Summer school costs to be reimbursed

Successful class action lawsuit brought against school boards

The settlement of a class action lawsuit means students who paid for summer school courses in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district in 2005 and 2006 are entitled to reimbursement.

The local school board is staying silent about how much that could cost the district.

The North Vancouver law firm Poyner Baxter issued a press release on Friday, advising that the B.C. Supreme Court has approved settlement of two class action lawsuits against B.C. school boards for the return of tuition fees paid for secondary summer school courses.

In 2009, Sara Jiazi brought a class action suit against the Vancouver school board, seeking the return of fees paid for her child’s remedial science and English courses. Her suit said charging fees violated the School Act, which requires school boards to provide instruction free of charge for coursed needed for graduation.

In 2010, Debra Helem brought a similar action against 25 other school districts that also charged tuition for remedial and academic courses.

On Oct. 25, Madam Justice Dardi of the B.C. Supreme Court certified the Helem lawsuit as a class action, and also approved an agreement to settle the Helem and Riazi lawsuits.

“Parents who paid tuition to any other school board for summer school secondary level remedial and academic courses in 2005 and/or 2006 will also receive by mail from that board a claim form allowing them to elect the same refund or credit for tuition in other courses offered by that board,” said the law firm’s press release.

A legal fee of 25 per cent plus taxes will be deducted from the refunds by the school boards, and paid to class counsel Poyner Baxter LLP.

School District 42 confirmed that the lawsuit will effect the local district, but would not say how many students attended summer classes in 2005 and 2006, nor how much they paid.

“How much we can disclose is apparently limited by Clause 17 of the settlement agreement, which instructs that “no statement or press release of any kind will be made to the public regarding this settlement without the prior written approval of both parties,” said board spokesperson Irena Prochop.

“Legally, we can only confirm that there has been a court-approved settlement agreement, and that we will, of course, be implementing that agreement in accordance with its terms. But we’re not able to address any specifics at this time.”

The board already had to deal with a $5.7 million budget shortfall for the 2013-2014 school year.

Errin Poyner of Poyner Baxter also said she is not permitted to make any public statement about the settlement itself.

However, she clarified “the reason only the 2005 and 2006 school years are included in the settlement is that the Limitations Act of B.C. only allowed us to go back six years from the date of filing of the lawsuit, which occurred on June 30, 2010. On June 30/04, all fees for the 2004 summer school term had already been paid. By 2007, the school districts had stopped charging for summer school. So, we were limited to the 2005 and 2006 years.”

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