If you are concerned about a decision that affects your child’s education, you have the right to complain. We are seeing a lot of families in #bced being asked to send their child only 1-2 hours per day for example. Here are the steps to take:
Start wherever the decision happened. If it was the teacher, email them. Resource teacher? Email them. DON’T copy the principal, district, Minister of Education and Child Care, your MLA or your dog just yet. Take it in steps. Try to resolve things at the earliest point.
Here’s a set of toolkits we developed with @FSIBC that guide you through how to email, plan for, run and follow up after meetings. Lots of other great toolkits on the site too!
So, what to do if the first email doesn’t resolve things?
Send another email! Copy in the principal at this point if it’s needed. Sometimes you just don’t get any answer at all. Legally that’s considered an answer. You can feel free to email the next level any time that this happens. Still, you want to aim to resolve things as early in the process as possible.
No answer, or not a satisfactory one? Now you should email the district department relevant to your concerns. You can phone your district’s general contact number if you’re not sure who to email.
We have noticed this step in the advocacy process often brings solutions. For this reason, you want to move through the previous steps fairly quickly if things seem stuck. How quickly?
We suggest asking in your email for a response in a few days to a week. The urgency of the issue can determine this. Often as parents/guardians we make the mistake of waiting weeks for a response.
It can be hard to stay on top of things, especially when there are many issues of concern that need to be addressed, or if you as a parent/guardian are also disabled and/or experiencing other types of systemic oppression.
Speaking of many issues, it’s best to address one or two primary concerns rather than many. Look at the most urgent and stay focused. You can come back to the other things, address them in the IEP, etc.
It can be hard to stay focused. There can be a lot of frustration and sadness involved in following this advocacy path, for families. We recommend bringing in advocacy support. @InclusionBC and @FSIBC both provide support for free.
We also recognize that sometimes you need to take a step back and a break. It’s okay to do this. Managing your mental health and that of your child is important to your child’s longer term success too!
Both Inclusion BC and the Family Support Institute of BC can walk alongside you on your journey. There may already be a community organization you’re involved with, or your school or district parent advisory council. Reach out to see if they offer advocacy support too, many of them do.
Now, back to the steps!
If the district department doesn’t resolve things, you can now email the Superintendent. If after that things are still unresolved for your child, there is a formal appeals process in the School Act, called a Section 11 Appeal.
These community organizations can help you with this process, and @BCCPAC is very skilled as well in advocacy support around this and other school issues. Your district will have a policy and procedure or regulation that outlines the steps to take to file this appeal. They should inform you that it exists as you’re working through the complaints process above.
Some other avenues you may consider pursuing:
Superintendent of Appeals at the Ministry of Education and Child Care
Teacher Regulation Branch
Human Rights Tribunal
You can find some really great tips on these avenues and other things at
This bottom-up process of accountability requires capacity that many families simply do not have. These steps are not easy and this is by design. This is one of the reasons BCEdAccess came to be, and is working on changes at the system level.
If you do have capacity, you can also advocate for change by emailing your MLA in support of our policy asks.
This year our focus is on these 3 changes which could make a big difference for schools and students – follow our blog for some more detailed posts about why we feel these things are key:
- Release of the new Inclusive Education Policy Manual (and change to Ministerial Order that allows exclusion)
2. Annual audit of the outcomes of IEPs for students
3. Teacher training in disabilities and anti-oppression, both pre-service and in-service
Here’s a simple guide to your rights, your child’s rights and how to advocate in #bced that may help – please share if you think this will be useful, and add any thoughts and suggestions in comments!