Tentative settlement reached with Jack Hulland school council in holds and seclusion lawsuit

A sign for Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)
A sign for Jack Hulland Elementary School in Whitehorse. (Jackie Hong/CBC - image credit)

The Jack Hulland school council has agreed to cooperate with families suing over the alleged use of holds and seclusion on students at the Whitehorse elementary school in exchange for legal amnesty.

The tentative settlement, outlined in an order filed to the Yukon Supreme Court on March 14, would see the council provide documents and information to the families' lawyers, who in return would end the lawsuit against the council.

Legal action would continue against the Yukon government.

The deal, which is still subject to approval by a judge, is the latest development in a proposed class-action lawsuit launched by two families last fall, who allege their children were subjected to holds, where an adult physically restrains a child, and seclusion, such as being locked alone in a room or cubicle, at Jack Hulland.

The plaintiffs allege the treatment amounted to assault, battery and unlawful confinement. They're seeking to have the lawsuit certified as a class-action on behalf of all current and former Jack Hulland students subjected to holds and seclusion at the school between Jan. 1, 2002 and June 30, 2022.

The original statement of claim lists both the Yukon government and school council as defendants, arguing they're liable for creating an atmosphere where it was normal to use holds and seclusion on children as young as kindergarten to control their behaviour.

Both the government and council have largely denied the allegations.

Parties agree settlement is 'fair'

The council, according to proposed settlement notices published online, continues to deny liability. However, the notices say that the plaintiffs, lawyers behind the class action and council believe the settlement is "fair… taking into account all the strengths, weaknesses, and risks of the case, including the inability of the School Council to satisfy any monetary judgment that the Class Members could achieve against it."

According to a detailed settlement agreement signed by lawyers for both sides earlier in the month, a "material factor" that influenced the council to enter the settlement was "their desire to limit the burden and expense of the Action."

The council, the document continues, agrees to "reasonable cooperation" and to provide information — including the opportunity to conduct a three-hour interview with a "knowledgeable representative" — and lawsuit-relevant documents to the class-action lawyers.

The class-action lawyers will "exercise good faith" and not seek unnecessary information or create an "undue or unreasonable burden or expense" on the council, which will also not be required to share any information covered by legal privilege.

The proposed settlement will go in front of a Yukon Supreme Court judge for consideration on April 19. Any potential class-action members opposed to the settlement, the notices say, must put their objections in emails or letters postmarked no later than April 7 and get them to the class-action lawyers by noon on April 17.

People who don't oppose the settlement aren't required to act.

The next major hearing in the case after the settlement is set for late June, when a judge will hear arguments on certifying the lawsuit as a class-action.

The Yukon government is opposing the certification.

A separate Yukon RCMP investigation into the holds and seclusion allegations is ongoing.