Table of contents > Chapter 3: Roles, Rights and Responsibilities within the School System


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In this chapter: 

  1. Your Role as a Parent/Caregiver
  2. Your Rights as a Parent/Caregiver
  3. Student Rights and Responsibilities
  4. Role of a Student on an Educational Team
  5. Having a Team Approach
  6. Different Types of Teams
  7. School-based Team
  8. School Roles and Responsibilities
  9. Principal or School-Based Administrator
    Responsibilities of School Principal
    The Principal’s Role in Inclusion
  10. Teacher
    Role in inclusion
  11. Education Assistants (Includes: EAs, SEAs, CEAs, ABA EAs, etc.)
    Standards of Practice for Education Assistants
    Role in Inclusion
  12. Learning Assistance Teacher (or Resource Teacher)
    Role in Inclusion
  13. Other Professionals
  14. Who coordinates your child’s education in school?
  15. The School Board
    Role in Inclusion
  16. Ministry of Education
    Role in Inclusion
  17. The Value of Building Relationships

Key Roles

In this chapter, there are many roles that play a key part in a student’s journey. For this reason, we have these icons to identify who we are talking about.

School-based TeamPrincipal
TeacherEducation Assistant
Resource TeacherOther Professionals
School BoardMinistry of Education


Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities

This section outlines the roles, rights, and responsibilities of the many people involved in your child’s education. Knowing the roles of each of these team members will allow you to build positive relationships, solve problems, and create the best possible future for your child and family. Building positive relationships and creating a team that works together to plan for your child’s education will make your journey to an inclusive future possible.

Remember — your child has a right to be in their neighbourhood school and a right to be in a regular classroom. Your child should also receive the support they need to succeed and feel they belong in that classroom and the school community.

Your Role as a Parent/Caregiver*

*Note: The School Act uses the term “parent” broadly, to include both parents and caregivers. As children live with different family compositions, we use parent/caregiver to be as inclusive as possible.  

“parent” means, in respect of a student of a child registered under section 13,  

(a) a parent or other person who has guardianship or custody of the student or child, other than a parent or person who, under an agreement or order made under the Family Law Act that allocates parental responsibilities, does not have parental responsibilities in relation to the student’s or child’s education, or  

(b) a person who usually has the care and control of the student or child.” (BC School Act, Section 1) 

Parent/caregiver involvement is an important part of making inclusive education work. A formal educational process may not begin until your child enters kindergarten, but you’ve been guiding your child’s learning from the beginning.

As a collaborator, you have a lot of valuable information to share with the school team. You can begin by writing down what you know about your child. You likely already have records of tests, reports, and correspondence that may be important to share. Before the first meeting with the school team you may want to write down some information that would help the school team learn about your child. You may want to write down notes about some or all of the following:

  • your child’s likes and dislikes
  • your child’s strengths and needs
  • your child’s communication style
  • your concerns and questions
  • your child’s hopes and dreams
  • your hopes and dreams for your child’s future

MyBooklet by the Family Support Institute is a great online tool that can help you and your child create a personalized informational booklet.

You may want to share a summary about your child at the beginning of every school year. Some parents find it helpful to create a one-page profile to introduce their child to their new teachers. There are many styles of templates and can be found searching for: all about me, getting to know me, or one-page profile templates.

reference to external resource iconResources: Your Role as a Parent/Caregiver

See the reference to other chapter iconplanning section for more resources on how to share personalized information.

“Building positive relationships and being seen as a valuable and contributing member in a school community is essential to inclusive education. As a parent, I can help foster an inclusive school experience for my kids. Each year I create an asset-based one-page profile for my kids, and I share it with their school team. I always include what my kids love and are good at, how they learn best, what can make learning difficult for them, and a couple of goals for the school year. Many teachers, EA’s, and administrators have shared how these one-page profiles helped them quickly understand the best ways to connect with our kids and support their inclusive education.” Claire, parent.


