In order to appeal to the Ontario Special Education Tribunal, you must first go through all stages of local reviews and appeals. Timelines are very important. Here are the steps to take.
Request and attend an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) meeting.
- Go to the IPRC meeting and try to work out your child's needs and placement with the school and school board staff.
- Write a letter to your child's school principal, and ask for an IPRC meeting.
(OPTIONAL) Ask for a second IPRC Meeting
- Within 15 days of getting the report from the first IPRC meeting, ask for a new meeting to try to resolve any issues with placement/support that still exist
Appeal the first IPRC decision (within 30 days) OR the second IPRC decision (within 15 days) to the Special Education Appeal Board (SEAB).
If you do not indicate your agreement with your child's IPRC decision by signing it, but do not appeal the decision to the SEAB, the school board may notify you of their intention to implement the IPRC decision. This does not mean you can never appeal the IPRC decision about your child's identification or placement. You can ask for another IPRC meeting and begin the appeal process if you still disagree with the outcome.
If you want to appeal the IPRC decision:
- Write to the secretary of the board to tell them that you want to appeal the IPRC decision.
- The letter must list which IPRC decision is a problem for you.
- Give the reasons why you disagree with the IPRC decision.
A SEAB will be set up to hear both sides and decide if the IPRC made the right choice of identification and placement.
- Within three days of the SEAB meeting, the SEAB panel will give you a statement that either agrees or disagrees with the IPRC decision and, if they disagree with the IPRC, make recommendations to the board about the student's identification or placement or both.
- The school board can either follow or ignore the SEAB’s suggestions.
- If you do not agree with the SEAB’s suggestions or the board’s response, you can appeal to the Ontario Special Education Tribunal.
Appeal to the Ontario Special Education Tribunal
If you wish to appeal the SEAB's decision, you must do so with the Ontario Special Education Tribunal. This appeal must be made within 30 days of the SEAB decision. To make an appeal, write to the secretary of the tribunal, saying that you want to appeal the SEAB's decision. You can also complete the tribunal's Form A: Notice of Appeal and send it to the secretary of the tribunal.
The letter, or completed Form A, should include the following information.
- Contact information for the parents; information about the student.
- The story of the steps you took that led to the appeal.
- Copies of the official documents you got at each step: IPRC decision, SEAB recommendations and school board response;
Your list of reasons for your appeal. These reasons should be clear and to the point.
- Say whether the identification and/or placement is being appealed.
- Tell them exactly why you are not happy with the identification and/or placement.
- What you want the school board to do about the student’s identification and/or placement.
- If you are going to have a representative, you must include his/her information.
- Information about any other applications you are making in other places (such as court or another tribunal) about this issue.
The school board and the chair of the Ontario Special Education Tribunal will each get a copy. The school board then has 10 days to fill out Form B: Response to a Notice of Appeal and send it to you and the Secretary of the tribunal.
Once Form A and Form B are received by the Secretary of the Ontario Special Education Tribunal, the panel members assigned to your appeal will have a pre-hearing conference. The pre-hearing conference is usually held over the phone, but it can sometimes be a face-to-face meeting, or the information can be shared in writing. If one or the other is better for you, just let the tribunal secretary know.
The purpose of this pre-hearing conference is to:
- Talk about what procedures will be followed
- Decide the issues that are to be argued
- Set dates for further discussions and possible hearing dates
- Set dates for sharing information with the tribunal and the other party. (This sharing of information is called disclosure.)
- Figure out if any of the parties and/or participants need help/accommodation.
- Ask parties if they want to try mediation. Mediation is not a requirement, but as explained below, it could be helpful for you.
How the Pre-conference Works
The pre-hearing conference is usually held over the phone, but it can sometimes be a face-to-face meeting, or the information can be shared in writing. If one of these ways is better for you than another you can ask the secretary.
Who Participates in the Pre-conference Hearing?
The people who participate in the pre-conference hearing are usually the parties and their representative(s), the 3 members of the panel hearing the appeal and the tribunal secretary.
If you need some kind of accommodation (e.g., wheelchair access, sign language interpreter, large print materials or other help) make a request to the secretary. If you need accommodation, ask for it as early in the process as you can.
If either party has an issue (e.g. needs more time, wants accommodation or would like the hearing to be at a certain location) they should tell this to the tribunal secretary. The panel chair will decide how to handle the issue. If you have an issue that might affect the hearing, you may be asked to make a motion (see below).
If you want to or are asked to make a motion, you must tell the tribunal secretary. You will need to tell the panel what you want and give reasons as to why you should get it. The panel may make a decision on the motion right away or may wait until the end of the hearing. The way motions are dealt with is set out in the tribunal’s Rules of Procedure.
Sometimes it is possible to fix any issues before you go to a hearing. This process is called mediation. Mediation is a meeting where two parties discussed a disagreement with the help of an independent mediator. At the pre-hearing conference, you will be asked if you want to go to mediation. Mediation is done only if both sides agree to it, and anything that is said will be kept secret.
If you know for sure that you would like to try mediation, you can check off the box about this on Form A.
Once a mediator has been chosen, the mediator will probably meet with both sides separately and together to identify the issues and help get agreement on possible solutions.
Parents should prepare for mediation by focusing on their child's needs, and clearly outlining their position. They could list what they propose as a solution and consider all options offered that might settle the dispute. Some possible solutions can be attempted in a short-term or experimental way to evaluate their effectiveness, with a plan to meet at a later date to consider how well the solution has worked, and to make modifications if necessary.
If Mediation Works
If mediation helps settle all the issues of the appeal, the parents can withdraw the appeal or the parties can ask for a consent order.
If Mediation Fixes Some but Not All the Issues
If the parties agree on some of the issues through mediation, those issues will be put into an agreed-upon statement of facts. The panel will then consider only the issues that have not been fixed through mediation.
If Mediation Does Not Work
If mediation doesn't settle the issues, and the parties don't agree, the appeal will go to a hearing. In this case, anything that the parties said during mediation cannot be used against them at the hearing stage.
Schools must identify and accommodate exceptional students with an IPRC meeting. When this meeting occurs, make sure to attend it, and use it as an opportunity to suggest how your child should be supported.
As part of the IPRC meeting, a decision will be made for the identification and/or placement of your child. If you disagree with the decision for either the identification or placement for your child, there are steps you can take. You can either request a second IPRC meeting or you can appeal the IPRC decision to the SEAB.
Requesting a second IPRC - (OPTIONAL)
If you wish to request a second IPRC meeting, you must do so within 15 days of getting the first IPRC decision.
Appealing the IPRC Decision to SEAB
If you wish to appeal the IPRC decision to the SEAB, you must do so within 30 days of the first IPRC OR within 15 days of a second IPRC, if there was a second one. You do not need to request a second IPRC to make an appeal to SEAB.
Appealing the Board's Response to the SEAB Decision
Complete Form A: Notice of Appeal and Send it to the Special Education Tribunal
To appeal the board's response to the SEAB decision, you will need to fill out Form A within 20 days of receiving it from the secretary.
Board Files Completed Form B: Response to Notice of Appeal
Once the board receives the completed Form A from the secretary, they will file a completed Form B: Response to Notice of Appeal within 10 days.
Pre-hearing Conference for the Parties and the Panel
After the secretary receives the completed Form B from the board, the secretary will set up a pre-hearing conference within 20 days.
Sharing Documents (Disclosure)
In order for all parties to be prepared for the hearing, there must be disclosure, or sharing of information. At least 30 days before the hearing, parents have to send their documents to the respondents (the school board) and to the Special Education Tribunal.