Parent-Led Groups Advocate Together for Access to Education

As a group we have a mandate to advocate for students with special needs, and we generally focus in the realm of special education.  However, all of the concerns held by these other education advocacy groups led by parents are concerns that equally affect diverse learners and more typical students.  Please see our joint statement below.  We were humbled to have the opportunity to present at this meeting in the company of such strong advocates.

Grassroots Parent Groups Advocate Together for Public Education

As we near the end of the calendar year and are just over 100 days into the current school year, it is a time of reflection in our province. Many will recognize some positive steps made in public education during the year: the Supreme Court of Canada ruling on class size and composition continues to be implemented and funded; seismic projects are being announced with greater frequency; and there is increasing recognition of the value of public education and the undeniable deficiencies still present in a system which has faced chronic deprioritization for 16 years.

But public education isn’t yet the priority it should be, that is, as a societal benefit to all. Parents and families still await long-overdue changes that will make education more accessible and equitable for all learners across the province.

Parent advocacy continues and grassroots parent groups are working together now more than ever. On December 1, 2017, six parent advocacy groups—BCEdAccess, Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education, Parent Advocacy Network (incl FACE), Richmond Schools Stand United, Seismic Safety For BC Schools, Surrey Students Now—met with BC Premier John Horgan and Minister of Education Rob Fleming. The representatives of these six groups spoke with Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming about some key issues facing the public education system. Together, the parent representatives made six recommendations to the government.

We thank Premier Horgan and Minister Fleming for taking the time to listen to the collective parent voice, and we look forward to more such meetings in the future. Our recommendations are only the beginning of many changes that are required to provide a quality, equitable public education to all the children in our province. The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services has also made some strong recommendations for public education funding in the 2018 Budget. We encourage the government to view our recommendations and the Committee’s recommendations as important steps on the road to building the public education system that BC’s children deserve.

About Our Non-Partisan Organizations

BCEdAccess has over 1250 parent members, from all over BC, and we are growing every day. Our mandate as grassroots volunteers is to advocate publicly for equitable access to education for students with special needs, and to provide their parents with support, education and training around that right.

Nanaimo Parents Supporting Public Education is an organization formed by parents concerned about the chronic underfunding of public education in BC and the effects it has on the quality of our children’s education. We work to bring attention and awareness to issues within our public education system both locally and provincially.

The Parent Advocacy Network is a collective of parents and community members who share a commitment to public education. We work to address the devaluing of public education in Vancouver and across BC by holding government accountable and helping effect policy changes.

Richmond Schools Stand United  is a parent-led group advocating for safe schools and equitable access to public education across our city and the province.

Seismic Safety For BC Schools is an advocacy group committed to ensuring all schools in BC are earthquake safe.

Surrey Students Now is a group composed of parents concerned for the education of the community’s children.


Notes from Advocacy In Action Part 1 – Building Relationships

Building Relationships was one of the excellent workshops we were fortunate to have at our second annual advocacy conference, Advocacy In Action (2017). It was presented by Erika Cedillo and José Duarte.

You’re really going to have to look out for their next live version of this presentation, because their energy and enthusiasm really gave the content so much life!

What I took away from this presentation was that just like a marriage, or a parent-child relationship, our relationships with the school team, and other teams we engage with for the benefit of our children with special needs, you have to work at it. Maintaining a good relationship isn’t effortless but it is very worthwhile!

If you have questions about this presentation or are interested in having them at your event, please message us and we can put you in touch with the presenters.

Building relationshipsn PDF

Advocacy In Action – a Workshop/Conference for Parents/Guardians of Children With Special Needs in BC Schools

Buy tickets on Eventbrite now!

OCTOBER 7, 2017 – 830 AM TO 500 PM, Pacific Autism Family Network, Richmond, BC

Contact us at with any questions.

BC Parents of Children With Special Needs – Action for Equitable Access to Education (BCEdAccess) are presenting a full day workshop for special ed parents.

Featuring a Key Note Address by Rick Moore!