Your Rights as a Parent/Caregiver

Parents/caregivers play a vital role in the education of their children by working in partnership with educators and other service personnel. According to the reference to external resource iconBC School Act, parents/caregivers have the right to:

  • be consulted about the placement of their children,
  • be involved in the planning, development, and implementation of their children’s education program,
  • be informed of a student’s attendance, behaviour, and progress in school,
  • consult with the teacher, principal, vice-principal or director of instruction about their children’s educational program,
  • receive annual reports about the effectiveness of educational programs in the school district,
  • examine all records kept by the school board pertaining to their children,
  • register their children in an educational program through a school district, independent school, home school, or regional correspondence program,
  • appeal the decision of an employee of a school board if it significantly affects the education, health, or safety of a student within a reasonable time from the date the parent or student was informed of the decision.

When the whole school community understands and adheres by these basic guaranteed rights, a culture of inclusion and collaboration is created that welcomes all students and respects the valuable role of parents.

In this ideal setting, parents/caregivers:

  • are informed and involved in educational decisions that affect their children,
  • are consulted on the type and nature of all reference to other chapter iconassessments, and informed of their results,
  • have their concerns listened to, and responded to, promptly and respectfully,
  • have access to personnel such as teachers, education assistants, principals, board administrators, and board trustees for information and collaboration,
  • have concerns treated with confidentiality,
  • are able to observe their children in the classroom,
  • receive progress reports that can be understood,
  • are involved in the planning process and review of their child’s reference to other chapter iconIndividual Education Plan (IEP) or Student Learning Plan (SLP),
  • have trained teachers and appropriate support for their children,
  • are able to reference to other chapter iconappeal a school district employee’s decision (chapter 7) that affects the education, health, and safety of their children.


reference to external resource iconResources: Your role and rights as a parent/caregiver


Student Rights and Responsibilities

According to the BC School Act, students have the following rights and responsibilities:

Student Rights
  • to learn in safe and welcoming environments,
  • to have their needs identified in a timely manner,
  • to have these needs assessed in a comprehensive manner,
  • to receive an appropriate educational program to respond to identified strengths and needs,
  • when possible, to contribute to planning for their own educational programs, especially for transition planning,
  • when possible, to provide an evaluation of the services they receive.
Student Responsibilities:
  • to follow the school rules authorized by the principal,
  • to follow the code of conduct or any other school board rules and policies.

Student and child rights are also guaranteed in international conventions, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Supreme Court precedents. See the policies and legislation section reference to other chapter icon (chapter 9 coming soon) for more information.

Role of a Student on Educational Team

The student is at the centre of the educational team. This team is a group of people who come together to support the student to access their education and achieving their goals. How each student contributes to planning and decision-making will vary. This contribution may also vary over time as a student develops. Youth participation in planning positively affects outcomes, and the BC school system supports the inclusion of youth in planning.

reference to external resource iconResources: Role of a Student on Educational Team


Having a Team Approach

You have a lot of knowledge about your child, you may know them better than anyone, and different members of a team bring important skills and knowledge to the table. Opening yourself up to a team mindset will ultimately benefit your child; you don’t need to do everything on your own.

By the time your child enters school, you may have already been working with a team of professionals. These community partners who have gotten to know your child and family will likely play an important role in their education and life. As your child enters school, the team will work together to integrate strategies to support your child in different areas of their life.

reference to other chapter iconEffective communication (chapter 7) between all team members is a major contributor to student success and a process that all team members should nourish.

The team you have built around your child will likely be larger than the school-based team, which we discuss below.


Different Types of Teams

  • The school-based team (see below) is different than your child’s educational team. Though it varies by district, most often, the school-based team initially meets internally (without the parent or student) to discuss and problem solve how to support specific students and the classroom teacher. A classroom teacher usually refers the student to the school-based team.
  • Your child’s educational team consists of all the people in your child’s life who are working together to help them succeed in school. Your child is at the centre of this team. This team could include therapists, medical professionals, counsellors, social workers, Aboriginal workers, consultants, child care consultants, etc. See also the reference to other chapter iconPartners in the Educational Journey chapter (chapter 8)

The Individual Education Plan (IEP) team is also different from the school-based team. If your child requires an IEP, a specific team will be set up to carry out the planning. See also reference to other chapter iconIEP chapter 


School-based Team

School-based teams are teams of teachers and other professionals (e.g., counsellors, psychologists, speech and language psychologists) who come together to discuss how to support students and the classroom teacher.

