Introduction

The Education Act sets out the legal parameters that govern the education of students in Alberta. This section contains extracts from the Education Act that highlight the roles and responsibilities of parents, students, teachers, principals and school councils.

Extracts from the Education Act regarding student attendance, suspension and expulsion have been included so that they may be related to the role of the parent, student, teacher and principal. References are also made to the sections of the Education Act that highlight the importance of providing students and board staff with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment, Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, and support for student organizations.

Readers are advised to access the complete statute on the Queen’s Printer website.

The Parent

Education Act, Preamble and Sections 1(1)(r), 1(2)

The preamble of the Education Act states that parents have a right and responsibility to make informed decisions respecting the education of their children. The definition of parent is set out in section 1 of the Education Act and includes

  • the guardian as set out in section 20 of the Family Law Act,
  • the guardian appointed under Part 1, Division 5 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or section 22 or 23 of the Family Law Act if the guardian notifies the board in writing of the guardian’s appointment,
  • the guardian of a student appointed under a temporary or permanent guardianship order under section 31 or 34 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, a permanent guardianship agreement under section 11 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act or a private guardianship order under section 56 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, if the guardian notifies the board in writing of the guardian’s appointment, or
  • the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, if the student is in custody under the Corrections Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (Canada) or the Youth Criminal Justice Act (Canada).

The Student

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(hh), 31

Section 1(1)(hh) of the Education Act defines a “student” as a person who is

(i) enrolled in a school, or
(ii) required under section 7 to attend school,

but does not include a child younger than 6 years of age who is enrolled in an early childhood services program.

Section 31 of the Education Act states that a student, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to

(a) attend school regularly and punctually,

(b) be ready to learn and actively engage in and diligently pursue the student’s education,

(c) ensure that the student’s conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging,

(d) respect the rights of others in the school,

(e) refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying behaviour directed toward others in the school, whether or not it occurs within the school building, during the school day or by electronic means,

(f) comply with the rules of the school and the policies of the board,

(g) co-operate with everyone authorized by the board to provide education programs and other services,

(h) be accountable to the student’s teachers and other school staff for the student’s conduct, and

(i) positively contribute to the student’s school and community.

Independent Student

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(n), 6

Section 1(1)(n) of the Education Act defines an “independent student” as a student who is

(i) 18 years of age or older, or
(ii) 16 years of age or older and

  • (A) living independently as determined by a board in accordance with section 6 [of the Education Act], or
  • (B) a party to an agreement under section 57.2 of the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.

Resident Student

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(w), 4(1), 10, 15(3)

Section 1(1)(w) of the Education Act defines a “resident student” as an individual who is entitled to have access to an education program under section 3 and who is a resident student as determined under section 4.

Section 4(1) of the Education Act contains the general provisions that can be used to determine whether a student is a “resident student.” Subject to this section, a student is a resident student of the board of the school division in which the student’s parent resides.

Section 10 of the Education Act sets out the responsibilities of boards in relation to enrolment of a “resident student.”

Although Francophone education regions and their regional authorities do not have “resident students,” section 15(3) of the Education Act states:

If a student is the child of a Francophone and is enrolled in a school operated by a Francophone regional authority, the student continues to be a resident student of a board of a school division or, if section 4(6) applies to the student, of the Government, but section 11(1) does not apply to that board or the Minister, as the case may be, with respect to that student while the student is enrolled in a school operated by a Francophone regional authority.

Residence

Education Act, Section 4.1

The Education Act defines the place of residence of a person as governed by the following:

(a) a person is deemed to have only one place of residence;
(b) a person’s residence is the place where that person ordinarily lives and sleeps and to which, when absent from the residence, that person intends to return.

Student Attendance

Education Act, Sections 7, 8, 31(a)

Section 7(1) of the Education Act states that every person who

(a) is a resident of Alberta and has a parent who is a resident of Canada,
(b) at September 1 in a year is 6 years of age or older, and
(c) subject to subsection (2), is younger than 16 years of age,

shall attend school.

Student responsibilities for school attendance are set out under section 31(a). Students may be excused from attending school for reasons described under section 7(4). Enforcing school attendance is described under section 8.

