Press Release from Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations:


Montreal, January 5, 2022 — An 11-year-old girl with a learning disability and her parents
have won the first round of their legal battle against the English Montreal School Board
(EMSB) for discrimination based on disability.

In a rare decision issued before Christmas, the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights
Commission upheld the complaint filed in 2018 by CRARR and asked the EMSB to pay the
child $10,000, and each of her parents $5,000 in damages, for a total of $20,000. The
decision can have deep ramifications for the EMSB and all school boards.

The case dates back to 2016, when Simone, then aged 5, was diagnosed with receptive and
expressive language difficulties. After being evaluated by her local CLSC, her father, Sam
Kuhn and her mother, Lynn Buchanan, enrolled her in French immersion at Roslyn
Elementary School, under the EMSB. Despite her condition, the school did not develop an
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as required.

Based on her report card, her parents were under the impression that Simone was doing
well in kindergarten, and were not informed that any additional support services would be
necessary for her. However, after less than one year in kindergarten, they noticed that she
was experiencing significant difficulties learning French as a second language.

The parents requested from school board officials a formal psycho-educational assessment
(PEA) plan to develop appropriate support for Simone. However, these officials refused on
the basis that Simone, in their opinion, did not have behavioural or emotional issues to
justify a PEA, and suggested instead that she be moved to Hampstead Elementary.
Simone’s parents then met with Hampstead Elementary’s principal and were told that they
should “go private” for a PEA, which they could not afford. They were also told that “you
don’t need to speak French in Montreal.” Since Hampstead Elementary is in another district,
and, at the time, did not offer speech or occupational therapy, but only limited special
education support, they considered home-schooling.

Recognizing that Simone needed a PEA and other support in order to succeed in French
immersion and be able to eventually integrate into Quebec society, they decided to transfer
her to Annexe Charlevoix, a school under the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM).
In 2018, Simone had to repeat the first grade of the 2018-19 school year at Annexe
Charlevoix. After a one-year wait, the CSDM school provided Simone with a PEA, which
helped her go to another French school that offers adequate support. Simone is now doing
well in the French school system.

“Getting proper assessment and support in school is a matter of right for any child with a
learning disability,” Kuhn said.
“The Human Rights Commission’s decision is a very special Christmas gift to our family. I
call upon parents to do what we’ve done when they fail to get the basic support for their
children with learning disabilities, that is– to file complaints of discrimination,” he added.

“This decision is a major gain for children’s rights as guaranteed by the UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It will
send a strong message to all educational institutions about their legal obligations, and a
light of hope to all parents whose children live with physical, intellectual or learning
disabilities”, CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi said.
“The right to education for children with disabilities includes the right to individualized,
timely and adequate evaluation and support. A school’s failure to uphold these rights and
reasonably accommodate these chilldren’s needs can lead to discrimination”, he added.
Kuhn has another daughter with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She also experienced
long delays in obtaining proper evaluation and support, which has a negative impact on
her development. The complaint for his second daughter is still being investigated.
The EMSB has until January 28 to decide if it will voluntarily comply with the Human
Rights Commission’s decision; failure to comply will result in the case going to the Human
Rights Tribunal.

Contact Information: Fo Niemi

Executive Director, CRARR:

Some media commentary on this:

Get updates from CCRC

Leave a Comment