Chapter 6: Legal Responsibilities and Liabilities

Note: This handbook can provide only a basic introduction to the legal issues that affect trustees and school boards. The following information is not conveyed as legal advice and should not be acted on without first consulting legal counsel.

School boards are responsible for local governance of the delivery of education services in Ontario. This is a vital service in our society and one which employs a great many people. It is not surprising then that school boards are subject to a wide range of legal obligations and responsibilities, arising from both legislation and common law (court rulings).

Certain provisions of Canada’s Constitution are particularly relevant for school boards. These include: ss. 2 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and, for Catholic schools, s. 93 of the Constitution Act 1867 and s. 29 of the Charter; and, for French-language schools, s. 23 of the Charter.

Ontario’s Education Act is the primary statute governing elementary and secondary education in the province. Particular sections of the Act are referred to in squared brackets throughout this handbook. Other statutes that significantly affect school board operations include:

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005
  • Arbitration Act, 1991
  • Assessment Act
  • Canadian Anti-SPAM Legislation (S.C. 2010, c.23)
  • Child and Family Services Act
  • Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007
  • Education Quality and Accountability Office Act, 1996
  • Employment Standards Act, 2000
  • Expropriations Act
  • Human Rights Code
  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada)
  • Immunization of School Pupils Act
  • Labour Relations Act, 1995
  • Municipal Act, 2001/City of Toronto Act, 2006
  • Municipal Conflict of Interest Act
  • Municipal Elections Act, 1996
  • Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2001
  • Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996
  • Pay Equity Act
  • Planning Act
  • Public Inquiries Act, Part II
  • Sabrina’s Law, 2005 (An Act to Protect Anaphylactic Pupils)
  • School Boards Collective Bargaining Act, 2014
  • Statutory Powers Procedure Act
  • Teaching Profession Act
  • Trespass to Property Act
  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997
  • Youth Criminal Justice Act (Canada)

Statutory Duties and Powers of School Boards

The Education Act sets out the duties and powers of school boards.

Sections 169.1 and 170 of the Act outline the duties of school boards in Ontario. Failure by a board to perform any one of these duties may result in that board’s liability to third parties who are in some way damaged by the board’s act or omission.

Sections 171 to 197 outline various powers that school boards may exercise. Failure by a board to exercise any of these powers will not create any liability. However, once a board undertakes any such power, it has a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill in the performance of that power, and failure to do so could result in the board’s liability to third parties to whom the duty of care extends for any damages sustained.

A school board may face liability if it inadvertently or intentionally acts beyond the scope of its legal authority.For example, a ratepayers' group may appeal to the court to quash a decision of a school board on the grounds that the board lacked jurisdiction.

School Board Policies and Liability

To reduce the risk of liability, school boards should establish clear and accessible policies, especially in certain critical areas:

  • accessibility
  • child abuse
  • concussion prevention, identification and management
  • expulsions
  • field trips
  • human rights including religious accommodation
  • medicine administered to pupils by school staff
  • school dances
  • school violence
  • student transportation provided by the board or school
  • suspensions
  • trespass on property
  • use and possession of drugs and alcohol
  • workplace violence and workplace harassment

Board policies should be reinforced clearly by operational procedures and standards at the board level and in each school.

Standard of Care for Students

A school board and its employees or volunteers are expected to provide the same standard of care for students as would be provided by a reasonably careful or prudent parent in the circumstances. This is commonly referred to as the “Reasonably Prudent Parent Doctrine.” The duty of care is to protect the student from all reasonably foreseeable risks of harm. The precise degree of care required in any given case will vary with the particular facts, which may include:

  • the number of students being supervised at any given time;
  • the nature of the exercise or activity in progress;
  • the age of the students, and the degrees of skill and training they may have received in connection with such activities;
  • the competency and capacity of the students involved; and
  • the nature and condition of the equipment in use at the time.

Negligence

Generally, if a student is injured, the school board will be found liable for that injury if the court determines that all of the following conditions apply:

  • There was a duty of care owed by the school authorities to provide adequate supervision and protection of its students.
  • The school authorities breached that duty of care by either failing to supervise or protect the student or were otherwise negligent (intentionally or unintentionally).
  • The student suffered actual damage or loss.
  • The breach of that duty of care was the cause of the student’s injury.
Vicarious Liability

It is important to note that a schoolboard may be considered vicariously liable for all acts of negligence performed by its employees and volunteers acting within the scope of their employment or authority. In the case of a principal or teacher, liability flows to the corporate board.

