Administrative law – Schools – Closures – Parental rights – Decisions of administrative tribunals – School boards – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness
Kelley v. Saanich School District No. 63,  B.C.J. No. 1952, British Columbia Supreme Court, September 9, 2005, Sigurdson J.
An application was brought by way of judicial review to quash a school closing bylaw. The Petitioners (the parents of the school’s students) argued that there had been a breach of procedural fairness and a failure of the School Board to consult with them in a meaningful way.
The Court noted that the narrow mandate of the Court on a judicial review application of a school closure was to inquire into whether the decision to close the school was procedurally fair. In this case, the School Board’s duty of procedural fairness was to ensure that the Petitioners had an opportunity to fully and fairly present their case to the Board prior to the Board making its decision to close the school.
The Court held that while the process in this case was far from perfect, when looking at it as a whole, it was fundamentally procedurally fair. There was extensive community consultation that lead to a working group report which set out a number of options for the Board to consider in order to deal with its problems of budget shortfalls and declining enrolment. While notice may not have been given directly to all of the parents of the students, the Court found that there was adequate notice in the circumstances to the parents in the media, through the Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils of Saanich, and from the principal of at least some of the meetings of the working group. The Court noted the opportunity for the parents to make submissions to the Board at its meeting on December 15, 2004. The Board, faced with a serious budgetary issue and a declining enrolment, engaged in a wide-reaching public consultation from February 2004 until the bylaw was passed, closing the school in June 2005. It gave the parents of the school and students an opportunity to present their case to the working group and to the Board prior to the Board making its decision to close the school. As such, looking at the process as a whole, it was fundamentally fair. The Petition was therefore dismissed.
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