Rick Moore is a North Vancouver father who won a landmark court case that ruled the North Vancouver School District discriminated against his dyslexic son. At the heart of the case was what responsibility the school system bears to help children with special needs succeed. Rick and his family spent fifteen (15!) years going through legal process in order to set this important precedent.

Other speakers and workshop topics will include:

Lindsay Waddell, Senior Associate at Moore Edgar Lyster – “practical information about human rights claims”

Erika Cedillo and Pepe Duarté – “different personality types and effective ways to communicate with your child’s team”

Theresa Grech, Mental Health Expert

A Parent Panel discussion including Bobbi Taylor, Nicole Kaler, Jodie Wickens and Suzanne Perrault

There is plenty of free parking at the Pacific Autism Family Network in Richmond. Lunch and materials are included in the price. Please contact the organizer with any questions or concerns about this event.

Whether your child has a confirmed diagnosis or you have a child who seems stuck in the system, join us for inspiration as well as practical tips and techniques.  Hear from experts and real parents who’ve been through grueling experiences and managed to re-emerge with tools and supports for their children, while finding the right fit in the BC system. You’ll also find a community of parents who really get your experience and can help you feel less isolated.

Information will be updated regularly. Please follow us on Facebook


Inclusive language and special needs

I have a confession to make. I really strongly dislike using the term ‘special needs’.

The term is fraught with problems. No individual student’s needs are particularly special. Or perhaps conversely, all students have unique learning needs that could be termed special.

This video underlines it better than I ever could:


So why on Earth does our group have this term in our name? Well, to be fair we are undergoing somewhat of a rebranding. Our original group name was very long and is hard for even me to remember. These days we are going by BCEdAccess. This reflects that our group’s primary purpose is to provide information and support to parents around their children’s right to equitable access to education.

However, I still use the term special needs with some frequency, even though I find it uncomfortable. There are a few reasons for this. The most important one is that it is the current term in the BC School Act:

BC School Act

It is also the name on the Manual (although generally the department has been rebranded to Inclusive Education):

Special Education Services Manual

And it is the term still used in many policies that affect the children of the parents in our group.

Other reasons have to do with public perception and understanding. This term identifies a specific cohort to the general public and is used in media, etc.  Honestly it has seemed to me like a very big task to both raise awareness in the public eye about the issues for these particular students, and to also change the language used at the same time.

I probably won’t stop using the term fully until I have a viable replacement that includes all students that currently fall under this category in the BC School Act.

But I’m having a bit of a crisis of conscience. Because there’s another term that I like to use a lot, and that’s inclusion. Inclusion is an interesting word because it is used differently in different circumstances both in the education system and society in general.

Currently in the media you hear a lot about inclusion around the SOGI curriculum resources (for more information about them, look here):


In this particular case the word inclusion is referencing LGTBQ2S+ students. I think this is a wonderful curriculum resource and I think it’s going to help a lot of children.

For my part, when I say inclusion, I’m generally referring to students with ‘special needs’, as defined in the Act. But, more properly inclusion is about all people feeling a sense of belonging in a community.

So it really does refer to all marginalized groups. It would be great to see curriculum resources similar to SOGI that promote inclusion of some of those other groups. It’s all to the same end – providing children with a solid foundation in inclusion and diversity.

Circling back around to my main point. I’d love to take part in discussions around new language. The bottom line is that the term special needs is exclusive language. It is othering. And we need to move beyond this.

I have seen some use diverse learners, others use the term complex learners, students with exceptional needs, and there are other terms out there as well.  I am seeing this shift in parent advocacy, and also in more official District and school documents.

Let’s talk. Are you a student who is designated as special needs in the public school system? What do you think about this terminology? Are you a parent, and educator, a trustee, a Ministry of Education staffer? Have you already been working hard on trying to shift the language around this term?

How can we move forward from this antiquated language and be more inclusive?  Members of our group have been concerned about this issue since we started three years ago.  I clearly don’t have the answer but I want to take part in exploring the question.