Standard of Care Requirements for Principals and Teachers

In addition to the requirement of adhering to the common law standard of care of the careful or prudent parent, principals and teachers also have statutory duties under the Education Act [s. 264 and s. 265] and Regulation 298 (Operation of Schools – General). Principals' and teachers' performance of statutory duties must be monitored to determine whether their performance creates a standard of reasonable conduct. Violation of a statute is only evidence of negligence and does not necessarily prove negligence.

Personal Liability of Trustees

Generally, with the exception of subsections 198(4), 230.12(3) [Part VIII], 253(6), and 257.45(3) of the Education Act, trustees will not be found personally liable for their inadvertent acts and omissions as trustees, as long as they act within the scope of their authority. Personal liability of trustees may also arise under the municipal Conflict of Interest Act or the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 with regard to campaign finances.

Trustees have been held personally liable where their actions either were considered to be in wilful disregard of the provisions of the governing legislation or were not performed honestly, conscientiously, or in good faith.

Subsection 198(4) of the Education Act establishes that a trustee of a board is personally liable if a school board, of which he or she is a member, refuses or neglects to take proper insurance on the treasurer, or other persons to whom it entrusts board money, if any of the money is lost because the board did not obtain insurance. A trustee is not liable if he or she can prove that he or she made reasonable efforts to obtain such insurance. The lost monies may be recovered by the school board, or by any ratepayer, assessed for the support of the schools under the jurisdiction of the board, who sues personally and on behalf of all other such ratepayers.

Subsection 253(6) of the Education Act provides that any trustee who refuses or neglects to provide to an auditor of the school board:

  • access to the records of the school board;
  • information; or
  • an explanation

as required by subsection 253(5), is guilty of an offence and, on conviction, is liable to a fine of not more than $200. However, no trustee is liable if the trustee proves that he or she has made reasonable efforts to provide the access or the information or the explanation.

The Act also stipulates that a trustee who sits or votes at any meeting of the board after becoming disqualified from sitting is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $200 [213.1]. This applies to every such meeting the trustee sits or votes at. A similar penalty applies to a trustee who knowingly signs a false report [213.2].

Finance

One of the most significant responsibilities of the board of trustees is to set the board’s budget each year. While the Ministry of Education provides the grants used to support their local education system, trustees must work with the dollars provided and, in accordance with statutory requirements, develop a budget that best suits the programs and services offered in their communities. In order to set policies and approve the final budget, all trustees must understand Part IX of the Education Act. This sets out complex rules on the funding of education, and on the borrowing and investment activities of school boards.

The Education Act requires that boards set only balanced budgets [s. 231(2)]. The penalties for failing to do so, which can be severe, are laid out in Division D of Part IX of the Education Act. Division D permits the Minister of Education to appoint an investigator (auditor) to investigate the financial affairs of a school board under certain circumstances. These are:

  • Financial statements indicate that the board operated on a deficit;
  • Failure to pay any debentures;
  • Defaulting on debts or other financial liabilities; or
  • The Minister has concerns about the board’s ability to meet its financial obligations.

Ultimately, Division D permits the Minister to issue orders, directions,and decisions relating to the affairs of the board, and even to assume complete control over all the board’s affairs, except for denominational matters in the case of Catholic boards and linguistic matters, in the case of French-language boards.

Subsection 257.45(3) provides that a trustee is personally liable if all of the following conditions apply:

  • the board is subject to an order under subsection 257.31(2) or (3) (Division D);
  • the board uses any of its funds contrary to the Minister’s orders; and
  • the trustee voted for that use of funds.

A trustee who voted to use funds in a way that contravenes an order is jointly and severally liable for the amount used, and those funds may be recovered through a court action.

Compliance with Board Obligations

The Education Act also contains provisions for the use of ministerially ordered investi-gations into non-financial matters [Part VIII, Compliance with Board Obligations]. The Minister of Education has the authority to direct an investigation into generalschool board operations, including program and curriculum matters, class size, trustee compensation, items that promote provincial interestin education, and spending [s. 230].

Such an investigation could result in a finding of non-compliance and lead to either the Minister’s issuing a direction to the board to address the non-compliance (or the likelihood of non-compliance), or in the ministry’s taking control of the board’s affairs; this could involve the appointment of a supervisor.

