Comments on Satisfactory Instruction

1. As we know, inquiries can be requested by school boards and conducted by the ministry. They must be conducted under Section 24(2) of the Education Act. This allows the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor (PSAC) to appoint one or more persons who are not employees of the board that operates the school that the child in question has the right to attend. When a parent/guardian of a child has informed the school or school board that the child will not be attending school because, "the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere," Section 21(2)(a)., the child is legally "excused" from attendance at school. Thus truancy charges under Section 30 do not apply. A "satisfactory instruction" inquiry may be called when there is an opposite opinion from the parent/guardian.

2. In 1981, the Ministry of Education and Training ( MET ) issued the Johnson memorandum, "Suggested Criteria to Determine Satisfactory Instruction," to school boards to use as a basis for formulating "home schooling" policy. It would also serve as a useful document in any subsequent inquiry. It has been used extensively to both ends. The format of inquiries have changed over the years. In the 1980's it was common to see a three person tribunal to oversee these. To conserve costs, the MET has adopted the one person inquiry in the recent past and present practice. Nevertheless, the criteria in the Johnson memorandum have always been used and are still being used in these inquiries.

3. Of important note: neither this Johnson Memorandum nor any other document on home schooling has ever been approved by our elected officials. There is no "official" policy on home schooling in Ontario.

Web Editor's Note: This is no longer true. We now have PPM131.

4. The MET bureaucrats have not sanctioned any guidelines or approach to home schooling  other than what is found in the Johnson memorandum.

5. "Compelling Interest & Due Diligence"  These two phrases are, in effect, the same. Yes, the MET and school board officials are responsible for the education of all those between the ages of 6 and 16 in their jurisdiction. When home schooling is the option parents choose under Section 21(2)(a) and the school board is made aware of this, the school board may exercise its compelling interest/ due diligence, if it disagrees, using Section 24(2). However, the school board must treat all equally under the Charter of Rights & Freedoms. The board shall not ask more of those parents who choose home schooling versus those parents who choose private schools. All are excused under the same section of the Education Act.

6. Must all inquiries be conducted the same way? I do not know. I do know that school board and MET officials have no right to enter your home unless you invite them or unless they have a warrant from a court. Should you cooperate with them? To the extent of answering their questions honestly, yes. Should you have a witness or other representative with you when school board or MET people visit & talk to you? At least for now, yes.

7. Does OFTP provide legal counsel? Yes, Chris Corkery has agreed to act on behalf of OFTP member families requiring help. Please be advised, however, to work out a cost sharing agreement with OFTP and the lawyer.

Topics: Satisfactory Instruction