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North Vancouver family files court petition over free public education

A North Vancouver family has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking a judge to overturn a decision that rejected their daughter for publicly funded schooling in North Vancouver.

 Kids in classroom/ShutterstockKids in classroom/Shutterstock

A North Vancouver family has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking a judge to overturn a decision that rejected their daughter for publicly funded schooling in North Vancouver.

Maryam Elme Jamili filed the lawsuit Aug. 23 on behalf of her six-year-old daughter Yasmina, asking the court to rule that the decision of the North Vancouver School District rejecting Yasmina for publicly funded education was unreasonable.

The court case appears to hinge on the definition of which students are entitled to publicly funded schooling and which are considered international students who are required to pay hefty fees to attend public school in B.C.

In North Vancouver, international students pay $14,000 annually to attend public school. About 625 international students are enrolled in North Vancouver, contributing about $9.4 million to the school district’s budget.

But according to legal documents filed by the family, Yasmina should be considered a regular student, funded by the province.

According to the petition filed by Jamili, the family arrived in North Vancouver from Iran a year ago.

“Yasmina and her parents have established a life for themselves in British Columbia since arriving in September 2018,” according to court documents. The family lives in an apartment in North Vancouver, where they have a BC Hydro account, and her mother has a provincial driver’s licence, social insurance number, health coverage and local bank account.

Both Jamili and her husband have work permits, according to the lawsuit.

Jamili is a student at the Institute of Technology Development of Canada, a private post-secondary school, and also works there 20 hours a week marketing the school to other students, according to the petition.

But when she went to register her daughter for school in September of 2018, the school district told Jamili the family was not eligible for free publicly funded education, according to court documents.

When the family protested through a lawyer, assistant superintendent Chris Atkinson wrote back, according to the petition, giving several reasons why the girl’s application was rejected, including that the student was not “ordinarily resident” in B.C., that her mother was not enrolled in a degree program and that the nature of her employment with the private institution was “problematic.”

In the petition to the court, the family argues the school district’s decision is not reasonable, because “under the school act, student eligibility for provincially funded education is determined by the residency of the student and the student’s guardian.”

In denying the application, the school district “failed to follow the provincial policy,” failed to consider relevant factors, took irrelevant factors into account and did not correctly apply the law of residency, the family has argued.

According to the petition, the family does intend to seek permanent residency in Canada, but adds that is not a requirement for a student seeking provincially funded education.

The school district has not yet filed a response to the petition and declined to comment on the case.

According to the Ministry of Education, eligibility for free public education “is based on residence rather than on citizenship or immigration status.” To qualify, a student and their legal guardian must be “ordinarily resident” in B.C. and be able to demonstrate they have a purpose for taking up residence in the community, according to a response provided by the ministry.

School districts are responsible for deciding who is “ordinarily resident,” according to the ministry.