Guest Post: Effective Approaches to Resolving School Issues for Your Child With Special Needs

With the startup to the new school year, and the many challenges that parents typically encounter around this time, I thought it might be valuable to have a comprehensive guide to how to proceed.  I turned to Inclusion BC to see if they could provide some guidance.  This excellent and thorough document is what they provided.  Thank you, Inclusion BC! – Tracy

About us: Inclusion BC is a provincial non-profit organization that advocates for children and youth with special needs, and adults with intellectual disabilities and their families. Education is one of our biggest priorities. That’s why we’ve made it the theme for Community Inclusion Month in October: Everyone Belongs in BC Schools.

We also have dedicated staff who help parents advocate for their children within the school system. If you need support or have questions, contact Karen DeLong at 604-777-9100 ext 530 or


Effective Approaches to Resolving School Issues

It’s the beginning of October and Inclusion BC has been abuzz with calls from parents whose children have had limited access to an educational program. In some cases, students are still waiting at home. This unacceptable, no matter what the reason. In this article we want to give parents some tips and tools to address the immediate issue and to promote open and honest communication between home and school for the long term.


In this article you’ll see:


  • Information about your child’s rights
  • Legislative and policy information that may be helpful along with common system structures. A well-informed parent will be a confident advocate for their child.
  • Successful tips gleaned from parents over the span of the past 20 or so years of inclusive education in BC. Much more can be found in “Everyone Belongs in our Schools: A Parent’s Handbook on Inclusive Education which is downloadable from our website”.


Your child has rights!

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities-Article 24

“Countries recognize that people with disabilities have a right to an education.  In order to realize this right without discrimination, countries agree to ensure the availability of an inclusive education system at all levels, as well as access to life-long learning.  This means ensuring access to the general education system and the provision of supports and accommodations within the general education system.”

Special Education Policy-BC Ministry of Education

All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement, and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs. Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines.

What does the system have to say?


“Student with special needs:” A student who has a disability of an intellectual, physical, sensory, emotional or behavioural nature, has a learning disability or has special gifts or talents, as defined the in the Manual of Policies,  Procedures, and Guidelines, Section E.

Funding, Assessments and Required Documentation

All school districts receive a basic allocation of funding per student (including students with special needs) registered in the school district from the Ministry of Education. In addition, a district is provided supplementary funding based up the special needs of students within their district. In order to qualify such students must have been appropriately assessed and have an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

*Please be aware that these funds are not attached to a specific student but are provided to school districts to support the needs of students within the district. Most districts in BC spend more on these programs than they receive, such as speech/language support, occupational support, behaviour support, etc.

 see Special Education Services, Category Checklists – 2010, Ministry of Education

The School Act, Regulations, Ministerial Orders & Polices

Should you be inclined to read legislation here are a few things to keep in mind about the Language of Policy:


Must – requires compliance – no option

Should – encourages or provides incentives but is optional

May  – enabling statements but still optional


By the way, an IEP is not a legal contract in BC therefore does not require any signatures. The principal, however is responsible for ensuring that the IEP is implemented.


The School Act says parents are entitled to:


  • be consulted about the placement of their children with special needs
  • be involved in the planning, development, and implementation of their children’s education program
  • be informed of a student’s attendance, behaviour, and progress in school, receive annual reports about the effectiveness of educational programs in the school district
  • examine all records kept by the school board pertaining to their children
  • register their children in an educational program through a school district, independent school, home school, or regional correspondence program
  • appeal the decision of an employee of a board if it significantly affects the education, health, or safety of a student, within a reasonable time from the date that the parent or student was informed of the decision.


When things happen

Steps towards Resolution:


It is important to know that there is a process to resolve concerns at school.  If you skip a step, you will be sent back down the ladder.


The teacher is usually the first person you should approach with a concern.  Remember the teacher is ultimately responsible for the education of every student in his/her classroom. However, if your child is not yet attending school or is there for reduced hours then you probably need to go directly to the school principal.


