Attendance Rights

  1. Attendance Rights in Ontario

    Any child who is a “resident pupil” in Ontario has a right to attend school without paying a fee. A resident pupil is someone who is:

    • living in Ontario (not just visiting); and
    • attending a school in the school board district where the student and parent or guardian live. A “guardian” is anyone who has lawful custody of the child and includes Children Aid Societies.

    Schools in Ontario are located in specific school board districts. In most cases, children have to attend a school (but not a specific school) in the school district where their parents live.

  2. When can I start school?

    If their school board offers junior kindergarten, a child can start school when they are 4 (or will be turning 4 between September 1 and December 31 of that school year). If their school board offers senior kindergarten, a child can start school when they are 5 (or will be turning 5 between September 1 and December 31 of that school year). All children are required to start school at age 6.

  3. When can I leave school?

    All students are required to attend school until they turn 18; exception: if their 17th birthday is between the first day of school and December 31, they can quit school at the end of that school year.

    School board may say that older students must be enrolled in continuing education and not their regular school if the student has been in high school for 7 years or more or if they are 20 or over and have not been in school for the last 4 consecutive years. If this is the case, the student may have to pay a fee to attend school.

  4. Where Should I Enroll In School?

    You have the right to attend a school in the district where you live with your parents. You may not be able to attend the school of your choice if the school board has offered you a spot in another school in your district.

    If you are in secondary school and if the nearest school that has room for you you is in another school district, you can attend that nearest school.

  5. Can I attend an out-of-district school?

    Students may attend a school that is in a different school district:

    • if the superintendent says there is space for the student,
    • if the school is of the same type (i.e. English, French, public, separate/Catholic) and the school the student wants to attend is closer than the nearest school in their school board district; or
    • the student is 18 and has been promoted or transferred to high school.
  6. What If I Do Not Live With My Parents?

    If you still live in the same school district as your parents, you can attend a school in that district.

    If you live elsewhere, you are entitled to attend school in the district where you pay rent regardless of where your parents live.

    If you live with another adult who has legal custody of you, you are entitled to attend school in the district where you live with that person.

    If none of these apply to you and you are having trouble getting into school, you should talk to a lawyer.

  7. As an immigrant/newcomer, can I attend school?

    Children under 18 are entitled to go to school in Ontario regardless of their status in Canada – this includes non-Canadians and non-Permanent Residents. However, parents will have to pay a fee if the student is visiting or has a study permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

    Fees will not be charged if:

    • the student is part of an educational exchange program;
    • the student is a dependent within the meaning of the Visiting Forces Act (i.e. if their parent is in the military);
    • the student or their parents are, or are claiming to be, a protected person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (i.e. a refugee);
    • the student’s parents are lawfully in Canada with employment authorization or ministerial permit issued by the Department of Employment and Immigration;
    • the student’s parents are under a diplomatic, consular or official acceptance issued by the Department of External Affairs; or
    • the student and/or their parents have no status but plan to stay in Ontario.

    Parents and students do not need to take any immigration documents with them to enroll in a school and the school cannot demand to see any. Parents should take some identification, proof of the child’s date of birth, and all of their child’s education related documents and records to the school that they will be attending (for example, transcripts or report cards; the school may want to test you in order to determine the student’s grade level). For students who wish to go to a separate/Catholic elementary school, they should also take the child’s baptism certificate from a Roman Catholic Church.

    Children of parents who arrive in Ontario after the school year has started (September) are entitled to start school right away. Parents should contact their school board and they must enroll the children into a school as soon as possible. The length of time that this will take may vary, but parents should contact a lawyer if the delay is unreasonable.

  8. What If The School Refuses To Admit Me Because Of My Immigration Status?

    It is illegal for the school board to refuse to admit any child under 18 into school because the child or the child’s parent or guardian is in Canada without immigration status.

    If this is happening to you, you should speak to a lawyer. Your local Legal Aid clinic may be able to assist you.

  9. What happens if I skip school (truancy)?

    Students must stay in school or an equivalent learning program approved by the Ministry of Education until their 18th birthday.

    Parents who neglect to send, or refuses to let, their children go to school can be charged for their child’s truancy.

    Students 12-15 years old who regularly skip or refuse to go to school can also be charged with truancy. The maximum fine is $1000 and/or given probation time. One term of probation usually says the student must go to school. If the student breaks probation by skipping school again, the student can be sent to jail for up to 30 days. Students who are charged should speak to a lawyer.

