SCC’s legal precedent re Jeffrey Moore that schools provide remedies for LD

Image credit CP Adrian Wyld.

Finally!  As this article by Tamsyn Burgmann of the Canadian Press explains, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the treatment Jeffrey Moore received while a student in the B.C. North Vancouver School Board fifteen years ago, was discriminatory.

And, by setting such a legal precedent, the SCC has, in effect, ensured that school boards across Canada must start providing the best possible remedies for learning disabilities.  No, not some type of “a” program or service, but “the” most appropriate.

As a result, parents can now insist and expect all provincial and territorial governments to provide adequate special education resources to school boards. They can also expect their public school boards to use their special education grants for what they are intended — to provide children with identified learning disabilities the specialized services and accommodations they need.

In brief, Jeffrey Moore (now aged 25),  did not have adequate reading skills by the end of Grade 3. That fact was confirmed when the B.C. North Vancouver school board referred him to a diagnostic centre for special attention. Yet, that centre was shut down even before Jeffrey could enrol, requiring his parents to re-mortgage their home in order to send him to a private school that was geared to helping children with learning disabilities.

However, kudos to the Moore family! They did what most families don’t. They fought back for fifteen long years!

First, in the early 1990s, they took their case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. That fight went on until 2005 at which time the Tribunal awarded the family the cost of the private school tuition, half the cost of transportation and $10,000 in damages. However, unbelievably, the B.C. Supreme Court overturned that decision which was also upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Yet, the family persevered and yesterday, on November 9th, 2012, the SCC ruled in their favour unanimously, in a 9-0 vote! Thankfully, the court not only restored the 2005 Human Rights tribunal’s award of tuition, transport and damages, it also awarded court costs.

The importance of the SCC decision:

As a former reading and dyslexia specialist I can say this: reading involves two separate learning processes. The first stage is called the “learning to read” phase and involves learning the alphabet, the sounds and structures of the English language, recognizing words and phrases and then being able to put those words and phrases into complete sentences.

Key, however, is that all that learning-to-read is done in Grades 1, 2 and 3 and has to be automatic before going into Grade 4 because that is when children traditionally move into the “reading to learn” stage — when the emphasis is on such comprehension skills as finding the main ideas, making inferences, drawing conclusions and so on. In other words, if a child does not have the skills to read-to-learn by Grade 4, they are never going to get them without intervention.

Are interventions expensive for taxpayers? As a conservative leaning person, I recognize they are costly initially. But, when you look at the long-term picture, they are not. As regular readers of CotM know, I used to operate a private special education practice (while also teaching university) for children, youth and adults who had learning disabilities, usually related to reading and writing.

Occasionally, as I did recently, I am able to find out what some of them did with their lives after they left my coaching.  One fellow, now in his forties, needed interventions when he was in high school because he had never fully grasped those reading skills I mentioned above due to his dyslexia. His intervention program was a struggle but he persevered. And, now, he proves the truth that interventions early in life are not expensive in the long run.  For instance, after he graduated from high school, he went through an apprenticeship program to becoming a very successful Honda mechanic. Now he actually owns his own franchise and employs some 15 other Canadians!

The crux of the matter is, however, that the top court has provided a legal avenue for parents who expect special education programming to fit their child’s assessed learning needs — and school boards do not provide it. For that avenue, we can all thank Rick and Jeffrey Moore!


Endnote: While I am retired from regular blogging, I will still occasionally post on particularly important subjects. This is definitely one of those topics.

6 thoughts on “SCC’s legal precedent re Jeffrey Moore that schools provide remedies for LD

  1. You wrote: “Are interventions expensive for taxpayers? As a conservative leaning person, I recognize they are costly initially. But, when you look at the long-term picture, they are not. ”

    The sentiment that you express here is one reason why I think of you as a *real* conservative–or perhaps, a “progressive conservative” (a term that is not actually oxymoronic, once you look into it further).

    If more conservatives seemed to think like you when it came to public spending, I might be a conservative.

    You seem to think of spending as a long term thing. You seem to think of it as an investment. And, over the longterm, investments must be “smart”.

    That makes a lot of sense.

    I’m glad that the SCC recognized this.


  2. Anon1152, thanks for the very positive feedback. I believe you are right about progressive conservative views. Unfortunately, the word progressive has become contaminated. Perhaps we could find a different term. Compassionate combined with conservative is not liked either because George Bush junior used it. Insightful conservatism? Thoughtful conservatism? Balanced or integrated conservatism?


  3. The other thing is that not all conservatives think alike. There are social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. I tend to be a fiscal conservative but not rigidly so. As you say Anon1152, we need to consider smart investments or long-term investments. I mean education funding in general is an investment in the future but it has to be seen as proactive. Giving more $$$ for ever increasing teacher benefits not so much. Yes, by all means, we should pay our teachers fairly, but not at the expense of what the kids need. It would be interesting to check out just how much of the Alberta education budget actually went to teachers versus the kids. I mean, when they list improvements to English as a Second Language or Early Childhood Services, how will those monies be spent — by hiring more teachers? Buying more resources for the kids? A bit of both? Good. There’s that balanced conservatism again!!


  4. I find it hard to distinguish between the money spent on teachers and the money spent on the kids. I know there is a distinction there to make in principle. But I think it’s harder to make in practice. The best teachers out there could probably make more money doing something else, and would (I think) need financial incentives.

    But on this issue, on the whole, I think we agree.


  5. Pingback: SCC legal precedent re Jeffrey Moore that schools provide remedies for LD | Jack's Newswatch

  6. Anon1152 — Most of the money spent on education is for teachers or administrators or capital projects. Take for instance, the line in the Alberta budget about reducing pupil teacher ratio — that is only about the hiring of more teachers.

    Yet, there are areas that should be about the students specifically like special education resources, the purchasing of computers, capital projects to build new classrooms and have new tables and shelves, etc. for full-day JK (in Ontario) and so on.

    So, in this post we have the SCC demanding that Boards accommodate the children who have learning disabilities. What that means in practical terms is more technical aids and interventions (which are taught by teachers or teaching assistants) which means more professionals — which I’m for if it helps the kids.


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