In a hearing, school staff should first explain why the exclusion is needed and should continue. In contrast, parents or guardians should then provide evidence explaining why the exclusion should end. Nonetheless, it is the school board’s responsibility to convince the board of trustees that the exclusion is needed and should continue. The entire board of trustees then votes to determine the outcome of the appeal.
If the board of trustees votes in favour of the school board, families can appeal to other authorities, including:
- A mediator
- An expert tribunal
These procedures will ensure that students return to school quickly.