Ontario’s courts are wading into the debate over sending students back to school during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with one judge ruling a nine-year-old boy should return to in-person classes despite his father’s objections.
In a decision released late last month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Andrea Himel said the case is one of many such disputes currently before the courts and seeking urgent resolution as schools prepare to reopen.
She says the parents, who are divorced and share custody of their son, disagreed on whether the boy should attend classes in person or continue with the remote learning system put in place when schools were forced to close in March.
The mother argued it was in the boy’s best interest to return to his French immersion school in person, partly because neither parent speaks the language well enough to help with school work, and because the child has struggled with isolation.
The father, meanwhile, countered that COVID-19 continues to pose significant risks that can be better managed through at-home, online learning.
Himel sided with the mother, saying the Ontario government is better placed than the justice system to assess and address the health risks of going to school.