At their ‘breaking point’, Newfoundland family fighting for deaf child’s education accommodation have human rights tribunal dates set

PORTUGAL COVE-ST. PHILLIP’S, NL — Getting a good education for their deaf son, Carter, has been a long and costly battle for Todd and Kimberly Churchill, but they hope there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel.

Their day in court is finally set — or rather, their few days in a human rights tribunal.

The court is scheduled to run from August 29 to September 9, with two additional days if needed.

Twenty-nine witnesses are expected, including people associated with the Department of Education and the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD).

The Churchills, who have spent thousands of dollars in legal fees and filed more than 1,500 pages of documentation, hope the outcome will set a national precedent.

“Fighting a human rights complaint for your child brings you to your breaking point – physically, mentally and financially,” Todd Churchill told SaltWire Network on Monday, July 4. entity with far greater financial and legal resources to grind you down.

The Churchills filed six volumes of documents in their human rights case. – Contributed

The Churchills began lobbying on Carter’s behalf about five years ago when they realized he would only get a few hours of facilitated classroom learning for his entire kindergarten year.

“Just imagine your child being given a teacher who is not fluent in the language and has never even been tested for their English proficiency,” he said.

One of the main problems is that proficiency in American Sign Language (ASL) is not properly tested, even among teachers who are hired on this basis.

In the early grades, children like Carter learn as much ASL as they use it to learn.

Not just Newfoundland

Churchill said he spoke to parents in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia who face the same lack of support.

“Deaf education is a bit of a mess all over the country because many places have closed their schools for deaf and integrated children, like what was done with Carter here,” he said. “So in this race for inclusion, they’ve actually created an exclusive education system.”

When the Newfoundland School for the Deaf closed in 2010, then-Minister of Education Darin King established specific standards and criteria for mainstreaming Deaf education.

At the time, the Canadian Hearing Society sent out a lengthy letter outlining exactly what could go wrong based on research elsewhere in Canada, including lack of communication, social isolation and bullying.

Churchill says the warnings were ignored and every prediction was confirmed for his son.

Todd Churchill and his wife, Kimberly, have fought for the right of their son, Carter – born in 2011 without hearing – to have a good education.  - Contributed
Todd Churchill and his wife, Kimberly, have fought for the right of their son, Carter – born in 2011 without hearing – to have a good education. – Contributed

Government absolved

Churchill says they were disappointed in February when the human rights arbitrator agreed to remove the Department of Education from the hearing, arguing that the school district was solely responsible for decisions about the education of children. deaf.

The government, he said, made the decision to close the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, set policies and standards and control funding.

“We were very disappointed that the department was released from the claim, as we never would have thought they should have been.”

Ironically, the government launched plans last fall to disband the NLESD and have the Department of Education take over.

It is not clear if this will affect the case.

Peter Jackson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who covers Indigenous affairs for The Telegram.

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