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Please visit the Ontario Human Right’s Commission website for details on how to participate in the Right To Read public hearings.
📷Press Release–Brampton, ON–January 14, 2020–Grassroots parents group, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario, says the Right to Read public hearings are an important opportunity to bring to light the barriers faced by thousands of children with reading disabilities in public schools across the province.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has invited students with reading disabilities, and their parents, to participate in public hearings in Brampton, London, Thunder Bay and Ottawa. Hundreds have already completed the OHRC’s online survey since the Right to Read inquiry was launched on October 3, 2019.
“The Right to Read inquiry is an historic opportunity to recognize the discrimination faced by students with reading disabilities, of which dyslexia is the most common, in Ontario schools,” says Lark Barker, President of Decoding Dyslexia Ontario. “The inquiry will hear how so many parents struggle to access timely psycho-educational assessments, appropriate reading remediation, accessible in-class instruction and basic accommodations for their children.”
Students with dyslexia can learn to read with effective reading instruction. Without this, students with dyslexia show very sizeable education achievement gaps and outcomes in comparison with neurotypical students in Ontario. They also experience higher rates of mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression.
The OHRC clearly states that “learning to read is not a privilege, it is a right.” Decoding Dyslexia Ontario applauds the OHRC’s inquiry into the right to read in our public education system, and endorses their focus on five benchmarks that are part of an effective systematic approach to teach all students to read:
- Universal design for learning (UDL), including core curriculum that works for everyone
- Mandatory early screening in kindergarten
- Timely, effective, evidence-based reading intervention programs to get every student reading by the end of third grade
- Effective accommodation, and
- Psycho-educational assessments (if required)
Representatives from Decoding Dyslexia Ontario will be attending the public hearings, and will also make a written submission.
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability, affecting approximately 6%-17% of children in our province. That’s at least 2 children in every classroom who struggle to learn to read with little to no support.Founded in 2015, Decoding Dyslexia Ontario is a parent-led, non-profit organization concerned with the limited understanding of dyslexia within Ontario’s public education system and its education stakeholders. It raises dyslexia awareness, empowers families to support their children who are dyslexic, and shares best practices regarding identification, remediation and support for students with dyslexia.
On April 9, 2018, the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Renu Mandhane, tweeted that all special education needs students must receive timely and appropriate services.
The Chief Commissioner opened the door; encouraging parents of children that have not received the appropriate and necessary services in their public education experience to contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to report discrimination.
Examples of potential discrimination, but not limited to:
→ School/school board fails to provide evidence-based reading instruction that a child with dyslexia needs to learn to read despite identified need;
→ School staff member says that there is nothing that the school can do to help your child;
→ School/school board fails to provide the access to a psych ed assessment in a reasonable amount of time;
→ Staff/school/school board suggests student not enrol, or exit, a specialty program (gifted, French immersion, IB);
→ School/school board fails to provide, or allow, the use of assistive technology in the classroom;
→ School/school board sends your child home when supports are not available for them;
→ School fails to provide accommodations that support the success of the student in the classroom; or
→ Staff/school makes, or allows, jokes or derogatory comments about your child’s learning needs.
Human rights protections for students with learning disabilities in Ontario
The Ontario Human Rights Code states that provincial education services must provide timely and appropriate special education services so that special education students with a disability, including learning disabilities such as dyslexia, have equity in public education.
In public school, students with dyslexia should be provided appropriate special education services to be able to read.
Additionally, once a student with dyslexia is taught to read in elementary school, the student should have equal opportunity to enroll and succeed in the high school academic stream so that post-secondary education is an option. Accommodations must be made available throughout a student’s entire educational experience.
Moreover, students with dyslexia should be considered equally for specialty programs (French Immersion, Gifted, IB and Arts Schools) for we know that with appropriate accommodations, a student with dyslexia can reach their full potential and find success in school and in life.
Finally, as per the International Dyslexia Association, appropriate evidence-based special education intervention for students with dyslexia should be based upon structured literacy: https://dyslexiaida.org/what-is-structured-literacy.
From the Supreme Court of Canada’s Landmark Moore vs BC Education Decision (2012)
“A majority of students do not require intensive remediation in order to learn to read. Jeffrey does. He was unable to get it in the public school. Was that an unjustified denial of meaningful access to the general education … and, as a result, discrimination?”
“There is no dispute that Jeffrey’s dyslexia is a disability. … the expert evidence [including the International Dyslexia Association] that intensive supports were needed generally to remedy Jeffrey’s learning disability, and that he had not received the support he needed in the public school system.”
“… a finding that Jeffrey suffered discrimination and was entitled to a consequential personal remedy, has clear broad remedial repercussions for how other students with severe learning disabilities are educated.”
The Supreme Court upheld the BC Human Rights Tribunal finding of discrimination against the local Board awarding:
“… tuition paid for Jeffrey to attend Kenneth Gordon School and Fraser Academy, up to and including Grade 12, half of the costs incurred for his transportation to and from those schools, and $10,000 for “the injury to [Jeffrey’s] dignity, feelings and self-respect.”
Note: Jeffery Moore was in Grade 3 and unable to read when the decision was made to move to specialty private school
All children should feel like they belong at school, Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission (Globe and Mail, Sept. 2, 2018)