Special Education

You have a right to access meaningful education


You have a right to access meaningful education

Who has the right to special education?


Characterized by specific behaviour problems over a certain period of time that by nature, adversely affect education performance.


This exceptionality has several subcategories including autism, hard of hearing, speech impairment, developmental language delays or language impairment, or learning disability.


This exceptionality has three subcategories including giftedness and moderate to severe intellectual developmental disorders.


Limitations that affect a person’s physical functioning, mobility, dexterity, or stamina.


Students can be identified as exceptional by making a request for an Identification, Placement, and Review Committee (IPRC) meeting to be held.

The IRPC determines the strengths, needs, types of exceptionalities, and classroom placement for the student. The IPRC can also make recommendations for programs and services for the student. The IPRC can place an exceptional student in:

  • A regular class with speical education service
  • A regular class but taken out for part of the day for special services or special education
  • A special education class with part of the day in regular class
  • A special education class for the whole day, or,
  • A special education school

Kids of Help

The school must provide “appropriate” programs and services. “Appropriate” does not mean that they have to be the best programs or services available, but they must be good enough to meet the student’s needs. Parents should speak with the principal and/or the special education teacher if the program is not working.

Individual education plan

An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is created following an IPRC. An IEP may also be prepared for students who require accommodations, program modifications and/or alternative programs, but have not been identified by an IPRC.

The IEP must contain specific learning expectations and the school’s outline of educational services to address them.

The IEP must also explain how the student’s progress will be reviewed. Parents, as well as students over 16 must be consulted about the IEP and be given a copy of the IEP within 30 days of a student’s placement in a special education program.

Can Exceptional students be suspended?

If a student’s actions are the result of their disability, then the school has a legal obligation to accommodate the disability before considering disciplinary action.

If the school has accommodated the student’s disability to the point of it causing an undue hardship to the school board, then the student can be disciplined for misconduct. This should happen only when other ways of maintaining order do not work.


Fast Facts

All students have a right to meaningful education
If the student's disability has not been accommodated, parents can appeal
If a student's actions are the result of their disability, then the school has a legal obligation to accommodate the disabled before considering disciplinary action
The school must provide "appropriate" programs and services. "Appropriate" means the programs and services meet the needs of the students

Resources and Contacts

School Advocacy Hamilton

People for Education’s Parent Support Line
1 (888) 534-0100

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
(416) 326-1312 or 1 (800) 598-0322

HWDSB Special Education

Pro Bono Law Ontario
1 (855) 255-7256

Justice for Children and Youth

Empowerment Squared
(905) 393-5370

Black Legal Action Centre
1 (877) 736-9406


Be informed

Read more about your child’s learning and attention issues, watch or attend workshops. It can help you become familiar with your child’s specific challenges.

Keep and organize paperwork

Make sure to keep copies of all report cards, progress reports, multidisciplinary evaluations, IEP’s, medical records, helpful homework samples, and other documents.

Ask questions

It’s important to make sure you fully understand your child’s program and accommodations before you give your consent to services.

Know you are part of a team

Parents should not feel pressured by school staff to make a decision.

The Hamilton Education Law Program was funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. This webpage gives general information about education in the Ontario public school system. Please speak to a lawyer or legal worker about specific questions. All information presented here is current as of October 2020.