Attendance Board

Education Act, Sections 7, 8, 9, 45–50

The Attendance Board provides a means to address and seek solutions to issues or problems regarding attendance at school. School jurisdictions and private schools may make referrals to the Attendance Board, under section 9, when a student who is required to attend school under section 7 does not attend school. Before referring a matter to the Attendance Board, the student must be advised of the student’s duty to attend school under section 7, and efforts must be made to enforce the student’s attendance at school as set out under sections 8 and 9.

Under section 47, where a referral is made, the Attendance Board may choose to schedule a formal hearing or may attempt to mediate the matter by means of a case conference with the student, the student’s parents and the school staff. When a case conference is not successful, the Attendance Board will schedule a formal hearing.

Upon conducting a formal hearing, the Attendance Board may issue an order under section 49 for one or more of the following:

  • directing the student to attend school
  • directing the parent to send the student to school
  • directing the student to take an education program
  • reporting the matter to a child intervention worker under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act
  • imposing a monetary penalty on the parent for each day the student does not attend school
  • giving any other direction that the Attendance Board considers appropriate in the circumstances

An order of the Attendance Board, when filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench, has the same force and effect as if the order were an order of that Court. Failure to comply with a filed order of the Attendance Board may lead to civil contempt proceedings before the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Suspension

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(jj), 36

The Education Act outlines the requirements related to the suspension of students.

Suspension is defined in the Education Act by section 1(1)(jj):

  • “suspend”, with respect to a student, means to suspend a student in accordance with section 36.

36 (1) A teacher or a principal may suspend a student in accordance with subsection (2) or (3) if in the opinion of the teacher or principal

  • (a) the student has failed to comply with section 31,
  • (b) the student has failed to comply with the code of conduct established under section 33(2),
  • (c) the student’s conduct, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day, is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school, or
  • (d) the student has distributed an intimate image of another person in the circumstances described in section 1(1.1).

(2) A teacher may suspend a student from one class period.

(3) A principal may suspend a student

  • (a) from school,
  • (b) from one or more class periods or courses,
  • (c) from transportation provided under section 59, or
  • (d) from any school-related activity.

(4) When a student is suspended under subsection (3), the principal shall

  • (a) immediately inform the student’s parent of the suspension,
  • (b) report in writing to the student’s parent all the circumstances respecting the suspension, and
  • (c) provide an opportunity to meet with the student’s parent, and the student if the student is 16 years of age or older, to discuss the suspension.

(5) A suspension may not exceed 5 school days, except in accordance with a recommendation for expulsion made by the principal under section 37.

Expulsion

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(h), 37

The Education Act outlines requirements related to the expulsion of students. Expulsion is defined in the Education Act by section 1(1)(h):

  • “expel” means to expel a student in accordance with section 37.

Section 37 of the Education Act outlines the expulsion process:

37 (1) If a student is suspended in accordance with section 36, the principal may recommend, prior to the end of the student’s suspension, that the board expel the student if

  • (a) the student has displayed an attitude of wilful, blatant and repeated refusal to comply with section 31,
  • (b) the student has displayed an attitude of wilful, blatant and repeated refusal to comply with the code of conduct established under section 33(2),
  • (c) the student’s conduct, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day, is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school, or
  • (d) the student has distributed an intimate image of another person in the circumstances described in section 1(1.1).

(2) If the principal recommends expulsion under subsection (1), the principal shall

  • (a) immediately inform the board of the recommendation for expulsion, and
  • (b) report in writing to the board all the circumstances respecting the suspension and the principal’s recommendation for expulsion,
  • and the student remains suspended until the board has made a decision under subsection (4).

(3) The student and the student’s parent may make representations to the board with respect to the principal’s recommendation to expel the student.

(4) The board shall, within 10 school days after the initial date of the suspension, make a decision

  • (a) to return the student to school, class, a course or courses, transportation provided under section 59 or a school-related activity, or
  • (b)  to expel the student.

(5) The board may expel a student under subsection (4) only if the principal has recommended that the board expel the student.

(6) If a student is expelled under this section, the expulsion takes effect immediately following the board’s decision under subsection (4)(b).

(7) The board may establish rules or conditions for an expelled student respecting the circumstances in which the student may be enrolled in the same or a different education program.