Where the Minister has issued a direction, and he or she is of the opinion that the board has failed to comply with a direction, the Lieutenant Governor in Council can grant a vesting order giving the Minister control over the administration of all board affairs except for denominational matters in the case of Catholic boards and linguistic matters, in the case of French-language boards. The Minister would maintain control until the board is in compliance.

As is the case with s. 257.45(3) described previously, under s. 230.12(3) any trustee who votes to use funds in a way that contravenes an order is jointly and severally liable for the amount used, and may face court action for recovery of the funds.

Provincial Interest Regulation

In accordance with Ontario Regulation 43/10 (Provincial Interest in Education) the Minister may provide for a review of the performance of a school board, if the Minister has concerns regarding the performance of a school board with respect to the following areas:

  • academic achievement of students;
  • student health and safety;
  • good governance of the school board;
  • performance of the board and of the director of education in carrying out their responsibilities under the Education Act; and
  • level of parent involvement

The review process would result in a report to the Minister. The board would be consulted about this report, which could result in the Minister making recommendations to the board to address concerns that have been reviewed. The Minister would likely not consider board supervision pursuant to section 230, unless a school board refuses to or does not fully participate in a review process, or refuses to give full and fair consideration to recommended changes arising out of the review.

Conduct of Trustees

The Education Act establishes the duties of individual trustees [s. 218.1]. This section provides that a trustee shall:

  • carry out his or her responsibilities in a manner that assists the board in fulfilling its duties under the Act, the regulations and guidelines issued under the Act including but not limited to the board’s duties under section 169.1
  • attend and participate in meetings of the board including meetings of board committees of which he or she is a member
  • consult with parents, students and supporters of the board on the board’s multi-year plan under clause 169.1(1)(f)
  • bring concerns of parents, students and supporters of the board to the attention of the board
  • uphold the implementation of any board resolution after it is passed by the board
  • entrust the day to day management of the board to its staff through the board’s director of education
  • maintain focus on student achievement and well-being, and
  • comply with the board’s code of conduct
Trustee Code of Conduct

The Education Act authorizes boards to adopt a code of conduct for trustees [s. 218.2] and provides an enforcement mechanism for boards to enforce their code of conduct at the local level [s. 218.3].

Enforcement of Code of Conduct

A trustee who has reasonable grounds to believe that another trustee has breached the board’s code of conduct may bring the alleged breach to the attention of the board of trustees.

If a board of trustees determines that a trustee has breached the board’s code of conduct, the board of trustees may impose one or more of the following sanctions:

  • censure
  • bar the trustee from attending all or part of a meeting of the board or meeting of a committee of the board, or
  • bar the trustee from sitting on one or more committees of the board, for the period of time specified by the board.

Duties of Board Chair

The Education Act also sets out the following additional duties of the chair of a school board:

  • preside over meetings of the board
  • conduct the meetings in accordance with the board’s procedures and practices for the conduct of board meetings
  • establish agendas for board meetings, in consultation with the board’s director of education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s director of education
  • ensure that members of the board have the information needed for informed discussion of the agenda items
  • act as spokesperson to the public on behalf of the board, unless otherwise determined by the board
  • convey the decisions of the board to the board’s director of education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s director of education
  • provide leadership to the board in maintaining the board’s focus on the multi-year plan
  • provide leadership to the board in maintaining the board’s focus on the board’s mission and vision, and
  • assume such other responsibilities as may be specified by the board

Duties of Director of Education

Trustees should be aware of the director of education’s duties under the Education Act. In particular, subsection 283.1(1) requires a director of education, immediately upon discovery, to bring to the attention of the board of trustees any act or omission by the board that, in the opinion of the director of education, may result in, or has resulted in, a contravention of the Education Act, or any policy, guidelines or regulation made under the Act.

Trustees should note as well that if a board of trustees does not respond in a satisfactory manner when an act or omission is brought to its attention, a director of education has the duty to advise the Deputy Minister of Education of the act or omission.

Confidentiality and Privacy

The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

School boards are subject to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). This Act provides that every person has a right of access to recorded information in the custody, or under the control, of a school board unless the information falls within one of the limited and specific exemptions listed in the Act.