The Ministry of Education’s Special Education Services: Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines (see insert below) conveys what a school-based team should look like. The specific definition of school-based team will vary by district, depending on the language within their collective agreement.

What is a School-Based Team?

A school-based team is an on-going team of school-based personnel which has a formal role to play as a problem-solving unit in assisting classroom teachers to develop and implement instructional and/or management strategies and to coordinate support resources for students with special needs within the school.

Who is on the team?

The school-based team includes a small group of regular members, usually including a school principal, a learning assistance or resource teacher, a classroom teacher and a counsellor. On a case-by-case basis as needed to plan for individual students, the team should also include the student’s referring teacher, and involve the parent, the student, and, as appropriate, district resource staff, and representatives from community services, regional authorities, or from other ministries.

What does the team do?

Upon the request of the referring teacher or parent, it provides support through extended consultation on possible classroom strategies and may become a central focus for case management, referrals, and resource decisions. It should appoint a case manager, identify the need for additional services, and/or initiate referrals to access other school, district, community, or regional services. The school-based team can also initiate or facilitate inter-ministerial planning and service delivery.


The school-based team may also include or reach out to the following:

  • school district personnel such as specialists and teachers to provide assessments, support, and consultation,
  • professionals from other ministries,
  • support staff from community services.

See the Partners in the Educational Journey chapter reference to other chapter icon(chapter 8)

for information about other professionals (occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, behavioural consultants, private counsellors, medical professionals, etc.).

If your child has been referred to the school-based team for help, you should be informed. If the school-based team is unable to resolve an issue or needs further support to address the needs of a student, they can seek help from school district personnel, community resources, and/or other professionals.

The school-based team will have the most success when parents are included as collaborative partners.

If you learn that your child has been referred to the school-based team, you may want to ask your child’s principal or teacher the following questions:

  • Who are the members of this team?
  • What is their role?
  • What types of assistance does each member provide?
  • How is a student referred to the school-based team for a consultation?
  • How will I be involved in the school-based team process?
  • How will I be informed of planning meetings?
  • How often does this team meet?

These ideas are also helpful when you are meeting with your child’s educational team (see above).


School Roles and Responsibilities

Within a school district and each school, people in various roles are involved in ensuring your child can access their education and achieve their goals. While the composition and job titles vary among school districts, we have included the most common names. It is important to be familiar with the unique structure of your school and school district.

Principal or School-Based Administrator

“School Principals play a critical role in setting the priorities for learning in the school. Through values, commitment, knowledge and skill, the principal makes the difference. Effective leadership by the principal is especially important if schools are to be truly inclusive and meet the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population.” (Inclusive Education Canada)

Responsibilities of School Principal

The principal, who is responsible for managing the school, is often the first person you meet, after the secretary, when you register your child for school. The principal or vice-principal may be involved with planning for students with disabilities and additional support needs.

reference to external resource iconThe School Act  says the principal has the following responsibilities:

  • overseeing the educational programs for all students,
  • staff assignment,
  • student placement,
  • ensuring that a student’s IEP is developed, implemented, and reviewed with appropriate revisions.

The principal’s duties include the following:

  • publicly announcing the philosophy or mission of the school district and ensuring that teachers, support personnel, and students follow that philosophy,
  • providing leadership for the staff, parents, and students,
  • monitoring the school’s educational programs,
  • communicating with school district personnel,
  • managing the placement and conduct of students,
  • ensuring that teachers get the information they need to work with students with special needs who are assigned to their classrooms.
The Principal’s Role in Inclusion

The principal is usually the key player in ensuring that an inclusive philosophy is in place in a school. Principals should make sure that teachers receive the information they need to work with students with disabilities and additional support needs. They should also make sure that the school is organized to provide needed resources and support on site, and that staff are supported in the areas of release time, problem-solving, and appropriate supports to further inclusion.