(8) An expulsion or any rule or condition under subsection (7) may apply to a student beyond the school year in which the student was expelled.

(9) When a student is expelled under this section, the board shall immediately notify, in writing, the student’s parent, and the student if the student is 16 years of age or older,

  • (a) of the expulsion and any rules or conditions that apply to the student, and
  • (b) of the right to request a review under section 43.

(10) When a student is expelled under this section, the board shall

  • (a) ensure that the student is provided with a supervised education program consistent with the requirements of this Act and the regulations,
  • (b) ensure that the student is provided with supports and services in accordance with section 33(1)(e), and
  • (c) make all reasonable efforts to ensure the attendance of the student in accordance with section 7.

For further clarification or information regarding student suspension and expulsion processes, contact the local school board or authority.

Review by the Minister

Education Act, Sections 43, 44

Section 43 of the Education Act states that

(1) If a board makes a decision, on an appeal to it or otherwise, with respect to

  • (a) the provision of specialized supports and services to a student in accordance with section 11(4) or to a child enrolled in an early childhood services program, or
  • (b) the expulsion of a student,
  • a parent of a student or child affected by the decision, and the student if the student is 16 years of age or older, may request in writing that the Minister review the decision.

(2) A request under subsection (1) must be made within 60 days of the date on which the parent or the student, if the student is 16 years of age or older, is informed of the decision.

(3) Where a dispute arises as to which board is responsible for a student or child referred to in this section, a board or other person that is a party to the dispute may request in writing that the Minister review the matter.

(4) A person who may review a student record under section 56 may request in writing that the Minister review a decision of the board, made on an appeal to it or otherwise, respecting access to or the accuracy or completeness of the student record.

Section 44 of the Education Act states that

(1) The Minister may review a matter as requested in accordance with this Act or the regulations and may review the matter in any manner the Minister considers appropriate in order to determine whether the decision of the board was reasonable in the circumstances.

For more information regarding the Review by the Minister process, contact the Learner Services Branch. For contact information, see Appendix 1.

The Teacher

Section 1(1)(kk) of the Education Act defines a teacher as a person who holds a certificate of qualification as a teacher issued under this Act.

Section 196(1) of the Education Act states that a teacher, while providing instruction or supervision, must

  • (a) provide instruction competently to students;
  • (b) teach the courses and programs of study that are prescribed, approved or authorized pursuant to this Act;
  • (c) promote goals and standards applicable to the provision of education adopted or approved pursuant to this Act;
  • (d) encourage and foster learning in students;
  • (e) regularly assess students and periodically report the results of the assessment to the students, the students’ parents and the board;
  • (f) maintain, under the direction of the principal, order and discipline among the students while they are in the school or on the school grounds and while they are attending or participating in activities sponsored or approved by the board;
  • (g) subject to any applicable collective agreement and the teacher’s contract of employment, carry out the duties that are assigned to the teacher by the principal or the board.

Section 196(2) of the Education Act states that at any time during the period of time that a teacher is under an obligation to a board to provide instruction or supervision or to carry out duties assigned to the teacher by a principal or the board, the teacher must, at the request of the board,

  • (a) participate in curriculum development and field testing of new curriculum,
  • (b) develop, field test and mark provincial assessments, and
  • (c) supervise student teachers.

The Principal

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(s), 197

Section 1(1)(s) of the Education Act defines a principal as a teacher designated as a principal or acting principal under this Act.

Section 197 of the Education Act states that a principal of a school must

  • (a) provide instructional leadership in the school,
  • (a.1)  provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging,
  • (b) ensure that the instruction provided by the teachers employed in the school is consistent with the courses and programs of study prescribed, approved or authorized pursuant to this Act,
  • (c) evaluate or provide for the evaluation of programs offered in the school,
  • (d) ensure that students in the school have the opportunity to meet the standards of education set by the Minister,
  • (e) direct the management of the school,
  • (f) maintain order and discipline in the school and on the school grounds and during activities sponsored or approved by the board,
  • (g) promote co-operation between the school and the community that it serves,
  • (h) supervise the evaluation and advancement of students,
  • (i) evaluate the teachers employed in the school, and
  • (j) subject to any applicable collective agreement and the principal’s contract of employment, carry out the duties that are assigned to the principal by the board in accordance with the regulations and the requirements of the school council and the board.

