Special education laws and policies
Find special education policies, laws, Policy and Program Memoranda and resource documents.
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We recommend that you read this page along with the Education Act, regulations and PPMs. If there is any discrepancy between this summary and the Act, regulations, or PPMs, the information in the source document applies.
Special education and the Education Act
Ontario’s Education Act sets out rules around special education.
Under the Act, a special education program is as an educational program that is:
- based on and modified by the results of a continuous assessment and evaluation of a student
- includes a plan (now referred to as an individual education plan or IEP) containing specific objectives and an outline of the educational services that meet the needs of the exceptional pupil
The Education Act requires school boards to provide special education programs and services to students who are formally identified as “exceptional pupils.” Under the Act, an exceptional pupil is a student who has been identified by a committee as having behavioural, communicational, intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities that requires them to have a special education program.
School board committees who identify and place students in special education programs are called identification, placement and review committees (IPRC).
- The Minister of Education shall require school boards to implement procedures for the early and ongoing identification of the learning abilities and needs of students, define exceptionalities of pupils and prescribe classes, groups or categories of exceptionalities. School boards are required to use these definitions. The Minister shall provide an appeal process for parents concerning special education identification or placement decisions and ensure that special education programs and services are provided without payment of fees by parents or guardians who live in Ontario. The government shall establish the Ontario Special Education Tribunal(s) to hear appeals brought by parents. The Ontario Special Education Tribunal will make final binding decisions on the identification or placement of a student.
Special education regulations
There are a number of regulations under the Education Act that relate to special education. Regulation 181/98: Identification and Placement of Exceptional Pupils sets out rules for the identification and placement of students in special education programs and for identification, placement and review committees (IPRC)..
Regulation 306: Special Education Programs and Services defines the requirement for each school board to maintain a plan on how they will deliver special education programs and services.
Regulation 464/97: Special Education Advisory Committees sets out requirements for school board Special Education Advisory Committees (SEACs), such as their role, membership, and scope of activities.
Regulation 298: Operation of Schools-General contains qualifications for special education teachers, a provision for reducing the length of the school day for exceptional pupils, and maximum class sizes for special education classes.
Regulation 296: Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf sets out operating procedures for the Provincial Schools for the Blind and Deaf, and also describes duties of teachers, residence counsellors, parents, and superintendents at these schools.
Policy/Program Memoranda (PPM) concerning special education
There are a number of Policy and Program Memorandum that relate to special education.
- Policy/Program Memorandum 1: Ontario Schools for the Blind and Deaf as Resource Centres
- Policy/Program Memorandum 8: Identification of and Program Planning for Students with Learning Disabilities
- Policy/Program Memorandum 11: Early Identification of Children’s Learning Needs
- Policy/Program Memorandum 59: Psychological Testing and Assessment of Pupils
- Policy/Program Memorandum 76C: Alternative Educational Programs and Services for Deaf, Blind, and Deaf-Blind Exceptional Pupils
- Policy/Program Memorandum 81: Provision of Health Support Services in School Settings
- Policy/Program Memorandum 89: The Residential Demonstration Schools for Students with Learning Disabilities: General Information and Details of the Referral Process
- Policy/Program Memorandum 119: Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools
- Policy/Program Memorandum 138: Daily Physical Activity in Elementary Schools, Grades 1–8
- Policy/Program Memorandum 140: Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
- Policy/Program Memorandum 141: School Board Programs for Students on Long-Term Suspension
- Policy/Program Memorandum 142: School Board Programs for Expelled Students
- Policy/Program Memorandum 144: Bullying Prevention and Intervention
- Policy/Program Memorandum 145: Progressive Discipline and Promoting Positive Student Behaviour
- Policy/Program Memorandum 149: Protocol for Partnerships with External Agencies for Provision of Services by Regulated Health Professionals, Regulated Social Service Professionals, and Paraprofessionals
- Policy/Program Memorandum 151: Professional Activity Days Devoted to Provincial Education Priorities
- Policy/Program Memorandum 153: Applications for Temporary Letters of Approval
- Policy/Program Memorandum 155: Diagnostic Assessment in Support of Student Learning
- Policy/Program Memorandum 156: Supporting Transitions for Students with Special Education Needs
- Policy/Program Memorandum 159: Collaborative Professionalism
- Policy/Program Memorandum 160: Protected Time for Daily Mathematics Instruction, Grades 1 to 8
- Policy/Program Memorandum 161: Supporting Children and Students with Prevalent Medical Conditions (Anaphylaxis, Asthma, Diabetes, and/or Epilepsy) in Schools
- Policy/Program Memorandum 163: School Board Policies on Service Animals
Standards for school boards' special education plans
Read Ontario’s policy on province-wide standards that school boards must meet when developing their special education plans in Part B of Special Education in Ontario, Kindergarten to Grade 12: Policy and Resource Guide (2017).
Policy and resource documents
- Caring and safe schools in Ontario: supporting students with special education needs through progressive discipline, kindergarten to Grade 12
- Effective educational practices for students with autism spectrum disorders
- Supporting students with autism spectrum disorders
- Ontario Ministry of Education
- Learning for all: a guide to effective assessment and instruction for all students, kindergarten to Grade 12
- Identifying students with special education needs
- Shared solutions: a guide to preventing and resolving conflicts regarding programs and services for students with special education needs
- Special education in Ontario, kindergarten to Grade 12: policy and resource guide
- Part B (Standards for school boards' special education plans) describes the province-wide standards that school boards must meet when developing their special education plans
- Part E (The Individual Education Plan) sets out the Ministry of Education's standards for the development, implementation, monitoring, and review of Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
- Overview of policy and program requirements in Ontario schools is the principal policy document for all publicly funded elementary and secondary school education in Ontario. Throughout this document, guidance is provided on special education at the elementary and secondary school levels.
- Elementary and secondary report card templates includes instructions for reporting the achievement of exceptional pupils whose Individual Education Plans document accommodations or modifications to the student’s learning expectations.
- Funding policy documents are discussed on the page Education Funding.
- The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) has responsibility for provincial testing at the Grade 3, 6, and 9 levels, and for the provincial secondary school literacy test. EQAO provides guidance to school boards concerning the inclusion of exceptional pupils in provincial testing and on appropriate accommodations that may be made for these students during the tests.