(© Can Stock Photo / SergeyNivens)

Human Rights Commission launches public inquiry into the right to read

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is launching a public inquiry into human rights issues that affect students with reading disabilities in Ontario’s public schools.

It will hear from parents, students, and educators across Ontario and assess whether school boards are using scientific, evidence-based approaches to meeting the needs of students who struggle.

Eight school boards, including the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board, will be measured against five benchmarks, including reading intervention programs, effective accommodation, mandatory early screening, universal design for learning, and psycho-educational assessments.

Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent school boards are not included in the assessment, but the other six are Hamilton-Wentworth, Keewatin-Patricia, Lakehead, Ottawa-Carleton, Peel District, and Simcoe-Muskoka.

The Commission said it is concerned that students with reading disabilities are not getting the support they need in the classroom.

Recent Education Quality and Accountability Office or EQAO results show more than a quarter of all Grade 3 students, and 53 per cent of Grade 3 students with special education needs, do not meet the provincial standard for reading.

In a release Thursday, the Commission said, “students who can’t read will struggle in all aspects of school and are more vulnerable to mental health disabilities, behavioural issues, bullying, and dropping out.”

In the long-term, it said those students could face life-long consequences like under-employment, involvement in the criminal justice system, homelessness, and suicide.