In addition, the Act protects the privacy of individuals with respect to personal information, as defined in MFIPPA, that is held by school boards, and provides those individuals with a right of access to their information. MFIPPA governs the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by boards. Of necessity, school boards have large volumes of personal information pertaining to both employees and students. All school board officials and employees, including trustees, should familiarize themselves with the basic provisions of MFIPPA to prevent inadvertent violation of the statute. Any person found guilty of wilfully contravening the Act, as set out in section 48, is liable to a fine not exceeding $5000.

Every school board may designate, in writing, an individual trustee or a committee of trustees to act as “head” of the school board for the purposes of MFIPPA. In the absence of such a designate, the school board is the “head.” The head usually then delegates its powers or duties under the Act to officers of the school board who carry out the day-to-day management of the matters covered by MFIPPA.

Confidentiality of Student Records

The Education Act requires the principal of a school to establish and maintain an Ontario Student Record (OSR) for each student enrolled in the school. The contents of that record are specified in Ministry of Education guidelines.

In addition to the protection of confidentiality of the OSR offered by MFIPPA, section 266 of the Education Act establishes that the OSR information is privileged for the information and use of supervisory officers, principals, teachers and early childhood educators of the school for the improvement of instruction of the student, and should not be disclosed to anyone else, including a court of law, except in certain limited circumstances.

Each student of a board is assigned an Ontario Education Number (OEN). This number is the key identifier on the OSR. It follows the student throughout his or her elementary and secondary education, making it easier to keep reliable records on the movement and progress of individual students while also protecting their privacy. The OEN is used on:

  • student records (the OSR and other related forms);
  • applications for enrolment into specific programs, schools, or institutions; and
  • provincial assessments, tests, and evaluations of the student’s achievement.

The data gathered through the use of OENs allows the Ministry to evaluate the implementation of new initiatives, identify areas that require improvement, and analyze trends and identify future needs.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act

In April 2003, the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) came into force, replacing the former Young Offenders Act. The YCJA applies to persons between the ages of 12 to 17 inclusive.

The YCJA establishes that no person shall publish by any means the name of any young person or child, or any information that could identify such person as the offender, victim, or witness concerning an offence committed, or alleged to have been committed, by a young person. This includes any report concerning the hearing, adjudication, disposition, or appeal with respect to such an offence.

The Act provides an exception to the non-disclosure of the identity of the young offender where the young person has received an adult sentence. The Act also allowsfor disclosure where a Youth Court judge has ordered such disclosure, or where the provincial director, a youth worker, a peace officer, or any other person engaged in the provision of services to a young person determines that it is necessary to disclose the identity ofthe young offender to a representativeof a school board or school to ensure the safety of staff, students, or other persons, to facilitate rehabilitation of the young person, or to ensure compliance with a court order.

The representative of the school board or school who receives this information may subsequently disclose that information to other persons, only as is necessary to ensure the safety of staff, students, or other persons.

Any person to whom this information has been disclosed must:

  • keep the information separate from any other record of the young person to whom the information is related (including the OSR);
  • ensure that no other person has access to the information; and
  • destroy the information when the information is no longer required for the purpose for which it was disclosed.

This means that school board officials must be very careful not to identify any young person or child connected with an offence to anyone – including students, parents of other students, the community, or the media – except as specifically authorized by the Youth Criminal Justice Act or a court.

Safe and Accepting Schools

Safe and Accepting Schools is based on the principle that a safe, inclusive and positive learning environment is essential for student achievement and well-being and promotes positive student behaviour. The strategy focuses on:

  • clarifying the standards of behaviour for the school community;
  • requiring every school board employee to play a role in promoting positive student behaviour to improve school climate and to support victims;
  • preventing inappropriate behaviour;
  • providing early and ongoing intervention;
  • using progressive discipline to address inappropriate behaviour with appropriate consequences and supports including early and ongoing intervention, and;
  • supporting engagement on the part of parents and community agencies in schools.
Behaviour and Discipline

The Education Act sets out specific obligations for school boards with respect to behaviour, discipline and safety of students. The provincial Code of Conduct sets the standard of behaviour for all persons in schools.

The Act clearly identifies:

  • activities that must be considered for suspension or expulsion of a student;
  • who has the authority to suspend or expel a student;
  • the mitigating and other factors to be taken into account when considering suspension or expulsion decisions.
Conducting a Suspension Appeal/Expulsion Hearing

The Education Act states [s. 302(6)] that a board shall establish polices and guidelines governing appeals of a decision to suspend a pupil, principals' investigations to determine whether to recommend that a pupil be expelled, and expulsion hearings. The Act also requires that the policies and guidelines address such matters and include such requirements as specified by the Minister.