  1. You can send a concern in written format, try an informal ‘chat’ or request a formal meeting. Include a brief summary of the issue, list the steps already taken and stress the urgency of the matter. Simplicity and clarity are most effective.
  2. If it’s a formal meeting, take someone with you who will take notes and be the calm supporter should you become emotional.
  3. Make a list of your issues ahead of time and take it with you. Quote the Ministry policy where possible.
  4. Listen actively and ask for an explanation if you do not understand.
  5. Follow up with an email summarizing the outcome of the meeting including next steps and a timeline if possible. The timeline is especially important if your child is not yet attending school for full days. State your expectation clearly.
  6. Appreciate that the teacher has done the best that they are able to, but advise them that you will be taking your concern to the next level if unresolved. They are not the enemy but are working within a system that has limitations.  It is merely that you need to take your issue higher to someone who may have more authority.
  7. You may consider speaking with the school principal next. We have found that including the staff at the district level in emails at this time is useful. Commonly, school districts have staff identified as District Principals of Inclusive Education, District Principal, Learning Services or Student Support Services. Check your district website for this information.



Appeal to a Board of Education

Section 11(2) of the School Act says:

If a decision of an employee of a board significantly affects the education, health or safety of a student, the parent of the student or the student may, within reasonable time from the date that the parent or student was informed of the decision, appeal that decision to the board.

A School District appeal is only an option when all of the previous steps have been exhausted. All school districts are required to have an appeal policy and process in place.

1.       Most district’s appeal policies can be found on their website. If you cannot locate this request a copy from the board office. It will outline the procedure and timelines and when you can expect a decision. The board’s decision should be in writing.

2.       The school board’s decision is binding and is the final step for resolution within your district.


Appeal to the Superintendent of Achievement

Appeals can only be made to a Superintendent of Achievement if a decision of an employee of a board significantly affects the education, health or safety of a student AND the matter relates to:

  • Expulsion from an educational program;
  • Suspension from an educational program;
  • Suspension from an educational program where no other educational program is made available;
  • Distributed learning required as part of a disciplinary matter;
  • A decision not to provide a student with an IEP;
  • Consultation about placement of a student with special needs and the provision of an Individual Education Plan (IEP);
  • Bullying behaviours, including intimidation, harassment or threats of violence; or
  • Exclusion due to a medical condition that endangers others.


Final thoughts

Pick your battles and try to reserve your energy for the many opportunities that may lie ahead. With each achievement, no matter how small, congratulate yourself for a job well done and celebrate!

Inclusion BC is dedicated to supporting inclusive education and is available to provide advocacy when needed. Please contact Karen DeLong at 604-777-9100 ext 530 or

We are continuously seeking to hear from families regarding their experiences. Please let us know when things are going well!

Time-tested qualities of effective partners include:

  • Mutual respect for skills and knowledge
  • Honest and clear communication
  • Understanding
  • Shared planning and decision making
  • Absence of labeling and blaming
  • Awareness of unique strengths and needs


Other Resources

Precedent Setting Court Cases


The 2012 Supreme Court Decision Moore v. British Columbia states that:


  • Adequate special education (or an accommodation) is not a dispensable luxury, but a “ramp” to access the statutory commitment to education made to all children…”
  • When denying accommodation “…the service provider must show that it could not have done anything else reasonable or practical to avoid the negative impact on the individual.”

A helpful summary has been prepared by the Learning Disabilities Association of BC

Another important case was Hewko v. British Columbia, 2006 BCSC1638 and was a partial victory claiming:

“the District is required to consult with parents regarding the student’s education program AND the Court also ruled that reasonable accommodation was part of the duty to consult.


What do you think? Have you used any of these approaches? What have we missed?

The state of things

School has been back in for 2 1/2 days as I write this update in September of 2017.  I wish I didn’t have too much to say but unfortunately it hasn’t been a super great week for some kids in BC schools.

What’s been happening, you say?  Here is an incomplete list:

Parents are being asked to keep their children home in large numbers, while classes are organized and set, and often while EA’s are still being assigned and/or hired.

Parents have been told their child may only attend a portion of the day, sometimes as little as 1 hour, and sometimes temporarily but in some cases, for the entire year.

