Resolving Identification or Placement Issues

Procedures for Parent(s)/Guardian(s)

Approximately 290,000 students in Ontario elementary and secondary schools receive special education programs and services. In most cases, the process works smoothly, with parent(s)/guardian(s), administrators, teachers, and support professionals agreeing on the needs of the student and on the programs and services that will best meet those needs. In instances where parent(s)/guardian(s), teachers and support professionals cannot agree, the following process is recommended:

  1. While school boards and parent(s)/guardian(s) may agree on special education programs and services for a student without the assistance of an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC), the formal IPRC process provides a good framework for both parent(s)/guardian(s) and school board to ensure that the needs of the student are fully considered. In the event of an issue arising as to whether or not a student is exceptional, or which program placement is most appropriate for the student, the first step parent(s)/guardian(s) and school officials should take is to request an IPRC meeting, as set out in Regulation 181/98 (Section 14).

  2. If a parent/guardian is not satisfied with the identification and/or placement decision regarding their child, as determined by the IPRC, there are three steps that may be followed. The parent/guardian may:
    • request a follow up meeting with the IPRC; and/or
    • appeal the decision(s), in writing, to an Appeal Board set up by the school board through the secretary of the board (who is usually the director of education), within 30 days of the IPRC's decision;
    • and then, if desired, further appeal to the Ontario Special Education Tribunal.

    If a parent/guardian or school principal believes that the placement is not working out and the student has been in the program for at least three months, the parent/guardian or principal may request that the IPRC review the identification and/or placement. A request for an appeal in this case must be made within 15 days. Provisions for these reviews and appeals are set out in the Regulation 181/98 and are summarized in Highlights of Regulation 181/98.

  3. If parents/guardians accept the identification and placement but are concerned about the nature of the special education program or special education services their child is receiving, the following steps may be taken:
    1. Review the student's Individual Education Plan to determine whether the student's needs are appropriately represented and accommodated in the plan.
    2. Discuss the issue with the student's teacher.
    3. Include the school principal in the discussion, as necessary.
    4. If the issue cannot be resolved at the school, contact the school board, where a special education coordinator or superintendent of special education may be able to resolve the issue.

In certain circumstances, when a parent/guardian cannot resolve the issue in discussion with school board officials, staff of the regional office of the Ministry of Education may be able to assist. However, ministry staff cannot provide legal advice or direction to parents/guardians or school boards and those seeking legal assistance are advised to contact independent legal counsel.

Various parent associations such as the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario, the Ontario Association for Community Living, and the Association for Bright Children, or their local chapters, may be able to assist parents/guardians in their discussion with teachers and school board officials. In addition, the board's Special Education Advisory Committee may make recommendations to the board about matters affecting the establishment, development and delivery of special education programs and services for the exceptional pupils of the board.

In the event of a serious dispute, parents/guardians and the school board should consider mediation as an effective means of resolving the dispute.

As a last resort, when other avenues of appeal have been exhausted, parents/guardians may contemplate an appeal to the Ontario Special Education Tribunal.