The principal’s leadership role includes the following duties:

  • selecting staff who embrace the philosophy of inclusion,
  • recognizing the need for program and staff development,
  • supporting the school’s responsibility for the education of all students,
  • recognizing that all students benefit from inclusion,
  • recognizing the support needs of students and advocating for the supports.

If the principal doesn’t know about or support inclusion, it may be harder to get support for your child when it’s needed. Not all principals have expertise in this area, but it’s often possible to help them learn by sharing your knowledge.



In elementary school, the classroom teacher is usually the next person you get to know at your child’s school. In secondary school, it may be a learning assistance teacher, resource teacher, or the school counsellor. Classroom teachers are responsible for each student’s progress.

Their duties, which may be shared with a resource teacher or learning assistance teacher, include the following:

  • evaluating and reporting on students’ progress,
  • collaborating with students and their parents to plan, create, and sustain a safe learning environment,
  • collaborating with other professional and auxiliary personnel,
  • planning instruction for the class and for individual students,
  • implementing the goals and objectives of thereference to other chapter icon Individual Education Plan and making revisions as necessary,
  • communicating with parents about their children’s education,
  • coordinating and managing information provided by support personnel (reference to other chapter iconspeech therapists, social workers, etc. (chapter 8)),
  • supervising and coordinating the work of education assistants reference to other chapter icon
  • adapting their teaching style, activities, and curriculum to facilitate each student’s success,
  • facilitating peer interactions (see friendships section reference to other chapter icon).

Teachers should be offered training on how to supervise, schedule, and coordinate activities involving education assistants. Teachers should also have access to in-service education about the inclusion of children with disabilities and additional support needs. The principal or school district are usually responsible for making sure that teachers have these training opportunities.

Role in inclusion

Classroom teachers play an important role in setting the tone for inclusion in the classroom. To make inclusion successful, teachers must create the sense that everyone belongs, regardless of ability. Teachers need to work collaboratively with others to facilitate inclusion for your child. They also need to recognize when they don’t know what to do and ask for appropriate support.

reference to external resource iconResources: Supporting Teachers in Inclusion

Education Assistants (Includes: EAs, SEAs, CEAs, ABA EAs etc.)

Education assistants play a crucial role in the education system – they support all students, and predominantly children with disabilities or additional support needs.

Your child may or may not require the support of an education assistant.

Education assistants work with teachers as part of the classroom team and play key roles in the education of students. They’re usually assigned to work in a specific classroom and may work primarily with one child or they may work with several children. They are responsible for performing duties under the direct supervision of the teacher, principal, or vice-principal.

Their duties may include the following:

  • personal care (assistance with feeding, mobility, toileting, dressing, etc.)
  • safety and supervision
  • communication and technical aids
  • classroom observation
  • assisting individual students or small groups with learning activities
  • following behavioural support plans as set out by the teacher or other specialists
  • following therapy programs as set out by the therapist
  • facilitating social interactions among students
  • data collection and record keeping as requested by the classroom teacher and/or principal.
Standards of Practice for Education Assistants

Inclusion BC is a part of the EA Standards of Practice Working Group that is advocating for the establishment of provincially mandated standards of practice for education assistants in BC.

To date, there are no standards of practice for education assistants in BC. Provincially mandated standards of practice for education assistants are overdue. Standards will contribute to a high quality of education and ultimately will protect all children.

As a vital member of the teaching team, education assistants need consistent training prior to being hired, along with better working conditions.

Role in Inclusion

For inclusion to be successful, education assistants must have a strong belief that everyone belongs. While there is no provincial standard for education assistant training, they should be well-trained in several areas, including behaviour management and supporting students to develop social and communication skills.

Parents often report that the education assistant’s commitment and skills are key to their child’s successful inclusion.

