Parents whose children have special needs are often made to put a great deal of trust in the school system when it comes to providing care for their children. Occasionally, parents may not agree with the steps taken by the school with their children. While it seems obvious that the school and its administrators should be held accountable for what teachers do, a pair of Alberta parents also claimed the Minister of Education should be held responsible for what happens inside the walls of a school. The question as to whether that is the case was recently addressed by the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
The incident leading to the litigation occurred on September 23, 2015. The defendants were teachers who placed two students, including one with special needs (“the child”), in an isolation room at their high school. The child’s parents did not give the school permission to do this. They sued the teachers involved as well as the principal and assistant principal of the school. They also sued the school region’s Board of Trustees, the Boar’s superintendent, and the Minister of Education. There was a list of claims, including Charter infringements.
Can the Minister of Education be held responsible?
The issue before the court was whether the Minister of Education (“the Minister”) can be held responsible for the actions of school employees. The parents claimed the Minister was “endowed with responsibilities imposed by the Act, and were required to exercise their duties and responsibilities in compliance with the Charter …”.
Is there a legislated responsibility?
However, the court found that the School Act imposes no such duty on the Minister in terms of the acts of employees of the province’s schools. The court noted that a school board is a corporation, with a separate legal status from the province’s Ministry of Education. The Board would be considered a “state actor” as defined by the Charter, but the question was whether the plaintiffs have “a reasonable cause of action against the Minister for Charter breaches allegedly committed by another state actor and its employees for acts over which the Minister has no control.”
The court concluded there was no arguable cause of action. The plaintiffs did not identify any act on the part of the Minister that breaches any duty owed by them or imposed on them by the School Act. The court noted that there may be a cause of action against the school board and its employees.
The Advocacy Team at HMC Lawyers has litigated successfully on behalf of individual and corporate clients in all manner of commercial and civil disputes, against some of Canada’s largest national law firms.
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