Your right to attend

Attending school in Hamilton: Your rights & responsibilities

Your right
to attend

Attending school in hamilton: your rights & responsibilities

Attending School in Hamilton

Children under 18 are entitled to get an education in Ontario, and for many under the age of 16, are required to attend. You or your family have rights and responsibilities extended to you in Hamilton.
Any child who is a “resident pupil” in Ontario has a right to attend school without paying a fee. A resident pupil who wants to attend school in Hamilton is someone who is:
  • Living in Hamilton; or,
  • Attending a school in the school board district where the student and parent/guardian live
It may be required for older students to enroll in continuing education, and not their regular school, if the student has been in high school for 7 or more years, or if they are 20 years or older, or if the student has not been in school for 4 consecutive years.

Children can start school as early as age 3

Important ages

Children are required to start attending school at age 6

Students must attend school until they are 18 years old

Newcomer Families

Children under 18 are entitled to go to school in Ontario regardless of their status in Canada. Newcomer students are not required to bring any immigration documents with them when they enroll in a school, and the school cannot demand to see any. Parents may have to pay a fee. However, there are exceptions in the Education Act. For example, including fees may not be charged if the student and/or their parents have no status but plan to stay in Ontario.


Students may attend a different school district if:
  • The superintendent permits them to attend
  • The school is of the same type (i.e. English, French, Public, Catholic) and the school the student wants to attend is closer than the nearest school in their school board district
  • The student is 18 and is in high school


Students are legally excused from attending school if they:
  • Are being home-schooled
  • Are sick or unable to attend because of another “unavoidable cause” (schools can insist on signed notes from parents or doctors);
  • Live too far away from the nearest school and the school board does not provide transportation;
  • Are receiving musical instruction (up to half a day per week);
  • Are taking part in a religious holiday (schools can insist on signed notes from parents, the student’s church, mosque, etc.);
  • Have been suspended or expelled; or,
  • Have been excluded


Students must stay in school or an equivalent learning program approved by the Ministry of Education until they are 18.
Parents who neglect to send, or refuse to let their children go to school can be charged for their child’s truancy.
12 – 15 year olds who regularly skip or refuse to go to school can be charged with truancy. The maximum fine is $1000 and/or up to 1 year of probation time. While on probation, students are required to attend school.

Fast Facts

School boards in Hamilton may provide transportation, but do not have to
Students have a right to be taught in French if one of their parents is a Canadian citizen and the parent’s first language learned and understood is French, or the student’s elementary school in Ontario was French
Students are expected to be immunized to attend school, and only under limited circumstances can be admitted to school without immunizations

Resources and Contacts

School Advocacy Hamilton
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
(416) 326-1312 or 1 (800) 598-0322
(905) 527-5029
(905) 525-2930
Justice for Children and Youth/Pro Bono Law
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.

You are the only advocate

You are your child’s biggest advocate, and legally, likely, the only person who can make decisions on their behalf.

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 your child’s rights

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.