British Columbia

Don't pay for school supplies or fees, says former trustee

A former school trustee is once again telling parents they do not have to pay for pens, paper, glue and any fees for other school supplies.

John Young says 2006 court ruling confirmed schools must supply all materials students need

Shopping for school supplies (CBC)

A former school trustee is once again telling parents they do not have to pay for pens, paper, glue and any fees for other school supplies.

In 2006 John Young successfully sued the Victoria School Board and the Education Ministry to ensure schools would provide all supplies.

As a result he says schools must provide standard courses and all materials, free of charge.

"They're acting illegally if they try to deprive a student of a full program leading to graduation," says Young.

Young advises parents that if their child's school charges a fee to cover those costs, they should simply refuse to pay.

"The school must provide everything that child needs in order to achieve graduation status, there are no exceptions to that, although school boards all over the province just ignore the School Act and make a long list of supplies that schools have to purchase."

Fees and lists vary widely

There's no standardized approach around the province when dealing with supplies. Some schools charge fees while other supply students with a list of materials they need to purchase themselves.

One Maple Ridge school has a long list for its grade 4 and 5 students that includes ear buds or headphones, tissues and 27 duo-tangs in assorted colours.

Trustee John Young launched the lawsuit because he believed the extra charges created a two-tiered education system. ((CBC))

Vancouver School Board Chair Patti Bacchus says parents of elementary students are charged a $25 fee for supplies, while special high school programs such as Trek can cost hundreds of dollars.

"We have reviewed this and have had advice to ensure we're in compliance with the law," said Bacchus.

She's confident they are allowed to recover some costs for supplies and special courses, but notes in Vancouver there is a disclaimer that says kids cannot be excluded from any activity if they can't pay the fees.

"So there's a bit of a grey area. We've been really trying to wrestle with that and at least be very consistent and transparent," says Bacchus.