Potentially illegal motion on hold

It may seem like a good idea, but excusing children from tests may not fly

Tabling a motion to allow local parents to excuse their children from taking government-mandated tests was a good idea, says District 69’s superintendent of schools.

The motion, if passed, could be deemed illegal, said Jim Ansell.

“I’m pleased this is being tabled and reconsidered,” he said. “Advice I have from the ministry and reviewing the school act, this motion would put us in violation of the school act and would therefore be illegal.”

The motion was in relationship to the Foundation Skills Assessments (FSA) tests. A successful motion like the one tabled at the school board meeting this week would also put District 69 principals in a tough spot where they would have to choose between following legal guidelines or following directions of the school board, said Ansell.

Trustee Julie Austin introduced the motion and then decided to table it in order to get more information from the ministry on whether they plan to continue them and whether principals and parents support it. But she disagreed that it would be illegal, noting that other school boards have done it, and the definition of extenuating circumstances, one of the reasons students can be excused, isn’t defined.

“It doesn’t mean [a principle is] in breach of the school act if they accept a letter from a parent that says there’s extenuating circumstances,” she said.

After reading the ministerial order out, Ansell said the wording gives only principles the right to excuse the student, not parents or boards or the minster. Therefore the motion would violate the ministerial order, he said.

“The fact there hasn’t been action against boards that have made this decision is akin to a shoplifter who hasn’t gotten caught yet,” he said.

After some more banter back and forth board chair Lynette Kershaw said she thinks parental responsibility trumps ministerial orders and if a child expresses extreme discomfort about taking the tests to their parents, that should be heeded.

The motion was tabled until the next meeting.