Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – School boards – Notice requirements – Schools – Suspension of students – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Natural justice – Compliance with legislation
Parsons v. Chignecto-Central Regional School Board,  N.S.J. No. 282, 2013 NSSC 170, Nova Scotia Supreme Court, June 4, 2013, P.J. Duncan J.
On May 2, 2012, Mr. Christopher Parsons (“Mr. Parsons”) was attending Hants East Rural High School (the “School”) and he told his teacher (“Ms. White”), “Fuck this – you’re pissing me off – I’m fucking leaving”. On May 4, 2012, Mr. Parsons discussed the incident with one of his other teachers (“Mr. Cassavechia”) and he blamed the incident on Ms. White. Mr. Cassavechia referred the matter to the Vice-Principal and Mr. Parsons was suspended for two days (May 7 and 8, 2012). Mr. Cassavechia was present when Mr. Parsons called his mother, the Applicant, and told her about the reasons for the suspension. The Applicant was not given written notice about the suspension as required by section 123(1) of the Education Act.
While suspended, Mr. Parsons offered $100 to another student to fight a student. Later that student was assaulted and witnesses indicated Mr. Parsons was the instigator. Mr. Parsons was referred to the Vice-Principal again. On May 10, 2012, Mr. Parsons and the Applicant (the “Parsons”) were advised in writing that Mr. Parsons was suspended for 5 days (May 11 – 12, 2012). That same day, the Parsons were advised in writing that the Vice-Principal was recommending a longer suspension from May 18, 2012 to the end of the school year. The Applicant was told that the Suspension Review Committee (the “Committee”) of the Respondent School Board (the “Board”) would be meeting within 7 days to consider this recommendation.
The Applicant was contacted on May 14th by the Chair of the Committee asking her and Mr. Parsons to attend their meeting on May 16th. The Applicant’s lawyer sought an adjournment of the meeting, so he could attend. That request was denied. The Parsons attended the meeting. The process was explained to them at the outset of the meeting, including an explanation about their right of appeal. The Parsons were given the opportunity to make representations and they did. Later that day the Committee decided to suspend Mr. Parsons until June 1, 2012 (a 15-day suspension). The Applicant received notice of the decision by phone and received a written notice as well. The written notice confirmed Mr. Parson’s right of appeal to the Suspension Appeal Committee (the “Appeal Committee”).
The Applicant emailed the Chair and asked where she could get the appeal papers. An appeal was filed with the Board and a hearing set with the Appeal Committee. The Applicant asked that her partner (who is not a lawyer) be able to represent her at the appeal hearing. This request was denied because he previously signed an undertaking to stay away from the Board. At the hearing, the Applicant attended on her own. The process was explained to her and she provided documents and made submissions. The Appeal Committee decided to uphold the 15-day suspension.
When the Applicant filed an appeal with the Board, she also filed an application in the Supreme Court. First, she argued that the Board was acting outside of its legal authority. Second, she argued that the decisions did not comply with the Education Act and Mr. Parsons’ procedural fairness and natural justice rights were violated. Third, she argued the suspension decisions infringed Mr. Parsons’ charter rights.
First, the Court held that the Board was acting within its legal authority.
Second, the Court held that the first suspension decision did violate the Education Act because the Applicant was not given written notice of the suspension. However, the Court held that, in the circumstances, there was no prejudice to Mr. Parsons and the requirements for procedural fairness were satisfied.
The Court then considered the Applicant’s arguments about the Committee’s proceedings which imposed the 15-day suspension. The Court rejected the argument that the process was unfair because she was not granted an adjournment for legal counsel to attend. The Court rejected the argument that the Committee did not consider the initial 5-day suspension when it imposed the 15-day suspension. The Court rejected the argument that the Applicant was not provided with full disclosure of the case to be met.
Third, the Court held there was no merit to the argument that Mr. Parsons’ charter rights were infringed in the context of these proceedings.
The Court dismissed the Applicant’s application for judicial review. The Court left it to the parties to agree as to costs.
This case was digested by Scott J. Marcinkow of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or review his biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.
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