Parents, Schools and Children's Rights

  • March 27, 2024
  • Brittany Ross-Fichtner

On February 27, 2024, the University of Ottawa’s Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child (IRLRC) held an informative and engaging virtual program titled, “Parents, Schools and Children's Rights.” The IRLRC was created in March 2007 with the purpose of fostering interdisciplinary research on issues related to children’s rights and well-being.[1]

The program was moderated by Jean-Frédéric Hübsch, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law who currently serves as the IRLRC Steering Committee's Student Member Representative.

The program’s panel was comprised of Dr. Paul Clarke, a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina; Dr. Jess Whitley, a Professor and Vice-Dean in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa; and Alex Battick, Principal Lawyer at Battick Legal Advisory.

The panelists drew on their expertise and extensive experience in education law to explore the ways in which recent discourse around parents’ rights in the education system has brought to light the complex nature of the relationships between parents, educators, and students. This topic was examined in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and provincial human rights legislation.

Dr. Clarke provided the audience with an overview of existing provincial policies that require parental consent for students under 16 to change their pronouns and names. Against this backdrop, Dr. Clarke explored current tensions between parents’ rights and the rights of transgender and gender-diverse students. Dr. Clarke highlighted the negative impacts of these policies on transgender and gender-diverse students, as well as on parents who support transgender and gender diverse students. For example, Dr. Clarke suggested that a student’s inability to refer to oneself using one’s preferred name and pronoun is a form of “identity invalidation.”

Dr. Whitley reviewed the results of her research into inclusive education and the experiences of students with exceptionalities. Dr. Whitley discussed the role of parents in advocating for children with exceptionalities, and the ways in which parents and educators may have conflicting views regarding students’ educational goals. Dr. Whitley highlighted the importance of creating productive partnerships between parents and educators in order to support children’s learning.

Finally, Alex Battick discussed the existence of competing human rights scenarios within the education system. As Battick explained, competing human rights situations arise when human rights claims may be in conflict, or may appear to be in conflict with other claims.[2] For example, Battick noted that circumstances may arise where a student’s behaviour, which may be connected to a disability, poses a health and safety risk to the student’s peers or school board staff.[3] To help in addressing and resolving these types of situations, Battick encouraged the audience to consult the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Competing Human Rights.[4]

This informative program highlighted current trends and issues with respect to the rights of parents and students in Canada, and the ways in which their respective rights may diverge. It provided key insights and helpful suggestions, such as the need to build productive partnerships between parents and schools, for those who study, work, and advocate within the education system.

About the Author

Brittany Ross-Fichtner is Counsel at the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views or opinion of the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman.



[1] uOttawa Faculty of Law, Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child (IRLRC), online: <,children's%20rights%20and%20well%2Dbeing>.

[2] Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on competing human rights (26 January 2012) [Policy on competing human rights], online: <>.

[3] The Ontario Human Rights Commission has stated that “[w]hile an education provider in this type of situation continues to have a duty to accommodate the student up to the point of undue hardship, it is recognized that there may be legitimate health and safety concerns that need to be addressed.” Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities (March 2018), online: <>.

[4] Policy on competing human rights.

Any article or other information or content expressed or made available in this Section is that of the respective author(s) and not of the OBA.