Special Education Overview

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Types of Problems the Tribunal Hears
What an Appeal Can Do for You

The information presented here is an overview of how the Special Education Tribunal works to hear appeals. It is not intended to be legal advice. If your issue is complicated or difficult to explain, you may want to talk with a lawyer to help you with your appeal.

Special Education in Ontario

School boards are required to develop a process to identify their students' exceptionalities and to set up and maintain special education plans to meet the needs of their students.  Each School Board in Ontario does this differently. 

The Education Act describes 5 broad categories for exceptional pupils in Ontario: Behaviour, Communication, Intellectual, Physical and Multiple. Under each category there is another grouping of more specific descriptions of these exceptionalities. 

The Ontario Special Education Tribunal hears from parents or caregivers who disagree with a school board’s identification and/or placement of their child. The tribunal hears from both sides, thinks about the student’s needs, and decides whether the right identification was made, and what placement and support should be given.  The tribunal will always keep in mind what the Education Act, regulations and policies outline for school boards to follow.

All of the exceptionalities, and the legislation that describes how school boards are supposed to support children with special needs, are outlined in Special Education: A Guide for Educators.  

Kathy Waybrant talks about the process of a Special Education Appeal and her experience with one

Types of Problems the Tribunal Hears

This tribunal deals mainly with two issues:

  • a child’s identification
  • a child’s placement

Examples of situations this tribunal deals with:

  • parents feel a student is in the wrong program
  • parents feel a student’s individual education plan (IEP) is not fair or helpful
  • parents feel a student does not have enough support for his or her exceptionality

Examples of situations in which the tribunal is unlikely to help:

  • parents want to force the board to give intensive behaviour intervention (IBI) for a student.
  • parents are OK with a placement or an IEP, but disagree with how it is being carried out by a teacher or staff member

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What an Appeal Can Do for You

Your appeal may win, lose or be partly successful. Whatever the outcome, going to the tribunal allows you to:

  • point out how you feel your child's educational needs are not being met
  • bring attention to important issues
  • make a school board accommodate your child’s needs 
  • try to get the best support possible for your child’s exceptionality
  • put pressure on your child’s school board to give him or her better support

The tribunal makes a decision that is:                    

  • Based on the facts and stories shared by the parties at the hearing;
    and is
  • Final and binding on the parties.

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Ontario Special Education Tribunals
1075 Bay Street, 7th Floor
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 2B1

Telephone:  416-326-1356  

Fax: 416-326-5135

email: oset@ontario.ca

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