    Employers who hire a student to work during school hours and that person is legally required to be in school can be fined.

  10. When can I be legally excused from attending school?

    Students are legally excused from attending school if:

    • they are being home-schooled (see next section),
    • they are sick or unable to attend because of another “unavoidable cause” (schools can insist on signed notes from parent or maybe even a doctor),
    • they live too far away from the nearest school and the school board does not provide transportation (see two sections below);
    • they have already completed high school,
    • they are receiving musical instruction (up to half a day per week),
    • it is a religious holiday (schools can insist on signed notes from parents or the student’s church, mosque, synagogue, etc.),
    • they have been suspended or expelled (see our information pamphlets on these two topics), or
    • they have been excluded – speak to a lawyer if this happens!
  11. Can a child be home schooled?

    Yes. Parents should contact their school board in order to discuss options and to begin the process. If the child is already in school, the principal of the school may also be willing to assist you or to recommend resources.

  12. I live in a remote community. Can I get an education without leaving home?

    If you live in a remote community and want an education but do not want to leave home, there are some programs that offer correspondence, internet or FM radio courses.

  13. Do I have the right to French-language education?

    Students are entitled to be taught in French if one of their parents is a Canadian citizen and the parent’s first language learned and still understood is French; ` the student’s elementary school in Ontario was French.

    For students who are entitled to be taught in French, the school board must either provide the student with a class, group of classes or school in which the French language or Quebec sign language is the language of instruction, or enter into an agreement with another school board so the student can receive instruction in French from them.

    If a school board enters into an agreement with another Board for a student to receive instruction in French and that school is more than 24 kilometres away from your home, the school board where you reside must provide you with transportation or meals and a place to stay.

  14. What if I am a deaf or blind student?

    There are special schools for the deaf in Milton, Toronto, London, Belleville and Brantford (English); and one in Ottawa (French). There is a special school for the blind in Brantford.

    In order to qualify to attend an Ontario School for the Deaf or the Ontario School for the Blind, the student must be:

    • under 21 years of age,
    • in need of a special educational program because of a visual disability or auditory disability, and
    • a resident of Ontario (if the student is under 18, their parents must be a resident of Ontario).

    Students with a hearing disability may be able to attend a class for the hearing impaired at a school in their school board district or they may be eligible to attend an Ontario School for the Deaf outside of their school district. If there is a class in a school in the student’s district that would be appropriate for the student, the Superintendent will not admit the student to an Ontario School for the Deaf unless the Minister of Education decides that it would be in the student’s best interests.

    Students will only be admitted to an Ontario School for the Deaf or the Ontario School for the Blind if they will be able to benefit from instruction in that school. If there is doubt as to whether the student will benefit from such instruction or are in need of a special educational program, the student may be admitted to the school for a trial period. The superintendent, parents, or students over 18, may request that the Minister of Education appoint a committee to hold a hearing to determine any questions about the student’s eligibility for admission to the school.

  15. What if I am a First Nations student (registered under the Indian Act)?

    It is not possible to give general information that applies across Ontario because every Band Council has its own rules. Parents and students with any questions should contact their Band Council or Educational Authority. If the parents or student are unsure about the student’s rights or feel that the Band Council is not protecting their rights, they should contact the Legal Aid Clinic in their area or Justice for Children and Youth. In Toronto, they can also contact Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto at 416-408-3967.

  16. What right do I have to transportation to and from school?

    School boards may provide transportation but don’t have to. If the school board does provide transportation, then it cannot discriminate against students with disabilities and must provide transportation for them, even if the school has to arrange for a different form of transportation or have the driver change its bus routes.

  17. Do I have to be immunized to attend school?

    Students are expected to be immunized; but if the student or the student’s parents refuse immunization because of conscientious beliefs or religion, or for health reasons, the student can be admitted to school without immunization. If the student has not been immunized they may be excluded from school when there is a risk of outbreak of a contagious disease.

  18. When can a school board close a school?

    If a school board wants to close a school, it has to discuss its decision in public and follow a process that usually takes about a year. However, school boards are not under any obligation to keep a particular school open. Students have a right to attend a school in the school board district where they live but not a specific school.

