"So many dreams at first seem impossible. And then they seem improbable. And then when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable."
~ Christopher Reeve

Monday, August 13, 2007

Special Ed For Les Francais

A new decision was released today from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court concerning the provision of special education for French students in the Province.

Samuel Shaun Dauphinee, whom a CJAD article states has "hyperactivity disorder", had to attend Churchill Academy in Dartmouth, N.S., in English because there were no similar alternatives offered in French. Mr. Justice Boudreau found this unacceptable and although he stopped short of advocating the province set up francophone, private-sector schools for children with autism and hyperactivity disorders, he sated that he could see "no reason why the department should not investigate, as part of its tuition support program, what services could assist Conseil Scholaire Acadien Provincial students with special needs."

Under the current tuition assistance support program, brought in by the Nova Scotia government three years ago, parents are provided with up to $5,500 $6,400 if it is determined that a private school would be the best service for their children. As always, the rub lies in who makes that determination.

The Dauphinee family was seeking to be reimbursed for a portion of the $47,500 in fees they paid for their son's education. The court awarded them the sum of $9,500 but refused much of the remaining claim, saying the family failed to use existing procedures to make the case to the school board that the private-school education was necessary. I haven't yet had the chance to read the actual decision but that's likely a reference to the fact that the family failed to follow the appeal procedure set up for when parents and school boards disagree as to whether a private school is necessary for the student's education.


UPDATE: The CBC News write-up gives more information on the French angle - Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms sets out the rights of minority francophones in Canada to receive an education in that language. The court in Dauphinee found that the Province (the Dept. of Education) violated Sec. 23 in that French students are not treated as equal to or equivalent to the English majority. In other words, the Province cannot legitimately take the stance that it's not their fault if there are no French private schools in the province.

The court stated that the Province "... must act to see what, if any, French first-language schools ... can be designated for inclusion under the present tuition support program" and suggested the possibility of appropriate French schools in other jurisdictions such as New Brunswick or Quebec being designated as such.

Update II: The Province has currently made provision for two different programs. The Tuition Support program has the Province providing funding to a "designated special education private school" [currently there are only three in the Province] for one year with an option to renew for an additional consecutive year for students with special needs who meet the eligibility criteria and are approved pursuant to the Regulations under the Education Act. The amount of funding provided is calculated as the average per student allocation to school boards, which for 2007-2008 is $6,400. Students must have received services under an IPP in a public school within the Province for the preceeding school year in order to be eligible. A full list of the eligibility requirements can be found here.

In contrast, under the Tuition Assistance program, the relevant school board covers the full cost of tuition at a private school for the special needs student. However, in this scenario, "the program planning team, of which the student’s parents are members, and the school board staff [must] have determined that the student’s needs for learning cannot be met within the board’s system". This also involves the school board finding that it has "explored all opportunities to realign,reallocate or change the delivery of services within the school board to meed the needs of the student". From ancedotal experience, parents who have tried to get a school board to agree to provide Tuition Assistance have found this to be an uphill battle, at best. And that assessment is likely being charitable. To the school boards.

Although no information is provided on the Tuition Assistance program on the Department's website, Guidelines issued by the Department in 1997 are reproduced in the Dauphinee decision.

1 comment:

unkawill said...

Congratulation's are in order, young lady!

Good for you!

BlogMeister, humm, I like the sound of that!

Welcome to the Sphere.