Parents have discovered that their children are not on track to graduate with a Dogwood – their program has shifted without consultation or explanation.

Students new to high school are already getting lost in the shuffle – their IEP accommodations have not been passed on to their new teachers, and assignments are not being approached with regard to their needs.

Parents have been told that assessments are on hold, or that their child will not even be recommended or waitlisted for one at this time.

Parents are already struggling with trying to hang on to their jobs as schools are calling them to pick up their child during the school day, because there are no supports available for them.

Parents are already being told that their children will be excluded from field trips, band, sports and other activities.

Parents, having been reassured before school started that the right supports would be available for their kids, have arrived at school to find that those supports are not there.

I have been hesitant to dampen the enthusiasm and energy of the new school year. There have been some really positive changes. But I can’t help feeling that kids are being left behind again.
Inclusion and students with special needs are the afterthought of the BC school system. These issues need to be urgently addressed. Our kids have waited long enough.

Media Release October 4, 2016 Re: Private SES Funding

Parent advocates decry BC government funding for
select special needs private schools as elitist and segregatory


For immediate release


BRITISH COLUMBIA October 4, 2016 – Sending $1 million in special needs funding to select private schools smacks of elitism, says a parent advocacy group made up of BC parents of special needs children, Action for Equitable Access to Education (BCEDAccess). The group is reacting to yesterday’s announcement of funding for 15 select private schools.


“That means just 500 kids will get the help, services and support they deserve,” says Andrea Kennedy, a spokesperson for BCEDAccess. “But 45,000 other students with special needs in BC schools will continue to struggle to access the same services.”  BCEDAccess calls for the Minister of Education to reaffirm a commitment to inclusive, public education in B.C. and match this funding increase commitment for all special needs students in British Columbia, with the same formula as per pupil funding (50% to private schools).

In 2015, BCEDAccess issued a report documenting the numerous families with special needs children being forced out of the public education system.  Minister at the time, Peter Fassbender and his representatives said there was no funding available to improve services for children in public school. The report and recommendations can be found on their website:
“Now, with this week’s funding, the government acknowledges the need for these services and indicates that they want to provide essential, specialized services — but only if you are in one of these select private schools,” says Kennedy. “They’re breaking the system and moving us further toward a two-tiered education program; one for those who can afford quality education and one for those who are relegated to an under-resourced public system.” The Ministry of Education’s policy for students with special needs states: All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.

“Education is a human right, not a privilege for people with money,” adds Kennedy, noting tuition is out of reach for most families. “It’s a Charter right for all children in British Columbia who have special needs to have equal access to education — in an inclusive environment, not segregation. Many parents who can afford these options, choose them as a last resort when they are forced out of the BC public education system, sometimes going deep into debt or cutting expenses to the bone to make ends meet.”


BCEDAccess notes that, rather than supporting truly vulnerable students, this government has consistently and repeatedly cut funding to Districts who have in turn been forced to cut staff positions including specialized teachers and education assistants.  The group’s 2015 report “identified a number of areas where adequate support was lacking including; no access to specialized services (44%), inadequate training for educational assistants (42%) and not following the individualized education plan (43%)” notes Tracy Humphreys, a member of the group and a parent who says she was forced to remove her two children from public school earlier this year.


Kennedy adds, “We are demanding that funding provided to children with special needs in our public education system be adequate to meet their needs. All children are guaranteed the Charter right to equitably access public education and it’s time for the BC Ministry of Education to ensure this education is provided.”


About BCEdAccess
Founded over 2 years ago by 10 parents who were struggling to get their kids support at school, BC Parents of Special Needs Children – Action for Equitable Access to Education has swelled to 865 members. The group is promoted to parents who have children with special needs in British Columbia to share information, find support and work towards ensuring there is equitable access to education for ALL children.The Forced Out report and recommendations can be found on their website:

Background: Ministry of Education Policy
The Ministry of Education’s policy for students with special needs states: “All students should have equitable access to learning, opportunities for achievement and the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of their educational programs.”


