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Surrey School District’s application denied in student’s human rights complaint

Student allegedly bullied, harassed
BC Human Rights Tribunal (The Canadian Press)

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has denied Surrey School District’s application for the tribunal to “reconsider” its decision to proceed with a complaint concerning a Muslim student with a speech impediment who was allegedly discriminated against on grounds of physical disability, religion, colour and place of origin.

The complaint was filed by the student’s parent on his behalf, alleging the school district ignored complaints he was harassed by other students, “labelling him as dangerous and inappropriately penalizing him,” and “disallowing him from attending school in the District.”

Emily Ohler, chairwoman of the tribunal, did not reveal the student’s or parent’s name in a July 20 documenting the reasons for her decision.

“On June 16, 2022, the District applied to the Tribunal for reconsideration of the Screening Decision,” she wrote. “This decision relates solely to the application for reconsideration. I make no findings of fact.”

It’s alleged the student was subject to bullying and harassment that “peaked” in October 2020 with him being chased by a group of students and pepper-sprayed. “This was allegedly followed by ongoing bullying and harassment by the same students which the school took no steps to address or ensure the Student’s safety,” Ohler noted.

READ ALSO: Rise in hate during pandemic to mark first-ever inquiry by B.C. human rights commissioner

The tribunal on March 10 permitted the complaint to proceed against the school district, after which the district asked that the decision be reconsidered, arguing that some of the complaint was filed “out of time and, as such, should not have been accepted.”

Moreover, Ohler noted, the school district applied for the tribunal to reconsider its decision to “accept all of the allegations set out in the complaint, including allegations which are out of time.”

“The application to reconsider the Screening Decision is denied,” Ohler concluded. “In accordance with the Tribunal’s procedures, in this case, the Respondents will have an opportunity to raise their arguments about timeliness in their response. Those arguments will then be considered in the Case Path review.”

No date for a hearing has been set and none of the allegations have yet been proven or dis-proven.

Ohler asked the parent to clarify by Aug. 2 if earlier alleged incidents in 2018 are intended to be “allegations of discrimination within the complaint or as factual background for the allegations from April 2020 onwards.”

The district, meantime, has until Aug. 23 to file a response to the complaint.

“This ongoing complaint is affecting my son’s health a lot at the moment; I want him to move on, I want him to recover and start moving toward the recovery,” the complainant’s father told the Now-Leader on Wednesday.

“We are too late for apologies now,” he said. “There has been a tremendous amount of damage.”

Sheila Reynolds, assistant manager of communications for the Surrey School District, issued this statement Wednesday: “Our district is aware that the complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal will be proceeding and we respect the decision of the tribunal. Because the matter has yet to be heard, and to respect the privacy of the student, we cannot share further details.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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