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Human Rights Commission moving ahead with reading inquiry

The Ontario Human Rights Commission will hold a series of public meetings and survey students and parents as it investigates supports provided to students who have difficulty reading.

Public meetings start in mid-January in four cities across the province. The closest meeting to Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex will be in London on January 29. Brampton, Thunder Bay, and Ottawa will host the others.

Another three cities, Hamilton, Barrie, and Kenora, will host community meetings.

The survey is for students with reading disabilities and their parents, while a separate questionnaire will start in the coming weeks for educators.

“Hearing the experiences of students with reading disabilities and those of their parents, guardians, and educators are crucial to our Right to Read inquiry,” said Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. “It will help us ensure students with reading disabilities get meaningful access to education.”

Since launching the Right to Read inquiry in October, the commission has heard from 300 people. It has also requested documents from eight school boards, including the Thames Valley District School Board and the London District Catholic School Board.

Five benchmarks will be used to measure those school boards, including mandatory early screening, universal design for learning, psycho-educational assessments, reading intervention programs, and effective accommodation.

The commission launched the inquiry after results from the Education Quality and Accountability Office showed more than a quarter of all Grade 3 students, and 53 per cent of Grade 3 students with special needs do not meet the provincial standard for reading.

Back in October, it 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.”

Methods used at school boards in Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex are not under investigation.

A formal report on its findings is expected next year.