As part of a pro bono legal team, Ranjan Agarwal of Bennett Jones recently represented two young students, who suffer from dyslexia, and their families in an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario involving allegations against the Ministry of Education and the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board.
The application asserted that because the Ministry and the School Board do not recognize dyslexia as a disability, the two students were being refused testing and educational supports. Further, they were not able to attend Demonstration Schools, which are residential schools for students with disabilities, because the Ministry limits attendance to students who are “severely” learning disabled. As a result, the two students were in a Catch-22: they were not considered disabled enough to go to a Demonstration School, but they were also too disabled to meaningfully access general education without educational supports, which the School Board said the Ministry would not fund. Both students suffered extreme emotional distress as a result of not receiving adequate educational supports. The students and their families argued that the Ministry’s failure to provide funding and resources such that they were not diagnosed as dyslexic at a much younger age, failing to provide funding and resources for educational supports, and the Ministry’s policy decision to limit the Demonstration Schools only to “severely” learning disabled students has impaired their ability to succeed at school, and risks they will be streamed into Applied or Life Skills/Workplace Preparation programs in high school, foreclosing their ability to go to university or college.
Thanks to the dedicated work of Ranjan and the rest of the team, both students had their day in court and are now properly diagnosed and recognized as dyslexic by the School Board and are receiving the educational supports they need to succeed.
In a heartfelt thank you letter, one of the parents is quoted as saying:
“I could honestly write a list of the positive things that have come from all of this, everything from my ability to better advocate for her or her increased confidence in herself, but it would take all day. I just needed you to know that because of all that hard work you guys did for her she will go to into high school and take normal classes instead of special education classes and get the credits to apply to go to college and find greater success in life than she ever would have without you.”
Bennett Jones lawyers devote innumerable hours to providing pro bono legal services in a diverse range of areas from financial and business to civil liberties and human rights. This important work serves many purposes but most importantly, it helps fulfill our shared belief as a firm that all Canadians are entitled to access to justice.