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.