Ontario court rules mom can send son to school despite dad’s fears about Covid-19

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This is the first time an Ontario court has ruled on a dispute like this since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ontario Superior Court Judge Andrea Himel rendered the ruling on Aug. 25 after hearing arguments from the boy’s parents, who are divorced and share equal custody of their 9-year-old son.

The mother argued that it was in her son’s best interests to go to school as he had difficulty learning online in the spring and struggled to be isolated from his friends and fellow students. class, depending on the decision.

Both parents work full time from home, but she argued that it would be difficult to supervise their son’s online learning while doing their own work.

Neither parent speaks much French, which would make it more difficult for them to help their son with his grade 4 French immersion program, according to the court document.The boy’s father agreed he would do better in school under normal circumstances, the document said, but said the pandemic puts his son and others at significant health risk and could cause him harm. emotional and physiological.

He wanted his son to take virtual classes at home until the school district’s safety protocols were effective.

Himel ultimately concluded that it was in the child’s best interests to return to school in person.

“The Ontario government is better positioned than the courts to assess and deal with

risks of school attendance. The decision to reopen the schools was made with the help of expert medical advisers and in consultation with Ontario school boards. Teacher unions and others have made their contribution as well as their concerns, ”she wrote.

“There are experts on all sides of the Covid-19 debate, however, the decision to reopen schools and the steps taken to protect children and staff is up to the Ontario government. ”

She wrote that there have been only two decisions in Canada regarding student school attendance during a pandemic – both in Quebec, where some schools reopened in May.

In one case, the judge did not let the children go back to school because a parent had an autoimmune disease that put them at risk.

The second case said the government should make these decisions and ordered the children to go to school.

Himel said the boy’s return to school would not put any family member at “unacceptable risk of harm” because of underlying health issues. The father’s partner is expected to have ankle surgery at some point, but Himel wrote that it would only be a temporary problem.

She also decided to defer to the government.

“There is a consensus between the Ontario government and medical experts who, in

junction, it is not 100% safe for children to return to school. However, the risks of catching Covid-19 (and the typical effects of the disease) for children are weighed against their mental health, psychological, educational and social interests, as well as the health needs of many parents. childcare, ”she wrote.

“There is no end in sight to the pandemic and, as such, no evidence as to when it will be 100% safe for children to return to school. The Ontario government has determined that September 2020 is the appropriate time to move to a “new normal” that includes a return to school.

She said the government closed schools in March due to the pandemic and said it would do so again if necessary.

Himel wrote that it would be best if parents made these decisions in mediation without involving the courts.

“I note that in this case (and in all others currently before the Court), the mother and father delegated the authority to make the decision regarding their child’s in-person dating versus online dating of the school to me, judge who has never met the parents and who will probably never meet the child, ”she wrote. “I would encourage parents to resume mediation because it is a process that allows them to make these important decisions.

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