Parents' lawsuit against school board alleges racism, falsified report cards
Omer-Deslauriers parents turn to small claims court for answers
A group of parents have taken Ottawa's French public school board to court, saying they're fed up with their children's unfair treatment and a lack of transparency from their school's administrators and teachers.
In two statements of claim, the plaintiffs allege the Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO) and the individual defendants treated l'École secondaire publique Omer-Deslauriers differently because of the racial makeup of its student population, then falsified report cards to cover their tracks.
The lawsuit names as defendants CEPEO, its president and its director of education, as well as the school's superintendent, principal and several teachers.
It includes a claim that Omer-Deslauriers is not an academic priority for the board, based on the fact that 90 per cent of the students are non-white.
"The parents feel that they're being given short shrift because their children predominantly come from diverse backgrounds," said Yavar Hameed, the human rights lawyer representing the three parents behind the lawsuit.
None of the allegations contained in the statements of claim has been proven in court.
Students not given a fair chance, say parents
As an example of the alleged unfair treatment, the parents point to the size of the school's remedial stream, particularly when compared to both the number of Omer-Deslauriers students placed in advanced and general levels and in remedial streams in other schools within the board.
"A large number of students have been pushed into this program, wrongly, rather than based on some thorough assessment," said Youcef Fouzar, one of the parents named as a plaintiff in the suit.
Another parent, Mourad Mazigh, claims the school falsified his daughter's report card to say that her class had been taught the required elements of the curriculum, whereas his own examination of her assignments shows her class never covered the material in question.
"They're not getting the right education, the right learning, and at the same time [school officials] don't have enough proof of examination," said Mazigh.
Mazigh said he and the other parents raised concerns to the principal and superintendent at Omer-Deslauriers, and in return were ostracized and kicked off the school council.
"We have no choice at this point but to go to court to defend our most fundamental right," he said.
Each of the two statements of claim is seeking $35,000 in damages, the limit allowed in Ontario small claims court, though the parents' lawyer said money is not the reason for the parents' lawsuit.
Rather, they've been raising concerns for years and decided small claims court is now the best route to hold the board and its staff accountable, Hameed said.
"This is a symbolic challenge against a very large and powerful school board," said Hameed. "The parents are looking for some form of accountability in an independent fashion. They want the school board to give them answers."
In a written response, CEPEO said it was aware of the lawsuit but would not comment out of respect for the judiciary process.