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Submission to the Standing Committee on Social Policy regarding Bill 98

May 9, 2023

A.       Introduction

ARCH Disability Law Centre makes the following submissions to the Standing Committee on Social Policy regarding Bill 98, Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, 2023. Due to the very short notice of hearings and the very short time period afforded for making written submissions, these submissions are very limited and do not include all of ARCH’s concerns and recommendations. ARCH wishes to express the importance of a full and fair consultation process on such a significant Bill.

These submissions centre on the following premise, that an education system which prioritizes and creates inclusivity for all students, regardless of varying abilities, will only then be best positioned to ensure that the goals of the Education Act are met – namely that students become highly skilled, knowledgeable, caring, and contributing citizens. In our experience, it remains a constant that leadership at all levels of school boards and schools continue to prioritize and inform their understanding of rights and obligations predominantly through the Education Act, while failing to appropriately understand the application of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the primacy of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (Code)[1], the AODA, and the guidance offered by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Often, this is at great cost to students with disabilities and their families.

About ARCH

ARCH Disability Law Centre is a specialty legal clinic, primarily funded by Legal Aid Ontario, practicing exclusively in disability rights law. For over 40 years, ARCH is dedicated to advancing and defending the equality rights, entitlements, fundamental freedoms, and the inclusion of persons with disabilities. ARCH provides a range of free legal services directly to persons with disabilities across Ontario, including the provision of legal information and summary legal advice, and the representation of persons with disabilities and disability rights organizations in precedent setting cases at all levels of courts and tribunals, including the Supreme Court of Canada. ARCH also conducts an extensive law reform practice, working on a variety of initiatives related to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities. ARCH also offers accessible rights education to disability communities and engages in capacity building and community development initiatives.  

Education law and human rights law continue to be longstanding areas of practice and focus for ARCH, and our priorities include the advancement of human rights in education and the realization of inclusive education for all students in Ontario as articulated in the CRPD)[2]. ARCH continues its extensive work representing clients with disabilities in education related matters by providing summary advice and direct legal representation. ARCH also is engaged in numerous law reform projects and in the ongoing delivery of rights education that advances inclusive and non-discriminatory education services to persons with disabilities. ARCH strongly supported the calls from our communities for an education standard pursuant to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). In addition, ARCH provided fulsome submissions to standard development committees in the development and review of all the accessibility standards pursuant to the AODA[3], and participated in the three Independent reviews of the AODA.[4] ARCH conducts its work directly with our communities and it is the experiences of this work that informs the content of this submission.

More information about our work is available on our website:

B.       Greater School Board Accountability

In ARCH’s submission, Section 2(1) of Schedule 2 should be amended to require the Minister, when setting priorities in education, to concretely address the lack of accountability of school boards in non-compliance of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and the denial of necessary supports and accommodations.

ARCH recommends that:

  • The Bill include a clear articulation of the objective to achieve a fully inclusive education system in Ontario as a fundamental and primary goal.
  • The Ministry shall mandate that any students with disabilities have the right to an Individual Education Plan independent of an Identification Placement and Review Committee or lack thereof, to ensure that school boards provide students with disabilities opportunities to obtain the accommodations or programs and services needed to support their success at school.
  • The Ministry mandate stronger guidelines for the development and implenetation of IEPs in a manner that aligns with the human rights obligations of education service providers.

Apprenticeship Learning

With respect to the proposed power of the Ministry over apprenticeship learning, any policies and guidelines must reflect principles of inclusion and equal access. The duty to accommodate students with disabilities under the Code extends beyond classroom learning. Accommodation plans and IEPs must be followed in apprenticeship learning placements.

ARCH recommends that:

  • The Ministry establish policies and guidelines respecting apprenticeship learning that require inclusive placements for students with disabilities.

Exclusion of Students with Disabilities from Education

In the aforementioned 2018 survey conducted by ARCH and its partners, approximately 45% of respondents stated that at one time or another they had to keep their child home from school as a result of a lack of accommodations or other services. More than half of parents also reported that their child’s day had been shortened, many of them citing reasons that were not related to the student’s needs (e.g. staffing shortages, transportation scheduling issues). These students lost on average 3.86 hours out of a 6 hour school day.[5]

While exclusion takes on many different forms, in our experience section 265 1(m) of the Education Act is the most extreme form of exclusion and segregation and utterly irreconcilable with any path aimed at achieving inclusion. This practice of excluding or threatening to exclude is strictly on the basis of disability, and cannot be accepted in any form if the true goal is to achieve inclusion for all students.

While the legislature deemed fit to amend s. 3(1) of Regulation 474/00 to remove ‘pupils of the school’ from the purview of the regulation, which was being incorrectly interpreted to exclude students with disabilities, section 265 1(m) has now become the vehicle by which this exclusion occurs. Moreover, article 24 2(a) of the CRPD, “prohibits the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the general education system, including any legislative or regulatory provisions that place limits on the inclusion of persons with disabilities on the basis of their impairment or its ‘degree’.[6]

The issue of equal access to school is a long-standing one in the disability community. Children with disabilities have long been excluded from our educational institutions and even now this remains a pervasive problem. As noted above, Article 24 explicitly bans exclusion, yet this remains a significant problem in Ontario.  In the aforementioned 2018 reported survey, 66% of parents felt that their children were excluded from the curriculum that was appropriate for them, and 61% of parents reported that their children were excluded from extra-curricular activities.  62.5% of parents surveyed indicated that their children were receiving alternatives to education as opposed to modified or accommodated education, being denied a fulsome education.[7]

The above report clearly indicates that the exclusion of children from school remains a significant issue in our public school system. This issue is often compounded for racialized students and/or students who experience language and communication barriers. Anecdotally, based on our calls and cases, these students are often excluded both more often and for a longer duration.

