Special education in Ontario

In Ontario, the Education Act and its accompanying regulations set out a framework for identifying and accommodating the needs of “exceptional pupils” in the province’s publicly-funded primary and secondary school system.

Under the Act, school boards have a duty to provide (or enter into an agreement with another board to provide) “special education programs” and “special education services” to its exceptional pupils. The Minister of Education and Training has a variety of related duties, including the duty to ensure that all exceptional children in Ontario have available to them appropriate special education programs and special education services without having to pay fees.

An “exceptional pupil” is defined as “a pupil whose behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or she is considered to need placement in a special education program.” A “special education program” is defined as “an educational program that is based on and modified by the results of continuous assessment and evaluation and that includes a plan containing specific objectives and an outline of educational services that meets the needs of the exceptional pupil.” Finally, “special education services” are defined as “facilities and resources, including support personnel and equipment, necessary for developing and implementing a special education program.”

Exceptional pupils are identified through a meeting of a school board Identification Placement and Review Committee (IPRC). The IPRC decides whether a student should be identified as exceptional, the nature of the student’s exceptionalities and the appropriate placement for the student. The IRPC reviews the identification and placement once a year.

Parents can submit a written request to their child’s school principal to arrange an IPRC meeting, OR the principal can refer the student to an IPRC meeting but needs to provide written notice to parents notifying them of when the IPRC will meet.

If the parent does not agree with either the identification or placement decision made by the IPRC, he or she may:

  • Within 30 days of receipt of the decision, file a notice of appeal withthe secretary of the board
  • Within 15 days of receipt of the decision, request that the IPRC hold a second meeting to discuss their concerns. (If the parent does not agree with the decision after the second meeting, he or she may file a notice of appeal within 15 days of receipt of this decision)

Appeal to the Special Education Appeal Board

An appeal of the IPRC decision is heard by a special education appeal board. The appeal board will receive the material reviewed by the IPRC and may interview any persons who may be able to contribute information about the appeal. The parents, and students who are 16 years or older, are allowed to participate in the appeal. Within 3 days of the meeting, the appeal board must make its recommendations. It may agree with the IPRC’s decision or make its own decision about the student’s identification and placement.

The parent may accept the decision of the school board, or may appeal to a Special Education Tribunal. The parent may request a hearing by writing to the secretary of the Special Education Tribunal.

Human Rights & Special Education

It is important to note that the Special Education Tribunal only hears appeals of decisions about identification and placement. The nature of the supports or accommodations that were provided or denied cannot be challenged through a process under the Education Act.

If the disputes involve allegations of discrimination, then an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) may be appropriate. Education service providers have an obligation to provide services in a manner free from discrimination and appropriate accommodations to students with disabilities.

For more information or to make an appointment to discuss your child’s special education needs, contact PooranLaw today.