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Appeal process may raise conflicts for Horizon

Posted on January 15, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

By J.W. Schnarr
Vauxhall Advance

Horizon School Board trustees who involve themselves in a student complaint could find themselves out in the cold when it comes to taking part in appeals.

That was part of the discussion during the board’s regular meeting in December, when they passed first reading on a policy titled, “Formal Parent Student Appeals.”

The policy is intended to be an update for changes to the Education Act enacted by the province, but includes several new areas regarding the procedure for appeals when students and their families have an issue regarding their schooling.

“The big piece the board should be aware of is that it now adds a big piece near the end (of the policy) a process for appeals,” he said.

Previous school policies dictated appeals would go to the board for consideration, but Tymensen said there was never an official policy in place to show what that process might look like.

“The new document lays out an appeals process, what it might look like, and the timing of that appeal, so it provides active clarity around the process should an appeal ever come before the board.”

Ward 4 trustee Derek Baron asked if board members were clear on how the process of appeals worked in the division.
“If a student has a problem and a parent has a problem, who do they go to?” he asked.

“They go to the principal, superintendent, and the (school board), but if a board member gets involved before that, they can’t be on the board of appeal. Does everybody realize that?”
Tymensen said it was worth bringing up to remind board members of their role in these types of situations.

“If there is someone who is really unhappy with something and you, as a board member, listen to their complaints, it really puts you in a conflict of interest when it comes to the overall appeal. As a board member you can listen to it and bring it forward, but the danger becomes when it comes to the actual appeal, you have information (that puts you in) a conflict of interest and you should excuse yourself from voting in that appeal process.”

Tymensen said the way to best handle a complaint would be to immediately direct them to the superintendent, and if they were unhappy with the decision made at that level, the board member would be able to take part in the appeals process and retain their vote.

During discussion, Vice Chair Bruce Francis asked where the outline of the process came from. Tymensen said the framework was built in the style of numerous other jurisdiction policies on the topic.

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