ARCH recommends that:

  • The Ministry of Education shall include in regulation a provision that strictly prohibits the use of section 265 (1)(m) to be applied for purposes of excluding students on the basis of their disability and/or the lack of availability of disability related needs and supports.
  • The Ministry of Education shall modify the regulatory provision that allows a school board to shorten a student’s school day (O. Reg. 298 s. 3(3)) to require that this only be used when it is in the best interest of the student. It should also require that the decision to shorten a student’s day be reassessed at a minimum of every two months.

Data Collection

ARCH endorses the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s request that the Ministry of Education mandate data collection as recommended in the Right to Read report. Over and above this, and in light of our submissions on exclusions, any data collection must include instances of exclusions of students with disabilities. An analysis of that data should inform the provision of disability-related supports.

ARCH recommends that:

  1. The Ministry develop reporting requirements for all forms of exclusion, both formal and informal. These requirements should ensure that all withdrawals, absences, exclusions are recorded and forwarded to the Ministry of Education which will anonymize them and make them publicly available. Tracking should include instances where students are informally asked to stay home, where they are excluded via s. 265(1)(m) of the Education Act, where their days are shortened, or where they are sent home due to a lack of appropriate supports.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In our experience, parents and guardians frequently express a great deal of frustration at the fact that no appropriate impartial conflict resolution method exists to deal with many of their complaints, particularly disputes over programming, services, and accommodations.

ARCH recommends that:

  • School boards and other education service providers have an obligation to provide an impartial and expeditious dispute resolution forum to ensure that any concerns regarding services and accommodations are addressed impartially and in a timely manner.
  • The Ministry of Education shall conduct a community consultation in order to inform its development of the alternate dispute resolution process and accompanying advocacy supports.

Code of Conduct

School board trustees are one of the few avenues that parents and guardians have to seek support for issues related to their children’s accommodations. Trustees must be in a position to take strong positions and advocate for inclusion.  

ARCH recommends that:

  • The Ministry establish policies and guidelines setting out training to be completed by board members, directors of education, supervisory officers and superintendents that includes training on discrimination and the duty to accommodate under the Human Rights Code.
  • Section 24 of Schedule 2 [218.3(6)] be amended to: (a) prescribing the qualifications of integrity commissioners which shall include experience and training on equity and anti-ableism;

Parent and Guardian Communication

Through our telephone Summary Advice and Referral Service, ARCH receives calls from students with disabilities and/or their parents and guardians from across Ontario who experience difficulty in accessing appropriate public education. As such, we welcome the Bill’s references to increased parental involvement regarding academic progress and accommodations.

We endorse the AODA Alliance’s recommendations, in particular the suggestion that section 2(7) of Schedule 2 be amended to explicitly require accessible documents and communication for parents and guardians with disabilities.

Moreover, parents and guardians have expressed frustration at having no assurances about the quality of information about their children coming from education service providers. When considering processes such as the IPRC and fundamental documents such as the IEP and accommodation plans, it is beneficial for all parties concerned that these processes be collaborative and that full consideration of student and parental input and insight is ensured.

ARCH recommends that:

  • Section 27.3(b) and (c) of Section 7 of Schedule 2 be amended to:

(b)  respecting the form and content of the materials and the frequency and manner in which they shall be provided to parents and guardians or made publicly available and requiring boards to make materials accessible to parents and guardians with disabilities, and;

(c)  requiring boards to develop and comply with a protocol setting out standards for responding to parent and guardian inquiries, specifying the content that the protocol must include or address and requiring boards to make the protocol publicly available and that the protocol shall have an accommodation policy for parents and guardians with disabilities related to academic progress and IEP development and implementation;

C.       Conclusion

As mentioned above, time constraints have prevented ARCH from conducting an in-depth analysis of the Bill and considering at length its possible implications on students with disabilities and its intersection with the Education Act.  However, the above is a brief overview of only some of our current concerns.  It is our hope that as it moves ahead through further stages, the needs of students with disabilities will become part of any continued dialogue regarding Bill 98.

Please contact our office if ARCH can be of assistance in addressing some of these important issues affecting students with disabilities.

[1] R.S.O. 1990, c. H. 19.
[2] Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, GA Res 61/601, UNGAOR, 61st Sess, Supp No 49, UN Doc A/61/49 (14 January 2007) 65 at art 24(1) [CRPD].
[4]  Charles Beer, Charting a Path Forward: Report of the Independent Review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act; (2005), online: <>; Mayo Moran, 2014 Legislative Review of the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act; (2014), online:; and David Onley, 2019 Legislative Review of the Accessibility of Ontarians with Disabilities Act; (2019), online:
[5] Reid, Bennett, Specht et. al, If Inclusion Means Everyone, Why Not Me?, 2018, online:
[6] Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, “General comment No 4 (2016) on the right to inclusive education”, General Comment on United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, (2016) CRPD/C/GC/4.
[7] Reid, Bennett, Specht et. al, If Inclusion Means Everyone, Why Not Me?, 2018, online:

Download the Submission regarding Bill 98

May 9, 2023