Students with Down syndrome have the same right to a quality education as every other student. It is important for parents and caregivers to understand what this right entails. Below is a summary of relevant legislation in our home province of British Columbia (regulations may vary in other jurisdictions).

Children with Down syndrome are entitled to attend public school and receive the required amount of instructional time. Instructional time does not include breaks, recess, or lunch. 

Instructional time requirements: 

  • 2.4 hours per day for kindergarten 
  • 4.75 hours per day for grades 1-7 
  • 5.15 hours per day for grades 8-12 

If a student is suspended or expelled from school, the school board remains obligated to provide an alternative educational program to the student.

Letter grades are only assigned to students who demonstrate learning in relation to curriculum. Reports for students with developmental disabilities should focus on the student’s gains in relation to their IEP goals.

Parents have the right to consult with the child’s teacher or principal regarding the child’s educational program.

Students receive a Dogwood high school diploma if they complete the requirements of the standard curriculum. Students who are learning within the goals of an IEP receive a school completion certificate (Evergreen Certificate). 

Students with developmental disabilities have a right to receive special education services, including: 

  • programs for students with severe behavioural difficulties
  • specialists such as speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, and itinerant specialists
  • school-based learning assistance that supports regular classroom instruction
  • resource rooms
  • special outside-of-school options including hospital and home-based services
  • teaching assistant support
  • a wide range of provincial programs and services (see Guide 9.5, Provincial Resource Programs

Special education students often need additional support to participate in the classroom. All school boards are required to:  

  • equip and maintain and medical room in each school, and make it available to the community health nurse assigned to the school
  • refer hearing impaired students to the Ministry of Health for assessments of their auditory training equipment needs
  • provide speech and language therapy services when needed
  • refer students with disabilities that interfere with their education for medical assessment and subsequent occupational or physiotherapy consultation
  • ensure training and supervision by appropriate health professionals for school staff designated to carry out complex health procedures for students

The educational interests of the student take precedence over administrative convenience. Teachers and Staff are obligated to supervise students using the “careful parent” test; in other words, they should be at least as diligent as a careful parent, and more skilled.

DSRF Resources

Down Syndrome Academy Online Course: Supporting Learners with Down Syndrome + Other Developmental Disabilities

DSRF Individual Services

DSRF Group Programs

Inclusion: An Interview with Shelley Moore

Inclusive Education: The Next Step (The LowDOWN Podcast Season 2, Episode 12 with Shelley Moore)

Setting Up for Success: Supporting Students with Down Syndrome in the Classroom

Other Resources

Province of British Columbia Inclusive Education Resources 

Guide to School Legislation in British Columbia

British Columbia School Act

A Parent’s Handbook to Inclusive Education (Inclusion BC)

International Guidelines for the Education of Learners with Down Syndrome (DSI)

Down Syndrome: Guidelines for Inclusive Education (NDSS)

Down Syndrome Education Resources (CDSS)