HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Family Sues Durham School Board
Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jul 2002
Source: Oshawa This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 Oshawa This Week
Author: Mike Ruta, Staff Writer


Lawsuit Claims Wrongful Expulsion; Asks for $250,000 in Damages

DURHAM -- An Uxbridge student and his parents are suing the Durham District 
School Board, five of its trustees and three staff members, seeking 
$250,000 in damages and the clearing of the pupil's record. At issue is the 
expulsion of the student, now 18, in January 2001. While he has since been 
readmitted, the defendants claim he was expelled based on unproven 
information from Durham Regional Police, and that the board bungled the 
expulsion hearing, violating the Education Act.

Whitby trustees Elizabeth Roy and Doug Ross, Brock-Uxbridge Trustee Nancy 
Loraine, Oshawa Trustee Kathleen Hopper and Pickering Trustee Jennifer 
Bridge are named in the suit. As well, the statement of claim filed with 
the Ontario Superior Court of Justice lists education director Grant Yeo, 
Uxbridge schools superintendent Bev Freedman and Uxbridge Secondary School 
principal Peter Morris as defendants.

The student and his parents cannot be identified because he was under 18 at 
the time of the incident.

In an interview, the student's mother said the family has been through 
"hell". She did not deny police caught her son off school property with 
marijuana during a holiday break, but denies he sold drugs at the school, 
as Durham Regional Police and the board claim. Sergeant Paul Malik, Durham 
police spokesman, said Tuesday the teen was given a conditional discharge 
in the case.

The parent said she realized something might be amiss when she read an 
Uxbridge Times-Journal story about a school board meeting in which a 
trustee alleged his colleagues violated the Education Act in conducting an 
illegal expulsion hearing. When she saw that the hearing took place on 
March 19, 2001, she realized they were talking about her son's case.

The issue has been a contentious one amongst trustees. Five trustees formed 
a committee to conduct an expulsion hearing, and the entire board of 
trustees later ratified the decision, a course of action sanctioned by the 
board's lawyer.

Two weeks later at a standing committee meeting, Scugog Trustee Martin 
Demmers argued his colleagues had no authority to form their own committee. 
Other trustees, including Pickering Trustee Paul Crawford and Oshawa 
Trustee Cynthia Steffen, supported Trustee Demmers' motion the board 
solicit a second legal opinion. That motion was defeated.

Earlier this year, when board members feuded over a controversial legal 
bill incurred by some trustees, the trustees involved indicated they sought 
advice from a lawyer after rejecting the opinion of the board solicitor 
regarding an expulsion hearing.

The parent confirmed some of the trustees involved in the legal bill, and 
their lawyer, had contacted her about her son's case.

In the board's statement of defence, it claims neither the student nor his 
parents "took any steps in 2001, whatsoever, to appeal and/or review the 
decision of the trustees.

"The defendants plead that the expulsion hearing was properly conducted and 
the plaintiff's remedies, arising therefrom, if anyone or more of them felt 
aggrieved, were to immediately appeal or seek judicial review of the 
decision and that by their failure to do so, they are now estopped by, 
amongst other things, their delay and laches from advancing any such claim 
in this honourable court."

The statement says the student's arrest "was a continuation of an 
investigation that was conducted at the school, relating to (the student's) 
direct involvement in the distribution of narcotics on school property."

Alan Farrer, the board's lawyer, said in an interview there are two 
parallel proceedings, a judicial review and a lawsuit, that will be dealt 
with at different times. He expected the review to take place sometime this 
year but estimated the trial likely would not be held this year.

Mr. Farrer said it was not appropriate to get into details of the case. 
However, he acknowledged Mr. Morris was not present at the expulsion 
hearing. The family claims that's a violation of the Education Act, a claim 
rejected by Mr. Farrer.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager