The North Vancouver school district discriminated against a severely dyslexic boy when it closed a diagnostic centre that helps special-needs students, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a ruling released today.
Adequate special education is not a "dispensable luxury," the ruling said.
The case was brought by the father of Jeffrey Moore, who was referred in Grade 2 to the diagnostic centre by a district-employed psychologist because his dyslexia meant he could not learn in the regular school system.
When the centre was later closed because of cutbacks, the Moore family transferred him to a private school while launching a legal battle, accusing the district and Education Ministry of discrimination.
Two lower courts disagreed, but on Friday the 15-year legal battle ended with the top court ruling in their favour. It found the North Vancouver School District could have looked at other alternatives, such as closing its outdoor school.
But it was not a total victory — the court ruled there was no systemic discrimination from B.C.'s Education Ministry.
It stressed that adequate special education for children with severe learning disabilities "is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children in British Columbia."
The court has ordered the district to pay Moore's legal costs and thousands of dollars for ten years of private school tuition.
Jeffery Moore's father Rick said the family was celebrating after hearing the news.
"We let out a big whoop, and had a hugfest," Moore told CBC Radio on Friday morning.
More funding now available, says minister
B.C.'s Education Minister Don McRae said the government is reviewing the ruling, but overall, students with special needs today have a wider variety of supports, funding and services available to them.
"The case brought forward by Mr. Moore dates back to the 1990s, and since then, B.C.’s education system has changed significantly, including many improvements to services and supports available for students with special needs," said McRae.
"Record levels of funding are provided for students with special needs. This year it’s estimated that more than $860 million will go to support students with special needs in B.C.
"As well, the newly announced $195 million Learning Improvement Fund provides funding for school districts to hire additional teachers and special education assistants."