You may want to ask your principal the following questions about the role of an education assistant:

  • What qualifications does the education assistant have to assist my child?
  • How will the education assistant be supported to develop specific skills to work with my child?
  • What is the philosophy and experience of the education assistant?
  • What is the hiring process for education assistants?
  • How are education assistants assigned to students/classrooms?
  • Will union seniority affect the placement of the education assistant?
  • What happens when the education assistant gets sick?
  • How will an appropriate substitute be arranged?

Learning Assistance Teacher (or Resource Teacher)

In some schools, certain teaching staff provide valuable support to the classroom teacher. These teachers aren’t usually responsible for a classroom of students. They’re often referred to as “non-enrolling teachers.”

The most common support teachers are the learning assistance teacher and resource teacher. Learning assistance teachers often have a master’s degree or post graduate diploma in Inclusive Education as well as a Teaching Certificate.

They may have distinct roles, or their roles may vary as they share the workload in the school. They may be assigned to a school full-time or part-time, depending on the school’s need. Support teachers and resource teachers usually have some specialized training or experience that enables them to provide teacher and student support.

Their duties include the following:

  • suggesting strategies to school and family to support student learning,
  • providing service to students with disabilities and additional support needs in a particular area of their education,
  • providing ongoing curriculum adaptation and/or intervention for physical or behavioural needs,
  • coordinating the team of professionals who work with your child,
  • assisting classroom teachers,
  • coordinating release time for staff involved in planning,
  • coordinating the IEP (See also: IEP section reference to other chapter icon),
  • assisting with the transition of your child to a new classroom or school (See also: Planning and Transition Planning section reference to other chapter icon).
Role in Inclusion

Support teachers have an important role in including children with disabilities and additional support needs because they can provide suggestions on how to work with any child who needs assistance. They can:

  • introduce staff members to planning tools like MAPS and PATH reference to other chapter icon,
  • promote an inclusive philosophy in all classes and provide support to staff by liaising with the school district or other professionals,
  • help organize and maintain support services in the school,
  • provide access to district-level support services,
  • communicate with parents regularly about their children, and
  • work directly with a student when appropriate.

Other Professionals

Teachers and school staff work as part of a multidisciplinary, collaborative team with other professionals. These may include psychologists, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, child care workers, nurses, behavioural consultants, doctors, and social workers. (see Partners in the Educational Journey section reference to other chapter icon(chapter 8))

for more information about these roles)

Sometimes the team will include district-based support people like an integration support coordinator or other itinerant teachers.

Provincial Outreach Programs may also provide support to your child’s school team. These are specialized programs and services from the Ministry of Education that support equitable and accessible education for all students in BC.

The role of other involved professionals is to support the educational program specified in the child’s Individual Education Plan. These specialists may also work as members of the IEP team reference to other chapter icon

. Every effort should be made to provide support in the classroom in a way that’s least disruptive to the child.

Whenever a number of professionals are involved with the program, a coordinator should be designated to coordinate service delivery to the student.

Who coordinates your child’s education in school?

Within your child’s school, someone should be charged with coordinating your child’s educational program and the services of other professionals. This person is sometimes called a case manager, but it may be the principal, the resource teacher, the learning assistance teacher, or the classroom teacher.

The principal can tell you who is responsible for coordinating your child’s educational program. You’ll want to develop a relationship with that person.

It’s your right to be part of the team that discusses your child’s educational program and any changes to your child’s support services.

You may want to ask the coordinator the following questions:

  • When and how often can we meet?
  • What is the best way to communicate?
  • How will I be notified of planning meetings?
  • How will I be involved?
  • Will my child be out of the regular class for any period of time, and if so, for what purpose?


The School Board

School boards comprise elected school trustees whose responsibility is to oversee the delivery of public education in their school district. They make major policy decisions for the district and are responsible for the district budget. The BC School Act defines the responsibility of school boards and links that responsibility directly to the Ministry of Education.

In B.C., school boards have a great deal of autonomy to plan and implement local programs. This means that they are expected to respond to their district’s needs. To respond effectively, the school board must be well informed and committed to quality education for all students.

School boards should ensure that inclusive education programs and services are delivered to students in their school district as required, and that schools are aware of what supports and services are available. School boards should also have policies and procedures that are consistent with ministry policy.

