Parents unite, launch legal action to protect autonomy of parent governance
Montreal, April 18, 2016 – A significant group of parents from across the English Montreal School Board has launched a legal challenge to stop the EMSB Council of Commissioners from attempting a preemptive strike against increased parent governance. The group is seeking to prevent the school board’s Council from overturning parent elections from earlier this year, and stop further attacks on the independence of democratically-elected parent committees. The parent group filed an injunction request at Quebec Superior Court in Montreal today.
“When a school board’s Council of Commissioners repeatedly thumbs their nose at parent governance, attacks its democratic processes, and attempts to manipulate its operations, we have a collective responsibility to stand together to stop it,” says Andrew Ross, spokesperson for Parents for a Democratic EMSB, parent commissioner and father of four children in the EMSB network .
“Parent governance is supposed to be independent, elected by parents across our school board and responsible to them alone. The EMSB Council of Commissioners has no right to stifle that voice, or interfere in its structure,” says Cynthia Dudley, parent delegate.
This newly-formed group includes 35 parents with children in the elementary, secondary and special needs sectors from all regions of the English Montreal School Board.
The injunction request seeks to throw out a recent Council resolution – adopted on February 27 without consulting any parent governance bodies – which changed the structure of the EMSB’s Central Parents’ Committee mid-year, illegally overturning elections held at the parent General Assembly in October 2015. The Council action directly violates the letter and spirit of Quebec’s Education Act, which outlines the independence of parent governance in the province’s public school system.
Political Context The Council of Commissioners did this in anticipation of the passage of Bill 86, An Act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and ensure parents presence within each school board’s decision-making body. The Bill will alter school board governance and remove the current Council of Commissioners 15 days after its adoption, replacing it with a new School Council with 6 parent members nominated from existing parent structures. The new Chair or Vice Chair will have to be a parent under Bill 86.
The changes to the parent governance structure in the midst of the Bill 86 debate appear to be an attempt to level undue political influence on the CPC, diluting opposition to current Council policies ahead of the adoption of the Bill. This may have the effect of inappropriately and illegally influencing nominations to the new School Council when it comes into effect.
Bill 86 is expected to be passed into law by the National Assembly in June 2016.
About EMSB Parent Governance
Parent governance within the English Montreal School Board, made up of delegates elected from among the parents of each school in the network in September of each year, operates independently from the Council of Commissioners and is mandated by the Quebec Education Act.
About the English Montreal School Board
The English Montreal School Board has 65 schools in its youth sector, totalling nearly 20,000 students and serving over 35,000 parents. It spans the central and eastern regions of the island of Montreal, from St-Laurent, Côte-St-Luc, Montreal-West and Southwest to Pointe-aux-Trembles.
Andrew Ross, spokesperson