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    • Attendance Rights

      Close

      1. Attendance Rights in Ontario

        Any child who is a “resident pupil” in Ontario has a right to attend school without paying a fee. A resident pupil is someone who is:

        • living in Ontario (not just visiting); and
        • attending a school in the school board district where the student and parent or guardian live. A “guardian” is anyone who has lawful custody of the child and includes Children Aid Societies.

        Schools in Ontario are located in specific school board districts. In most cases, children have to attend a school (but not a specific school) in the school district where their parents live.

      2. When can I start school?

        If their school board offers junior kindergarten, a child can start school when they are 4 (or will be turning 4 between September 1 and December 31 of that school year). If their school board offers senior kindergarten, a child can start school when they are 5 (or will be turning 5 between September 1 and December 31 of that school year). All children are required to start school at age 6.

      3. When can I leave school?

        All students are required to attend school until they turn 18; exception: if their 17th birthday is between the first day of school and December 31, they can quit school at the end of that school year.

        School board may say that older students must be enrolled in continuing education and not their regular school if the student has been in high school for 7 years or more or if they are 20 or over and have not been in school for the last 4 consecutive years. If this is the case, the student may have to pay a fee to attend school.

      4. Where Should I Enroll In School?

        You have the right to attend a school in the district where you live with your parents. You may not be able to attend the school of your choice if the school board has offered you a spot in another school in your district.

        If you are in secondary school and if the nearest school that has room for you you is in another school district, you can attend that nearest school.

      5. Can I attend an out-of-district school?

        Students may attend a school that is in a different school district:

        • if the superintendent says there is space for the student,
        • if the school is of the same type (i.e. English, French, public, separate/Catholic) and the school the student wants to attend is closer than the nearest school in their school board district; or
        • the student is 18 and has been promoted or transferred to high school.
      6. What If I Do Not Live With My Parents?

        If you still live in the same school district as your parents, you can attend a school in that district.

        If you live elsewhere, you are entitled to attend school in the district where you pay rent regardless of where your parents live.

        If you live with another adult who has legal custody of you, you are entitled to attend school in the district where you live with that person.

        If none of these apply to you and you are having trouble getting into school, you should talk to a lawyer.

      7. As an immigrant/newcomer, can I attend school?

        Children under 18 are entitled to go to school in Ontario regardless of their status in Canada – this includes non-Canadians and non-Permanent Residents. However, parents will have to pay a fee if the student is visiting or has a study permit from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

        Fees will not be charged if:

        • the student is part of an educational exchange program;
        • the student is a dependent within the meaning of the Visiting Forces Act (i.e. if their parent is in the military);
        • the student or their parents are, or are claiming to be, a protected person under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (i.e. a refugee);
        • the student’s parents are lawfully in Canada with employment authorization or ministerial permit issued by the Department of Employment and Immigration;
        • the student’s parents are under a diplomatic, consular or official acceptance issued by the Department of External Affairs; or
        • the student and/or their parents have no status but plan to stay in Ontario.

        Parents and students do not need to take any immigration documents with them to enroll in a school and the school cannot demand to see any. Parents should take some identification, proof of the child’s date of birth, and all of their child’s education related documents and records to the school that they will be attending (for example, transcripts or report cards; the school may want to test you in order to determine the student’s grade level). For students who wish to go to a separate/Catholic elementary school, they should also take the child’s baptism certificate from a Roman Catholic Church.

        Children of parents who arrive in Ontario after the school year has started (September) are entitled to start school right away. Parents should contact their school board and they must enroll the children into a school as soon as possible. The length of time that this will take may vary, but parents should contact a lawyer if the delay is unreasonable.

      8. What If The School Refuses To Admit Me Because Of My Immigration Status?

        It is illegal for the school board to refuse to admit any child under 18 into school because the child or the child’s parent or guardian is in Canada without immigration status.

        If this is happening to you, you should speak to a lawyer. Your local Legal Aid clinic may be able to assist you.

      9. What happens if I skip school (truancy)?

        Students must stay in school or an equivalent learning program approved by the Ministry of Education until their 18th birthday.

        Parents who neglect to send, or refuses to let, their children go to school can be charged for their child’s truancy.

        Students 12-15 years old who regularly skip or refuse to go to school can also be charged with truancy. The maximum fine is $1000 and/or given probation time. One term of probation usually says the student must go to school. If the student breaks probation by skipping school again, the student can be sent to jail for up to 30 days. Students who are charged should speak to a lawyer.