School boards’ policies and procedures should ensure that they accomplish the following:

  • identify, assess, and plan for students with disabilities and additional support needs,
  • track and report on Individual Education Plans,
  • provide a straightforward appeal process for parents/guardians,
  • evaluate and report on the progress of students with disabilities and additional support needs, and
  • evaluate special education programs and services.


As a parent, you have the right to ask the school board for their philosophy, policies, and procedures on inclusive education. A school district’s written policies may or may not be consistent with actual practice. 

The reference to external resource iconsuperintendent of schools is the school district’s chief administrator and is responsible to the school board (also called the board of school trustees).  

An assistant superintendent is usually assigned to a particular function within the district, such as instruction, personnel, business, or inclusive education. 

A reference to external resource iconInclusive Education Contact will be assigned responsibility for inclusive education and support services for your child’s district. Depending on your district’s size and structure, it may be a school principal, the director of instruction, director of inclusive education, director of learning services, a district principal, or the superintendent. 

rector of inclusive education, a district principal, or the superintendent.

Role in Inclusion

School boards make major policy and budget decisions for the school district, including those that affect inclusive education. These decisions can affect the educational options available to children with disabilities and additional support needs and can have an impact on how children are placed in the district’s schools or the supports they receive.  

Special Needs Students Order (Ministerial Order 397/95) directs school boards to consult with parents about placement decisions for their children. Ideally, there should be placement choices available that meet the needs of all students. However, sometimes it is difficult for a school district to provide exactly what is needed.  

Limited resources and funding often create challenges for educators working with students with disabilities and additional support needs. A cooperative, problem-solving approach (see Communication section in Chapter 7 reference to other chapter icon (coming soon)) between parents and school personnel is usually most effective in ensuring that appropriate opportunities are available to your child.  

Sometimes parents get involved at the school board level if they’re not satisfied with the decisions made by their trustees. See the advocacy section reference to other chapter icon(chapter 7 coming soon) for more information. 

Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education sets provincials policies that follow the BC School Act to make sure that all students can “become literate, develop their individual potential and acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to contribute to a healthy, democratic and pluralistic society and a prosperous and sustainable economy” (BC School Act Preamble). The Ministry establishes guidelines and expectations for school districts via policies that have to be publicly available. School districts have autonomy on how they implement those policies according to the needs and characteristics of their district. 

Following specific processes, the Ministry of Education assigns funds to school districts to fulfill their responsibilities.  

Role in Inclusion

The Ministry makes policies on inclusive education that all school districts must follow. The Ministry has the vision “to provide inclusive and responsive learning environments that recognize the value of diversity and provide equity of access, opportunity and outcome for all students including students with disabilities and diverse abilities.” – Ministry of Education. On their website on Inclusive Education Resources, you can find ministerial orders and policies, and programs, resources and guidelines on inclusive education that all school districts and independent school authorities must follow.  

Provincial Outreach Programs are directly funded by the Ministry of Education and support school districts, independent school authorities, and First Nations schools to address the needs of a variety of students. They are operated through the administrative oversight of a host school district. 

The Special Education Services: A Manual of Policies, Procedures and Guidelines is the current policy to deliver inclusive education services in BC’s public schools. See Chapter 9 Policies and  Legal Documents reference to other chapter icon(coming soon) for more details. 


The Value of Building School Relationships

It’s important to build relationships with people throughout the school system. The individuals mentioned above are just a few members of the school community who may play an important role in your child’s education and your advocacy journey.  

  • See also: Partners in the Educational Journey section reference to other chapter icon (chapter 8 coming soon).  

Strong relationships and a culture of collaboration will help prevent issues from arising. Should problems occur, it is important to know the policies and procedures to resolve concerns at school. See Chapter 7 reference to other chapter icon(coming soon) for tips on how to advocate through the school system.  

Building relationships at all levels is important not only for the success of your child’s education but also for their future. By investing time in building relationships and by educating others, you’re creating opportunities for your child and for the children who follow. See also: Building Relationships reference to other chapter icon. 


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