Yukon judge approves settlement between suing families, Jack Hulland school council
A Yukon judge has approved a settlement between the Jack Hulland school council and families suing over the alleged use of holds and seclusion on children at the Whitehorse elementary school.
Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan signed off on the deal in a written decision issued May 2, describing the settlement agreement as "adequate, fair, reasonable, and in the best interests of the class."
The school council and Yukon government were both listed as defendants in a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by two families last year, who allege school staff placed their children in unnecessary holds and confined them alone in rooms or small booths when they had emotional outbursts. The lawsuit aims to represent all Jack Hulland students placed in holds or seclusion between Jan. 1, 2002 and June 30, 2022.
Duncan certified the portion of the lawsuit against the school council as a class action for the purposes of the settlement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the plaintiffs will cease the legal action against the school council, leaving the Yukon government as the sole defendant in the case. In exchange, the school council will provide information and documents to the plaintiffs for use in their case against the government.
Duncan wrote that the plaintiffs would be "well-served by accepting the settlement rather than proceeding with the litigation," particularly because the council has few monetary assets, meaning it wouldn't be able to pay out any damages.
"Given the plaintiffs' inability to recover financially against the School Council, it is in the best interests of the class to resolve the matter against the School Council as early as possible, without sacrificing the production of the relevant documents and information from the School Council for use in the prosecution of their claims," Duncan wrote.
"This compromise provides certainty, simplifies the litigation proceeding, and avoids further costs, risks, and delays of litigation."
No parties asked to be awarded legal costs for the settlement.
A hearing to certify the lawsuit as a class action against the Yukon government is scheduled for late June. The government is opposing that certification, arguing that the legal action should proceed with only the two families who brought the issue to court.
The Yukon RCMP, which is separately looking into the use of holds and seclusion at Jack Hulland, and said in a news release May 3 that its investigation is still ongoing. Investigators have interviewed or spoken with approximately 200 students and former students, parents and current and retired staff, the release said, and "a number of new witnesses have reached out" since January, "which has lengthened the estimated timeline for this file."
No criminal charges have been laid to date.