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Education Law and Policy

The Constitution Act of Canada gives the Ontario government, and other Provinces, the power to decide how public schools in Ontario will be run and funded.

In this section, we provide an overview of the law governing the public education system in Ontario.  In the sections of this web site on Special Education and Suspensions & Expulsions, we provide further detail about the law, and your rights in these specific areas.

The Legal Hierarchy

The following diagram shows the many levels of law and policy that govern the public education system in Ontario.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is part of the Constitution of Canada and, as such, is part of the highest law in the country.  The Constitution is referred to as “supreme” law, because it “has supremacy” or “takes precedence” over all other laws and policies made in the Canada.  This means that the decisions and practices of the Ministry of Education, schools, and School Boards must be consistent with the rights enshrined in higher-ranking laws, including Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the Charter

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Ontario’s Human Rights Code are discussed later in this section.

The Education Act

The Education Act is the main piece of legislation, or “statute”, governing public education in Ontario.  This legislation provides authority for the creation of all of the main features of the education system.  The Education Act sets in law the powers and responsibilities of the Minister of Education and School Boards, the authority of principals and teachers, and the rights and responsibilities of parents and students.

In the sections of this web site on Special Education and Suspensions & Expulsions, we include information on the specific rights related to these areas as set out in the Education Act and regulations.

You can read Ontario’s Education Act at the following link.

The Education Act


Regulations can be understood as supplements to legislation which provide additional detail in a specific area.

Important aspects of the education system in Ontario are governed by Regulations.  So, it is important for parents not only to know what is in the Education Act, but its Regulations as well.
For example, Regulation 181/98 under the Education Act sets out the process for deciding if a child is going to be identified as exceptional by a School Board.  It also establishes the roles and rules for Identification, Placement and Review Committees (IPRCs), and the appeal process of IPRC decisions.

The following are links to some of the Regulations under the Education Act that may be of interest to parents and guardians.  (“O. Reg.” stands for “Ontario Regulation”).

Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils – O. Reg. 181/98
Special Education Advisory Committees – O. Reg. 464/97
Special Education Programs and Services – R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 306
Behavior, Regulation and Discipline of Students – O. Reg. 472/07
Access to School Premises – O. Reg. 474/00
School Councils and Parent Involvement Committees – O. Reg. 612/00

Ministry Policy

The Ministry of Education and local School Boards also make policy.  Policies provide direction about how things should happen.  Policy may take the form of policy statements, directives, guidelines, or memos that define the procedures and practices of schools and School Boards.

The Ministry of Education issues “Policy/Program Memoranda” (plural for memorandum, abbreviated “memo”) which set guidelines for School Boards, and outline procedures and practices.  Policies do not have the legal force of Statutes and Regulations, but they are legally binding.

The following are links to some Ontario Ministry of Education Policies/Program Memoranda that may be of interest to parents and guardians.  A more complete list is available on the Ministry of Education web site.  (“PPM” stands for “Policy/Program Memorandum”).

Learning Disabilities – PPM 8
Early Identification of Children’s Learning Needs – PPM 11
Psychological Testing and Assessment of Pupils – PPM 59
Residential Demonstration Schools for Students with Learning Disabilities – PPM 89
Development and Implementation of School Board Policies on Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity – PPM 119
School Board Policies on Violence Prevention in Schools – PPM 120
School Board Codes of Conduct – PPM 128
School Board Programs For Expelled Students – PPM 142
Homeschooling – PPM 131

School Board Policy

School Boards also make policies on various matters as directed by the Ministry of Education.  The School Board policies of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board will be discussed in the sections of this web site on Special Education and Suspensions & Expulsions.

Government Priorities

Within each Ministry, governments have specific priorities.  Governments can act on their priorities by providing funding.  These priorities will have an impact on what the Government actually accomplishes for students in Ontario.

For example, the Government or Ministry may decide that it is a priority to reduce the drop-out rate.  If the government acts on this priority, a strategy will be developed, and funding provided to implement the strategy.

It is possible to influence government priorities by working with groups that support your goals.

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