The board may authorize a committee of at least three members of the board to exercise and perform powers and duties on behalf of the board and may impose conditions and restrictions on the committee.

Suspension

The following persons may appeal, to the board, a principal’s decision to suspend a pupil:

  • the pupil’s parent or guardian, unless the pupil is at least 18 years old, or is 16 or 17 years old and has withdrawn from parental control
  • the pupil, if the pupil is at least 18 years old, or is 16 or 17 years old and has withdrawn from parental control
  • such other persons as may be specified by board policy.

Every board shall designate a supervisory officer for the purposes of receiving notices of intention to appeal a suspension. The board shall hear and determine the appeal of a suspension, and the decision of a board on an appeal is final.

Appeals of suspensions are conducted by the board in accordance with the board’s developed procedures.

Expulsion

If a principal recommends to the board that a pupil be expelled, the board shall hold an expulsion hearing and, for that purpose, the board has powers and duties as specified by board policy.

The board may authorize a committee of at least three members of the board to exercise and perform powers and duties on behalf of the board and may impose conditions and restrictions on the committee.

The parties to the expulsion hearing are:

  • the principal
  • the pupil’s parent or guardian, unless the pupil is at least 18 years old, or is 16 or 17 years old and has withdrawn from parental control
  • the pupil, if the pupil is at least 18 years old, or is 16 or 17 years old and has withdrawn from parental control
  • such other persons as may be specified by board policy.

The board shall not expel a pupil if more than 20 school days have expired since the pupil was suspended, unless the parties to the expulsion hearing agree to a later deadline.

The board’s decision to expel may be appealed to a designated tribunal. The Child and Family Services Review Board is designated to hear appeals of board decisions to expel pupils. (Ontario Regulation 472/07 – Behaviour, discipline and Safety of Pupils)

Trustees who serve on the board or the suspension appeal and/or expulsion hearing committees of the board must remember that they are serving in a quasi-judicial capacity. Members of the committee or board should seek legal advice before the hearing to ensure that they conduct the appeal/hearing properly, follow all rules of procedural fairness, and meet their legal obligations to protect both board employees and students.

Boards are required to provide programs for students on long-term suspension and for students expelled from all schools of the board. A long-term suspension is a suspension for a term of from 6 to 20 school days.

The Education Act requires all board employees to report serious student incidents that must be considered for suspension or expulsion, to the principal. It also requires principals to contact parents of victims who have been harmed as the result of such incidents and requires school staff who work directly with students to respond to inappropriate and disrespectful student behaviour.

The Accepting Schools Act, 2012 amendments to the Education Act came into force on September 1, 2012, setting out additional requirements for school boards to create safe and inclusive schools and to take further measures to prevent and address inappropriate behavior in schools. This includes:

  • the requirement for principals to consider expulsion for bullying and for incidents motivated by hate, prejudice or bias;
  • the requirement for boards to support students who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that: promote a safe and inclusive learning environment; acceptance of and respect for others; and, the creation of a positive school climate.

The legislation requires school boards to include “promoting a positive school climate” and “promoting the prevention of bullying” as goals in their multi-year plans. As such, boards are required to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of board policies aimed at achieving these goals, review the multi-year plan annually, and make the plan available to supporters and employees of the board.

(For more on Safe and Accepting Schools, see: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/safeschools.html)

Child Abuse and Duty to Report

Every person who performs professional or official duties with respect to a child should be familiar with the duty to report a child who is or who may be in need of protection. This is required under the Child and Family Services Act. For the purposes of this Act, a child means a person actually or apparently under the age of 16.

The Student Protection Act 2002 is intended to help protect studentsfrom sexual abuse and other forms of professional misconduct by teachers. It amended the Teaching Profession Act and the Ontario College of Teachers Act, 1996 to add a broader definition of sexual abuse. It also amended the Education Act to impose certain reporting and information-sharing requirements on all employers of certified teachers. As well, the Student Protection Act amendments require school boards to remove any teacher, including temporary teachers from contact with students, if they become aware that the teacher has been charged with, or convicted of, an offence under the Criminal Code (Canada) which, in the board’s opinion, indicates that pupils may be at risk of harm or injury.

