Ken Pike – Director of Social Policy, NBACL
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Moore case found that the complainant, Jeffrey Moore (a student described as having a severe Learning Disability), was denied access to the general education available to all students as a result of the failure of his school district to provide him with the remediation accommodations he needed. The Supreme Court stated that adequate special education supports are the “ramp” that provide access to public education.
This decision is significant in that education authorities must look at the support and educational needs of students with disabilities with respect to their equal right to enjoy a publicly funded education. While the case centred on Jeffrey’s need for “intensive remediation” as a result of his Learning Disability, it has broader implications. The Court noted that the finding of discrimination “has broader remedial repercussions for how other students with severe learning disabilities are educated.”
I believe that the decision also impacts students with a variety of disabilities and their individual needs for support. Ministries of education and school districts must give serious consideration to their human rights obligations to provide adequate support so that all students can have access to education services. This means that adequate funding will be required to meet these obligations. While the court noted that financial constraints are a relevant consideration when determining the scope of the obligation, accommodations for students with disabilities was not a question of “mere efficiency”.
The impact of the Moore decision on advancing the inclusion of students with disabilities is a bit less clear. The ‘ramp’ comparison noted above supports the notion that educational supports should provide access to the general education system. If Ministries of Education and districts do take their human rights obligations seriously, then supports for students to participate in regular education must be made available. Methods and strategies to provide the kind of support required by Jeffrey Moore within the context of inclusion must also be addressed.
The Court did not specifically address the question of inclusion but did note that the avoidance of similar claims of discrimination will require the provision of a range of services for students with disabilities in accordance with education legislation and its related policies. The advancement of inclusion will still require clear mandates within legislation and government policy. Additionally, right to an inclusive education contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must also be considered. The Moore decision can be seen as an important contribution to the promotion of these rights.