While there have been many legal battles in the United States, this court case from the Quebec Superior Court May be the first in Canada that has focused on some aspect of K-12 distance or online learning.

The crux of the case was that a group of parents in the Montreal area argued that the Government of Quebec violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by implementing the regulation that only children who qualify for a medical exemption would be allowed to follow their classes from home through remote learning.  Specifically the parents argued that this regulation violated section 7 of the Charter, which states:

7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Given the state of COVID-19 the parents felt that by providing such a narrow scope of students who were eligible for remote learning, the Government was violating the students’ right to the security of the person by forcing them to learn in an unsafe environment.

Superior Court Justice Chantal Chatelain ruled that the regulation did not violate the charter because the regulation wasn’t what forced the the students into the school, it was the Quebec Education Act, 1988 – which made school attendance mandatory (as the decision was written in French, it’ll take some time to translate the full 50-page document before posting have a copy).  And the parents did not challenge that legislation in their lawsuit.  Additionally, the Justice also wrote that the parents did have an alternative to sending their children to school, without the remote learning option, and that was to home school their children.  Essentially, because there was an alternative, the lack of the remote learning option also did not violate their rights.  Finally, Justice Chatelain did not comment on whether schools contributed to the spread of COVID-19, or whether the Government should limit who could be engage in remote learning.

The irony is that Quebec is a jurisdiction where K-12 distance and online learning has generally been offered to students outside of the regular public school system, on the fringes of the public school system, or through creative partnerships that many would argue aren’t distance learning at all.  What impact will this decision have on the growth of traditional and/or more established K-12 distance and online learning programs?

Quebec Superior Court and Remote Learning

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