The School Council

Section 55 of the Education Act states that

(1) For each school operated by a board, a school council must be established in accordance with the regulations.

(2) The majority of the members of a school council must be parents of students enrolled in the school.

(3) A board of a separate school division may by resolution require that the parents of students enrolled in a school operated by the board who are members of the school council declare themselves to be of the same faith as the electors of the separate school division, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic.

(4) A school council may, at its discretion,

  • (a) advise the principal and the board respecting any matter relating to the school,
  • (b) perform any duty or function delegated to it by the board in accordance with the delegation,
  • (c) consult with the principal so that the principal may ensure that students in the school have the opportunity to meet the standards of education set by the Minister,
  • (d) consult with the principal so that the principal may ensure that the fiscal management of the school is in accordance with the requirements of the board and the superintendent, and
  • (e) do anything it is authorized under the regulations to do.

(5) Subject to the regulations, a school council may establish and implement policies in the school that the school council considers necessary to carry out its functions.

(6) A school council may make bylaws governing its meetings and the conduct of its affairs.

(7) Subject to the regulations, a board may establish and implement policies respecting school councils.

(8) A board shall establish a dispute resolution process to address disputes between the principal and the school council with respect to policies proposed or adopted for a school.

(9) The Minister, on the request of the board, may dissolve a school council without notice at any time if the Minister is of the opinion that the school council is not carrying out its responsibilities in accordance with this Act and the regulations.

(10) Where a school council has been dissolved by the Minister pursuant to subsection (9), a school council must, in accordance with the regulations, be established after the start of the school year immediately following the year in which the school council was dissolved.

(11) The Minister may make regulations

  • (a) respecting the establishment of school councils, the election or appointment of the members of a school council, the term or other conditions of election or appointment and the dissolution of a school council;
  • (b) respecting the roles of the principal and the school council of a school and their respective powers, duties and responsibilities;
  • (c) respecting the re-establishment of school councils that have been dissolved by the Minister pursuant to subsection (9);
  • (d) respecting any other matter the Minister considers necessary respecting school councils;
  • (e) exempting a school or class of schools from the application of this section.

The School Council Resource Guide provides information on the operation of school councils and is available on Alberta.ca.

Welcoming, Caring, Respectful and Safe Learning Environments

Education Act, Sections 1(1)(d), 31, 32, 33, 34

Students are entitled to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self.

Section 1(1)(d) of the Education Act states that

  • “bullying” means repeated and hostile or demeaning behaviour by an individual in the school community where the behaviour is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more other individuals in the school community, including psychological harm or harm to an individual’s reputation.

Student responsibilities

Section 31 of the Education Act states that a student, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to

  • (c) ensure that the student’s conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging,
  • (d) respect the rights of others in the school,
  • (e) refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying behaviour directed toward others in the school, whether or not it occurs within the school building, during the school day or by electronic means.

Parent responsibilities

Section 32 of the Education Act states that a parent, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to

  • (d) ensure that the parent’s conduct contributes to a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment.

Board responsibilities

Section 33 of the Education Act states that a board, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to

(1)(d) ensure that each student enrolled in a school operated by the board and each staff member employed by the board is provided with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.

(2) A board shall establish, implement and maintain a policy respecting the board’s obligation under subsection (1)(d) to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that includes the establishment of a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviour.

(3) A code of conduct established under subsection (2) must

  • (a) be made publicly available,
  • (b) be reviewed every year,
  • (c) be provided to all staff of the board, students of the board and parents of students of the board,
  • (d) contain the following elements:
    • (i) a statement of purpose that provides a rationale for the code of conduct, with a focus on welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments;
    • (ii) one or more statements that address the prohibited grounds of discrimination set out in the Alberta Human Rights Act;
    • (iii) one or more statements about what is acceptable behaviour and what is unacceptable behaviour, whether or not it occurs within the school building, during the school day or by electronic means;
    • (iv) one or more statements about the consequences of unacceptable behaviour, which must take account of the student’s age, maturity and individual circumstances, and which must ensure that support is provided for students who are impacted by inappropriate behaviour, as well as for students who engage in inappropriate behaviour,
  • and
  • (e) be in accordance with any further requirements established by the Minister by order.