Andrea Kennedy

Tracy Humphreys


Special Needs Funding in BC Schools – It’s Not What You Think

egg rolls

The allocation of services for students in various categories is not like a Chinese Food Menu…if you have designation “X”, it comes with egg rolls and a full time EA

The Ministry began by determining, in a very broad way, approximately how much it will cost to meet the needs of students in certain special education categories. They recognize that the sum they have come up with may exceed the cost of meeting the needs of some students and be insufficient to meet the needs of others within the same category.

In short, the Ministry has never claimed that the funds your child’s category generates for the district, are to be assigned to your child. They are to be pooled at the district level with some students getting a bit more and others a bit less, depending on their identified needs which is determined by the school district.

At the beginning of a new school year, with hundreds of Special Needs students in need of immediate support, the district has to come up with some way of distributing the resources they have (EA time, Speech/Language, etc.) to students who need them. There is no time to evaluate the individual level of support needed for each student based on their unique needs at this point.

Typically, and especially in large districts, a district will employ some system to determine what services automatically go where at the beginning of the year based on designations…and from there, the tweaking begins with some students requiring more and others less support.

This automation of the service distribution causes many educators and parents to believe that students in certain categories are mandated to receive certain kinds and levels of service. It just isn’t true no matter who tells you that.

It’s just an in-house system that approximates needs by category and responds with distributing roughly what they think the service level needs will be. Districts take into account the data they have collected from previous years, based on student populations at the school level – how many Special Needs students were enrolled the previous year, and how many have moved up a level. They may also factor in that some schools will have a higher incidence of Special Needs students than others, and account for that in their initial distribution.

After the initial distribution, districts know that some tweaking will still need to occur to ensure those students who need more than was allocated will receive additional support. So districts will hold back a pool of EA time (and other services) for this reason. After a few weeks, parents and/or educators may see that the supports that were automatically generated are insufficient to support a particular student. Typically, the principal applies to the department of Student Services requesting additional EA time, explaining the need – usually around the end of October.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what category your child is designated in.

The services they receive, and the intensity or level of service they get, must be based on each student’s unique individual needs…not on an automated service delivery system.

It’s the law of the land (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, BC Human Rights Act – upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada) and no public service like public education can write a policy that changes that fact.

  • Cathie Camley


Guest Post: The Paper Bag

This is a powerful message from Kim McLeod, originally shared on her public Facebook page. Please read and share widely.

Author: Kim McLeod

This is published with permission from the author. This post was originally published on her public Facebook page HERE.

Open letter to the schools, to the administrations, teachers, support staff and students

The Paper Bag

It is graduation year for my son and the students were at the annual day away at a local camp to celebrate their end of year and their time spent completing their journey through middle and high school .

I arrived to pick up my son and his nurse from this activity and there were happy students everywhere! They were taking pictures, playing games, and talking. Teacher stood around talking as well, everyone smiled. It was a beautiful, fun filled day.

I found my son at the centre of the main room flanked by his wheelchair on one side and his nurse on the other as he received some medication. All…

View original post 620 more words

Notes from the April Advocacy Conference

We would like to thank all of our attendees for coming to our first Advocacy Conference in April.  It was a huge success, connections were made, and much was learned!We would also like to extend a warm thanks to all of our amazing presenters.  Their time and dedication is so appreciated, and now they are providing their conference notes for our reference in continuing our advocacy work for our children.

Tracy Humphreys, Conference Coordinator

I will be posting over the next few weeks as I receive these notes.  Sign up to follow our blog for updates!



We would ask that you please cite or attribute any quotes or references to the presenters. 


Deputy Education Spokesperson

Access to Education presentation


Moore Edgar Lyster

Education as a Human Right – FINAL


LDABC (Learning Disabilities Association of British Columbia), Inclusion BC, Family Support Institute of BC

Advocating for Special Needs in BC Schools – Karen



Advocating for the Advocate – Conference notes

B von Krosigk Advocating for the Advocate April 2016


ABC’s of IEP’s April 2016


TMG Consulting, counselling and education