Kelowna lawyer files lawsuit against Central Okanagan School District – Kelowna Capital News


A Kelowna couple is seeking a legal settlement regarding the lack of access to school transportation due to their child’s enrollment in French immersion.

Randy and Susan Kootnekoff have filed a lawsuit against the school district and the Central Okanagan School Board seeking damages for being denied what they argue is a constitutional right to access immersion education French in the school district.

Before the lawsuit was filed on June 22, Susan Kootnekoff, a Kelowna lawyer, appeared before the school board to explain why her child should not be barred from school buses because he is enrolled in a program. French immersion outside of her. catchment area of ​​the child’s school.

The school board, specifically board chairwoman Moyra Baxter, cited in the lawsuit filing, said French immersion is not a Department of Education mandated program for school districts. Therefore, it is considered a program of choice and school transportation is also not a budgetary requirement for the department, leaving school districts to find their own funding formula and service delivery model if they choose to provide transportation program.

The lawsuit seeks to dismiss provisions of the policy that deny students transportation because they are studying in French immersion and seek damages “deemed just and appropriate by the court” for the decision to deny school bus transportation to their eldest child in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights.

The lawsuit describes a history dating back to 2021 of issues raised by the Kelowna couple regarding the French immersion program with other children in the family.

He notes that some pre-existing routes carrying French immersion students were recommended for elimination, which the school board approved in March 2020, citing a $3.1 shortfall at the time. million with its bus program.

“Nowhere is it evident that the administrators had complete or reliable information or that they had considered the impact on families of the removal of these bus routes,” the suit claims.

“However, they quickly phased out some bus lines carrying French immersion students, administrators approved other school bus lines carrying French immersion students, including West Kelowna. »

School District 23 policy states that French Immersion is an elective and elective program, so it will only provide transportation for French Immersion students in the event that a route has vacancies not taken by students. of the recruitment area of ​​the English program.

The Kootnekoff lawsuit argues that students accessing French immersion is a constitutional right protected by section 23(2) of the Charter.

The article states: “Citizens of Canada whose child has received or is receiving primary or secondary instruction in English or French in Canada have the right that all their children receive primary and secondary instruction in the same language.

The provincial government and school districts argue that Charter protection only applies to francophone schools and not to French immersion programs.

Francophone schools provide all of their education in French and do not come under the administrative oversight of a school district school board.

In 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with BC’s only French-language school board and awarded $6 million in damages for underfunding the system.

A decision favorable to the Kootnekoffs would challenge the policy that French immersion is an optional program in public schools and that parents have equal legal access rights to French school programs for their children.

It could also raise questions in the future about the Department of Education’s position that school transportation is not a mandated service to be funded by the province to school districts.

The allegations made in the lawsuit have yet to be proven in court.

The school district and council have 21 days from the date the complaint was filed to respond to the allegations.

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