Sarah Molyneaux, together with co-counsel Eric del Junco, successfully defended a local school board against allegations that it discriminated against a child on the basis of disability in a highly publicized expulsion last year. The school board argued that it had made every effort to accommodate the child, but that he could no longer remain at his school after he assaulted his Educational Assistant, causing her serious injury. Other staff and students sustained minor injuries and experienced distress as a result of the student’s multiple assaults in the weeks leading up to this injury.
The school board argued that they had taken every reasonable step to accommodate the student’s disability-related needs, but that his escalating violence at school posed an unacceptable risk to staff and students. This risk was exacerbated by a lack of parental cooperation in finding safe disability accommodation solutions, which included rejecting reasonable offers of accommodation before and after the expulsion as well as extraordinary verbal abuse of school staff in their workplace.
Acting as an intervenor on the issue of its members’ occupational health and safety, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation similarly argued that the right to a public education did not trump the rights of workers’ to a reasonably safe workplace.
While reports of violence are on the rise in Ontario schools, this is the first case of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to consider whether undue hardship arises from the occupational health and safety risk posed by a student’s violence at school.
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