2001 – School Boards Increase Pressure

February 21, 2001

During the past several weeks, OFTP has received many calls from members and non-members concerning demands to comply with monitoring of home education programs by school boards. To us, the intimidation tactics are obvious. Here are some excerpts from a letter sent to a home educating family in the York region by the attendance services:

In my letter to you dated January 17, 2001 I included the brochure "Satisfactory Instruction at Home - Home Schooling Guidelines for Parents" and I asked you to return the form “Statement of Intent for Satisfactory Instruction at Home’. As you have chosen not to provide the school or myself with the necessary documentation for satisfactory home instruction I have no alternative but to provide you with a Court Warning letter. As you mentioned in your letter a child is required to attend school but can be excused from attendance under Section 21(2)b if, the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere. In a recent communication from the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor (Jim Sebastian) he indicated that:

"A board decides to excuse a child based on parent response to the school board’s policy and procedures on homeschooling. This decision is based on evidence provided by the parent that the instruction being provided is satisfactory. For example, the board may request curriculum plans, resources used for Instruction, samples of child’s work. In order for a board to make such a decision, there must be some parental response to the board’s policies and procedures.

In cases where there is no response at all from the parent, and the board, therefore, decides that it cannot make a decision to excuse the child, further action must be taken at the board level. The board may deal with the matter under 30(1) of Education Act or under the habitual absence section of the Act (30(5))."

I am writing to give formal warning to you that unless (student's name) immediately resumes regular school attendance, I will refer the matter to the Courts. This is in accordance with Section 30 of the Education Act, which states:

30 (1) A parent or guardian of a child of compulsory school age who neglects or refuses to cause the child to attend school is, unless the child is legally excused from attendance, guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $200.

30 (2) The court may in addition to or instead of imposing a fine, require a person convicted of an offence under subsection (1) to submit to the Treasurer of Ontario a personal bond, in a form prescribed by the court, in the penal sum of $200 with one or more sureties as required, conditioned that the person shall cause the child to attend school as required by this Part, and upon breach of the condition the bond is forfeited to the Crown.

30 (5) A child who is required by law to attend school and who refuses to attend or who is habitually absent from school is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to the penalties under Part VI of the Provincial Offence Act and subsection 286(2) of this Act applies in any proceeding under this section.

Your attention is directed to the following provision of the Education Act:

24 (2) Where the parent or guardian of a child considers that the child is excused from attendance at school under subsection 21(2), and the appropriate school attendance counsellor or the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor is of the opinion that the child should not be excused from attendance, the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor shall direct that an inquiry be made as to the validity of the reason or excuse for non-attendance and the other relevant circumstances, and for such purpose shall appoint one af more persons who are not employees of the board that operates the school that the child has the right to attend to conduct a hearing and to report to the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor the result of the inquiry and may, by order in writing signed by him or her, direct that the child, (a) be excused from attendance at school; or (b) attend school.

And a copy of the order shall be delivered to the board and to the parent or guardian of the child.

I am asking you to reconsider and to complete the forms so that Court action is not necessary. I have attached the Intention form to this letter. If the school or myself receive no response by the end of February I will consult with my Supervisor in order to proceed to court. If you require assistance completing the forms please contact myself or the school Principal.

A Brief History of Court Cases

Here is a brief history of some of the court dealings of School Boards in Ontario with Home Learners:

In 1979, the MET and Lambton County lose a court case.

In 1981, the MET responds with the "Suggested Criteria for Determining Satisfactory Instruction"

At least 5, maybe more, "satisfactory instruction" inquiries are conducted in the mid 1980's. The MET loses all of them.

Attendance counsellors change until Gary Diamond assumes the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor's Chair.

The MET suggests school boards issue truancy charges. About 7 known cases are brought before the courts in the early 90's. School boards lose or ignore the results of them all.

The MET tries more "satisfactory instruction" inquiries. OFTP gets Chris Corkery on board and along with HSLDA/OCHEC is successful in defending all of them.

OFTP files a complaint with the Ombudsman in 1998. The Ombudsman declines to hear the complaint. Enough attention is attracted that a series of meetings are held and a "Home Schooling Successful Practices" guideline is drafted. It meets stiff resistance with certain school board and MET people.

MET influences all ministries with the idea that control of education belongs to them. See Ontario Works Directive 18 [historical note: this is no longer the number of the directive regarding school attendance of dependent children], SHSS policy statement that boards approve home schooling programs. (Letter on file from Minister Snobelen.)

MET private endorsement of the Johnson Memorandum to school boards. 2000/2001 - MET attempts new tactic - Section 26 of Education Act being used (a pick up from Tony Brown's opinion (June 24, 1992) to Malcolm Powell when he was PSAC) - failure to attend school letters and charges by school boards.

First case Feb. 27, 2001, Cambridge, Ont.

All of the above seem to us to have nothing to do with money or the welfare of the child.

It is a matter of POWER & AUTHORITY.