An education in fairness

Authority School District 36 (Surrey)

Serena, 16, was denied registration at her local high school. She had completed all the application documents but the principal would not register her without an authorization signature from her parent or legal guardian. Serena’s mother was her legal guardian but the two had not had contact for months and, in fact, Serena had been living independently. Not willing to approach her mother due to safety concerns, Serena came to us.

We began to investigate, confirming first that the principal had told Serena that the school district required the signature of her legal guardian. We understood that the School Act did not provide the school with the legal authority to deny Serena an education simply because she could not provide a guardian’s signature. Furthermore, a lack of schooling would only further isolate Serena, who was already in a highly vulnerable position.

When we contacted the superintendent about our investigation, he stated that the school district’s priority was to ensure that youths received educational programs and the school district was committed to having a registration policy that was as inclusive as possible. The superintendent reviewed the concerns raised by our investigation with the school district’s senior management, including all assistant superintendents and education directors. He then met with the district’s principals to clarify that the school district sought first and foremost to register youths in school.

The superintendent agreed to change the wording on the school board’s website to ensure that its inclusive message was clear. The superintendent further committed to ensuring that Serena was contacted directly to acknowledge that her registration request should have been handled differently.

Serena was able to register for school and her complaint resulted in the school district taking a number of positive steps to ensure that its communications were clear and that its staff knew that the priority was to ensure that all youths have the opportunity to receive an education.

Category Children and Youth, Education
Type Case Summary
Fiscal Year 2014
Location The Lower Mainland