Any parent who has a child with a learning disability should hear the story of Jeffrey Moore. It is a story of parents who fought for their child’s right to have access to the educational support he needed to learn in public schools. Though Jeffrey is now past school age, his parents’ tenacity, with help from organizations that stand up for those with disabilities, caused the Supreme Court of Canada to make a decision in 2012 that will have a profound impact on other students who are experiencing the same kind of difficulties.
Diagnosed with severe dyslexia when he was young, Jeffrey had difficulty learning to read. For the first years of his education in the public school system in B.C. he received a range of support services. However, after funding cuts from the Province, the North Vancouver School District eliminated a program important to his education. Jeffrey’s parents were advised by school officials to enroll Jeffrey in private school—which they did at significant financial sacrifice.
Jeffrey’s father filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the school district and the Province claiming the school district had failed to provide the special education supports that Jeffrey needed in order to get meaningful access to general education. The Tribunal determined that both Jeffrey individually and students with severe learning disabilities in general had been victim to discrimination.
The Tribunal’s decision was later overturned by the B.C. Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal for B.C. The courts said that there was no evidence Jeffrey had been treated worse than other students with disabilities but the Moores were granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
On November 9, 2012—approximately fifteen years after the original complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal—the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Moores. The decision signals that individuals have a deeply founded right to access a meaningful education. The ruling concluded that “adequate special education, therefore, is not a dispensable luxury. For those with severe learning disabilities, it is the ramp that provides access to the statutory commitment to education made to all children in British Columbia.”
The Moore case is a victory for students with disabilities across Canada. It gives students with learning disabilities the right to access the special education programs they need to learn. With the proper programs in place, students with learning disabilities will have better tools to help overcome their disabilities and move on to achieve their dreams—and that’s something we can all be proud of.
If you’d like to find out more about the case, read the full Supreme Court of Canada decision.