(4) An order of the Minister under subsection (1)(k) or (3)(e) must be made publicly available.

Trustee responsibilities

Section 34(a) of the Education Act states that a trustee of a board, as a partner in education, has the responsibility to fulfil the responsibilities of the board as set out in section 33, including those noted above.

Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

Education Act, Section 35

Section 35 of the Education Act states that

(1) The 3rd week in November in each year is Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.

(2) The purpose of subsection (1) is to promote awareness and understanding of bullying and its consequences in the school community.

Support for Student Organizations

Education Act, Section 35.1

Section 35.1 of the Education Act states that

(1) If one or more students attending a school operated by a board request a staff member employed by the board for support to establish a voluntary student organization, or to lead an activity intended to promote a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging, the principal of the school shall

  • (a) permit the establishment of the student organization or the holding of the activity at the school, and
  • (b) designate a staff member to serve as the staff liaison to facilitate the establishment, and the ongoing operation, of the student organization or to assist in organizing the activity.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), an organization or activity includes an organization or activity that promotes equality and non‑discrimination with respect to, without limitation, race, religious belief, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, family status or sexual orientation, including but not limited to organizations such as gay‑straight alliances, diversity clubs, anti-racism clubs and anti‑bullying clubs.

(3) The students may select a respectful and inclusive name for the organization, including the name “gay‑straight alliance” or “queer-straight alliance”, after consulting with the principal.

(4) The principal shall immediately inform the board and the Minister if no staff member is available to serve as a staff liaison referred to in subsection (1), and if so informed, the Minister shall appoint a responsible adult to work with the requesting students in organizing the activity or to facilitate the establishment, and the ongoing operation, of the student organization at the school.

(5) If a staff member indicates to a principal a willingness to act as a staff liaison under subsection (1),

  • (a) a principal shall not inform a board or the Minister under subsection (4) that no staff member is available to serve as a staff liaison, and
  • (b) that staff member shall be deemed to be available to serve as the staff liaison.

Religious and Patriotic Instruction

Education Act, Section 58

Section 58 of the Education Act states that

(1) A board may

  • (a) prescribe religious instruction to be offered to its students;
  • (b) prescribe religious exercises for its students;
  • (c) prescribe patriotic instruction to be offered to its students;
  • (d) prescribe patriotic exercises for its students;
  • (e) permit persons other than teachers to provide religious instruction or exercises to its students.

(2) Where a teacher or other person providing religious instruction or exercises or a teacher providing patriotic instruction or exercises receives a written request signed by a parent of a student that the student be excluded from religious instruction or exercises or patriotic instruction or exercises, or both, the teacher or other person shall, in accordance with the request of the parent, permit the student

  • (a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction or exercises are taking place for the duration of the instruction or exercises, or
  • (b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part in the instruction or exercises.

Notice to Parent

Education Act, Sections 58.1, 58.2

Section 58.1 of the Education Act states that

(1) A board shall provide notice to a parent of a student where courses, programs of study or instructional materials, or instruction or exercises, include subject‑matter that deals primarily and explicitly with religion or human sexuality.

(2) Where a teacher or other person providing instruction, teaching a course or program of study or using the instructional materials referred to in subsection (1) receives a written request signed by a parent of a student that the student be excluded from the instruction, course or program of study or use of instructional materials, the teacher or other person shall, in accordance with the request of the parent, permit the student, without academic penalty,

  • (a) to leave the classroom or place where the instruction, course or program of study is taking place or the instructional materials are being used for the duration of the part of the instruction, course or program of study, or the use of the instructional materials, that includes the subject-matter referred to in subsection (1), or
  • (b) to remain in the classroom or place without taking part in the instruction, course or program of study or using the instructional materials.

(3) This section does not apply to incidental or indirect references to religion, religious themes or human sexuality in a course, program of study, instruction or exercises or in the use of instructional materials.

Non-compliance

Section 58.2 of the Education Act states that

(1) If a board, teacher or other person fails to comply with section 58 or 58.1, that failure to comply is deemed to be a decision that may be appealed in accordance with section 42.

(2) A decision of the board under section 42 with respect to an appeal relating to subsection (1) is final.