Student Protection

Provincial legislation provides the Ontario College of Teachers, the professional body that regulates the teaching profession and governs its members, with the added authority it needs to take strong action against those who harm or would harm our children.

Students are protected in Ontario schools through all of the following initiatives:

  • All employers must report to the Ontario College of Teachers a certified teacher charged with a sexual offence against a student. School boards as well as public schools, private schools, tutoring companies, and other organizations are required to do this if they employ teachers certified by the Ontario College of Teachers to instruct students.
  • Sexual abuse is defined in a comprehensive way to include sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual remarks towards a student.
  • Any teacher in a publicly funded school is removed from the classroom if he or she is charged with sexual assault against a student.
  • Improved information sharing makes it much more difficult for a teacher who has been disciplined for sexual abuse to quit and move from one board or school to another undetected.
  • Employers of certified teachers will face fines, upon conviction, of up to $25,000 for breaking the reporting rules.
Criminal Background Reference Checks

Ontario Regulation 521/01 (Collection of Personal Information) provides school boards with another tool to promote a safe school environment. The regulation requires that school boards collect police records from all employees and service providers who have direct and regular contact with students.

Health and Safety

To provide a safe and suitable learning and working environment for school staff and students, it is critical that classroom practice and the learning environment comply with relevant federal, provincial and municipal health and safety legislation and by-laws, including:

  • Workplace Safety and Insurance Act
  • Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act

Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors conduct health and safety inspections in schools to raise awareness of workplace health and safety hazards and to promote compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

Additional information is available at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/workplace.html

Protecting Pupils with Life-Threatening Allergies

Sabrina’s Law, An Act to Protect Anaphylactic Pupils, helps to protect pupils with life-threatening allergies and to create a safe and healthy school environment.

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. It is essential that school board staff, including principals, teachers and other staff who have direct contact with students at risk for anaphylaxis on a regular basis throughout the school day, are aware of the issues they face and are equipped to respond appropriately in the event of an emergency.

Sabrina’s Law requires every school board to establish and maintain an anaphylaxis policy and every school principal to develop individual plans for pupils with an anaphylactic allergy.

Specifically, a school board’s policies must include:

  • strategies to reduce risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents;
  • a communication plan for the dissemination of information on life threatening allergies to parents, pupils and employees;
  • regular training on dealing with life-threatening allergies for all employees and others who are in direct contact with pupils on a regular basis;
  • a requirement that every school principal develop an individual plan for each pupil who has an anaphylactic allergy;
  • a requirement that every school principal ensure that, upon registration, parents, guardians and pupils be asked to supply information on life-threatening allergies; and
  • a requirement that every school principal maintain a file for each anaphylactic pupil of current treatment and other information, including a copy of any prescriptions and instructions from the pupil’s physician or nurse and a current emergency contact list.
  • the individual plan for a pupil with an anaphylactic allergy must include:
    • details on the type of allergy, monitoring and avoidance strategies, and appropriate treatment;
    • a readily accessible emergency procedure for the pupil; and,
    • storage for epinephrine auto-injectors, where necessary.

Employees of a board may be preauthorized to administer medication or supervise a pupil while the pupil takes medication in response to an anaphylactic reaction, if the school has up-to-date treatment information and the consent of the parent, guardian or pupil. If an employee has reason to believe that a pupil is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, the employee may administer an epinephrine auto-injector or other medication that is prescribed, even if there is no preauthorization to do so.

No actions for damages shall be instituted respecting any act done in good faith or for any neglect or default in good faith in response to an anaphylactic reaction, unless the damages are the result of an employee’s gross negligence. The Act preserves common law duties.

Additional information is available at http://www.eworkshop.on.ca/allergies.

School Food and Beverage Policy

As outlined in the School Food and Beverage Policy, all, school boards are required to ensure that all food and beverages sold on school premises for school purposes meet the requirements set out in the policy, (Policy/Program Memorandum 150), including the nutrition standards.

The nutrition standards apply to all food and beverages sold in all venues (e.g., cafeterias, vending machines, tuck shops), through all programs (e.g., catered lunch programs), and at all events (e.g., bake sales, sports events).

The nutrition standards do not apply to food and beverages that are:

  • offered in schools to students at no cost;
  • brought from home or purchased off school premises and are not for resale in schools;
  • available for purchase during field trips off school premises;
  • sold in schools for non-school purposes (e.g., sold by an outside organization that is using the gymnasium after school hours for a non-school-related event);
  • sold for fundraising activities that occur off school premises;
  • sold in staff rooms.