        Employers who hire a student to work during school hours and that person is legally required to be in school can be fined.

      10. When can I be legally excused from attending school?

        Students are legally excused from attending school if:

        • they are being home-schooled (see next section),
        • they are sick or unable to attend because of another “unavoidable cause” (schools can insist on signed notes from parent or maybe even a doctor),
        • they live too far away from the nearest school and the school board does not provide transportation (see two sections below);
        • they have already completed high school,
        • they are receiving musical instruction (up to half a day per week),
        • it is a religious holiday (schools can insist on signed notes from parents or the student’s church, mosque, synagogue, etc.),
        • they have been suspended or expelled (see our information pamphlets on these two topics), or
        • they have been excluded – speak to a lawyer if this happens!
      11. Can a child be home schooled?

        Yes. Parents should contact their school board in order to discuss options and to begin the process. If the child is already in school, the principal of the school may also be willing to assist you or to recommend resources.

      12. I live in a remote community. Can I get an education without leaving home?

        If you live in a remote community and want an education but do not want to leave home, there are some programs that offer correspondence, internet or FM radio courses.

      13. Do I have the right to French-language education?

        Students are entitled to be taught in French if one of their parents is a Canadian citizen and the parent’s first language learned and still understood is French; ` the student’s elementary school in Ontario was French.

        For students who are entitled to be taught in French, the school board must either provide the student with a class, group of classes or school in which the French language or Quebec sign language is the language of instruction, or enter into an agreement with another school board so the student can receive instruction in French from them.

        If a school board enters into an agreement with another Board for a student to receive instruction in French and that school is more than 24 kilometres away from your home, the school board where you reside must provide you with transportation or meals and a place to stay.

      14. What if I am a deaf or blind student?

        There are special schools for the deaf in Milton, Toronto, London, Belleville and Brantford (English); and one in Ottawa (French). There is a special school for the blind in Brantford.

        In order to qualify to attend an Ontario School for the Deaf or the Ontario School for the Blind, the student must be:

        • under 21 years of age,
        • in need of a special educational program because of a visual disability or auditory disability, and
        • a resident of Ontario (if the student is under 18, their parents must be a resident of Ontario).

        Students with a hearing disability may be able to attend a class for the hearing impaired at a school in their school board district or they may be eligible to attend an Ontario School for the Deaf outside of their school district. If there is a class in a school in the student’s district that would be appropriate for the student, the Superintendent will not admit the student to an Ontario School for the Deaf unless the Minister of Education decides that it would be in the student’s best interests.

        Students will only be admitted to an Ontario School for the Deaf or the Ontario School for the Blind if they will be able to benefit from instruction in that school. If there is doubt as to whether the student will benefit from such instruction or are in need of a special educational program, the student may be admitted to the school for a trial period. The superintendent, parents, or students over 18, may request that the Minister of Education appoint a committee to hold a hearing to determine any questions about the student’s eligibility for admission to the school.

      15. What if I am a First Nations student (registered under the Indian Act)?

        It is not possible to give general information that applies across Ontario because every Band Council has its own rules. Parents and students with any questions should contact their Band Council or Educational Authority. If the parents or student are unsure about the student’s rights or feel that the Band Council is not protecting their rights, they should contact the Legal Aid Clinic in their area or Justice for Children and Youth. In Toronto, they can also contact Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto at 416-408-3967.

      16. What right do I have to transportation to and from school?

        School boards may provide transportation but don’t have to. If the school board does provide transportation, then it cannot discriminate against students with disabilities and must provide transportation for them, even if the school has to arrange for a different form of transportation or have the driver change its bus routes.

      17. Do I have to be immunized to attend school?

        Students are expected to be immunized; but if the student or the student’s parents refuse immunization because of conscientious beliefs or religion, or for health reasons, the student can be admitted to school without immunization. If the student has not been immunized they may be excluded from school when there is a risk of outbreak of a contagious disease.

      18. When can a school board close a school?

        If a school board wants to close a school, it has to discuss its decision in public and follow a process that usually takes about a year. However, school boards are not under any obligation to keep a particular school open. Students have a right to attend a school in the school board district where they live but not a specific school.

    • Special Education

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    • Suspensions

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    • Expulsions

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    • Exclusions

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