Schoolboard votes to seek court costs

By James Wood
May 16, 2017 - 9:56pm Updated: May 17, 2017 - 8:29am

Medicine Hat’s public school division will be looking to get their money back.

Earlier in April, the schoolboard had been in court, following an appeal by the Concerned Parents of SD76 (CPOSD76). The group had submitted a petition to the school board seeking to have more discussion about the division’s policy on LGBTQ students.

After the original petition had been dismissed by the school board for lacking sufficient signatures, CPOSD76 appealed via the court system. The appeal was dismissed in April by the Court of Queen’s Bench, once again due to the lack of valid signatures.

Last week, Rick Massini, the board chair of the public division, said that the question of seeking reimbursement for the court process would be on the agenda for the board’s meeting on May 16.

After going into a closed-door committee of the whole discussion, the board made their decision, which Massini stated was a “rejection of the request to forgive costs.”

He also indicated that the amount sought by the board ($2,299.27) was lower than the actual cost incurred by the court process.

“The other part of it is that we were concerned it would set a concerning precedent for future incidents of this nature, so we’ve denied the forgiving of the court costs,” said Massini.

When asked about what the next step in the process would be, Massini said that the divisions lawyer had already sent a letter to Jeremy Williamson, the CPOSD76 member who had submitted the court appeal.

He said that he anticipated the amount sought would be paid.

“From what I understand, there was ample discussion regarding the potential for court costs being sought, the discussion also focused on the fact that it was pretty commonly understood that the petition itself did not meet the requirements,” said Massini.

“It wasn’t our choice, it would never be our choice to go to court. We would sooner resolve it in other ways.”

As for whether or not Massini was concerned the seeking of costs would anger the CPOSD76, he said it “kind of goes both ways”

“We were not real happy with the court proceedings, we’re not trying to antagonize,” said Massini.

“We’re dealing with the realities of conducting business, and that’s where we have to be.”  

Williamson was present at the schoolboard office during the meeting, and was informed of the board’s decision by Massini in person. He was disappointed with the move.

“I believe that it would have been an act of good faith towards bringing reconciliation between the concerned parents and the schoolboard,” said Williamson.

“I’m a bit surprised that they’re even pursuing them.”

Williamson also said he had not seen any mention of court costs in the judgement dismissing the appeal.

“That comes to me that he (the judge) was not awarding any costs,” said Williamson.

“Everybody goes their own way, and takes their own cost. It is a disappointing decision.”

As for what his next steps will be, Williamson indicated he will be speaking with other members of CPOSD76.

“I have to take that back to the stakeholders, the concerned parents,” said Williamson.

He said he planned to release the results of a vote held amongst members of the group on their next moves on the CPOSD76 website on Wednesday.

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