The following requirements must also be met:

  • School boards must comply with Ontario Regulation 200/08 (Trans Fat Standards), and any other applicable regulations made under the Education Act.
  • Principals must take into consideration strategies developed under the school board’s policy on anaphylaxis to reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents.
  • Food and beverages must be prepared, served, and stored in accordance with Regulation 562 (Food Premises), as amended, made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
  • School boards must ensure that students have access to drinking water during the school day.
  • The diversity of students and staff must be taken into consideration in order to accommodate religious and/or cultural needs.

The school principal may designateup to ten days (or fewer, as determined by the school board) during the school year as special-event days on which food and beverages sold in schools would be exempt from the nutrition standards outlined in this memorandum. The school principal must consult with the school council prior to designatinga day as a special-event day. School principals are encouraged to consult with their students in making these decisions.

School boards are responsible for monitoring the implementation of the policy memorandum.

Additional information is available at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/healthyschools/policy.html.

Supervised Alternative Learning

School boards are required by regulation to establish a Supervised Alternative Learning Committee, which is to include a trustee. The board’s committee approves applications for students age 14-17 to be excused from attendance at school to participate in Supervised Alternative Learning. This may include employment, credit courses, life skills courses, training or other studies/activities that the committee deems suitable for the student. Regular monitoring of the student is required. The intent is for the student to retain a link to the board and to continue learning when other strategies have not proven effective.

Recognizing Diversity

As public service providers and as employers, school boards are subject to the requirements of the Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Under the Code and court decisionsthat have interpreted its provisions, boards must provide harassment-free work and learning environments. Furthermore, boards may be subject to legal sanctions if they do not deal appropriately with instances of harassment and discrimination.

Equity and Inclusive Education

Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy envisions an equitable and inclusive education system in Ontario where all students, parents, school staff and members of the school community are safe, welcomed and respected in schools, and where every student is supported and inspired to succeed in a culture of high expectations for learning.

The Strategy aims to help the education community identify and remove discriminatory biases and systemic barriers in order to support the achievement and well-being of all students. The Strategy builds on successful ministry, school board and school policies and practices. Policy/Program Memorandum, PPM No. 119 (Developing and implementing equity and inclusive education policies in Ontario schools) and the Strategy Guidelines further outline school board expectations for implementing the Strategy. The Strategy and Equity and Inclusive Education guidelines have been kept current and relevant to reflect the amendments to the Education Act under Accepting Schools legislation.

The Accepting Schools Act, 2012 amended the Education Act to repeal the provision for every board to develop and implement an ethno-cultural equity and anti-racism policy. Every board is now required to have an equity and inclusive education policy [s. 29.1].

School boards must also have a religious accommodation guideline in place. The Strategy is designed to support human rights as described in the Human Rights Code, the Canadian charter of Rights and Freedoms and other relevant legislation. It operates within the context of the constitutional rights of Catholic schools set out in section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Education Act, and the language rights of French-language rights holders as set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Education Act. French-language boards should also refer to Ontario’s Aménagement linguistique Policy for French-language education. (See Chapter 9 for additional information on Equity and Inclusive Education.)

School Councils

The Education Act requires each school board to establish a school council for each school operated by the board [s. 170(1)17.1].

School councils are advisory bodies whose purpose is to improve student achievement and enhance the accountability of the education system to parents. This purpose is clearly set out in Ontario Regulation 612/00. (School Councils and Parent Involvement Committees) This regulation also describes the composition of school councils and the process for the election of members, the role and responsibilities of the school council, and operational matters relating to the school council. In addition, the Ministry of Education publishes a guide for members of school councils, which is available at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/council/.

The role and responsibilities of the principal, as a member of and as a support to the school council, are described in Regulation 298 (Operation of Schools – General).

Ontario Regulation 612/00 and Regulation 298 together address three key areas pertaining to school councils: the purpose of school councils, membership and operational matters, and the obligation of boards and principals to consult with school councils on certain matters.

The membership of school councils consists of:

  • a majority of parents, as specified in a bylaw of the school council or by the board if such a bylaw does not exist
  • the principal or vice-principal (the principal may delegate membership responsibility to the vice-principal)
  • one teacher employed at the school, other than the principal or vice-principal
  • one member of support staff of the school
  • one student, in the case of secondary schools (optional for elementary schools)
  • one or more community representatives
  • one person appointed by an association that is a member of the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations or the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education or Parents partenaires en éducation, if the association is represented at the school

For more information on the role and responsibilities of school councils, see Chapter 11, Working with School Councils, Parent Involvement Committees, and Communities.

Parent Involvement Committee

Ontario Regulation 612/00 requires every school board to establish a Parent Involvement Committee (PIC) and sets out provisions for the composition and functions of the PIC.

The purpose of the PIC is to support, encourage and enhance parent involvement at the board level in order to improve student achievement and well-being. The PIC is a parent-led-committee that is an important advisory body to the board. (For more information, see Chapter 11, Working with Parent Involvement Committees, School Councils and Communities.)

Conflict of Interest

The main purpose of the MunicipalConflict of Interest Act is to protect the public interest by ensuring that public officials do not improperly take advantage of their positions of trust to seek personal gain. The Act applies to all members of local councils, committees, and boards, including school boards, either elected or appointed. The Act also applies to members of advisory committees and other committeesestablished under the Education Act.

Pecuniary Interest

Conflict-of-interest legislation is concerned only with pecuniary, or financial, interests. The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act refers to three kinds of pecuniary interest: direct, indirect, and deemed. The following are examples of each:

  • A trustee would have a direct interest if the board was considering buying property that the trustee owns.
  • A trustee would have an indirect interest if the trustee is a senior officer of a company bidding for a board contract.
  • A trustee would have a deemed interest if the trustee’s spouse, child, or parent owns a companythat is bidding for a board contract.
Declaring a Conflict

A member who identifies a direct, indirect, or deemed conflict of interest in a matter and is present at a meeting of the board or committee of the board at which the matter is the subject of consideration, must declare the conflict before any discussion of the matter begins. Specifically, the member must follow these steps:

  • Publicly declare the conflict of interest, state the general nature of the interest, and have the declaration recorded in the minutes;
  • Do not vote on any question in respect of the matter;
  • Do not take part in the discussion of the matter;
  • Do not attempt in any way, whether before, during or after the meeting, to influence the voting on any question in respect of the matter; and
  • When a committee of the board, including a committee of the whole board, is in closed session, leave the room for as long as the matter is under consideration, and have the fact that he or she left the room recorded in the minutes.

If a member is absent from a meeting during which that member would have been placed in a conflict of interest, at the next meeting attended by the member, the member must disclose the interest and otherwise refrain from discussing, influencing, or voting on the matter.

If there are any doubts about a possible conflict of interest, trustees should seek legal advice.

Contravention of the Provisions

Under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, only an elector entitled to vote at the board elections can allege conflict of interest by a memberor a former member. The Act requires that the elector commence an action or application in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Where a judge finds that a memberhas contravened his or her disclosure obligations under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the judge must declare the member’s seat vacant. The judge also has the discretion to disqualify the member from office for up to seven years and to require the member to make restitution if the contravention has resulted in personal financial gain. If the judge finds that the contravention occurred inadvertently or because of a bona fide error in judgement, the member will not be disqualified from the board or have his or her seat declared vacant. However, the member may still be required to make restitution.

A member who considers an interest to be “so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the member” need not declare it. The decision to declare a conflict of interest is the personal responsibility of the trustee. The board cannot force a member to declare a conflict or leave the room. If a trustee is in doubt, however, he or she should consider declaring a conflict.

The failure of any trustee to disclose a conflict of interest does not of itself invalidate any decision or proceeding in respect of the matter before the board. However, if a member who voted or participated in a board proceeding failed to disclose an interest, the school board may void the proceeding, within two years from the date of the proceeding, unless this would hurt an innocent third party.

School boards may obtain insurance to protect trustees who are found by a court not to have contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. This insurance might cover costs or expenses incurred in successfully defending against a proceeding under the Act.

Audit Committee

The Education Act requires that every district school board in the Province establish an audit committee. The audit committee is composed of both trustees and non-trustee members appointed by the school board in accordance with its by-law on the selection process. School board staff are not permitted to be a member of the committee. The purpose of the audit committee is to provide oversight of the school board’s financial reporting and controls and risk management. Ontario Regulation 361/10 (Audit Committees) describes the composition, functions, powers and duties of an audit committee.