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School Boards and Independent Schools

School boards and schools are highly scrutinized and regulated institutions with diverse and sophisticated legal requirements. That’s why you need the unmatched cross-practice expertise of BLG, the top choice of the largest boards and oldest schools in Canada for decades. No other firm offers the scope and depth of our experience — from union arbitrations to high stakes litigation, school board real estate to tax — ensuring you get responsive, efficient and practical advice, in English or French, to lighten your load.

The team is co-led by John-Paul Alexandrowicz and Melissa L. Eldridge, highly-specialized and experienced lawyers who have decades of experience serving school boards and schools. Together, they have acted for the majority of public, Catholic and French-language school boards in Ontario, either directly or through their central associations.

Practicing in both English and French, John-Paul practices exclusively on behalf of school boards. Over the course of his career, John-Paul has acted for boards in over a thousand arbitration and other tribunal hearings. He is widely recognized as one of the top labour and employment lawyers in Ontario and has been inducted as a Fellow in the prestigious American College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.

Melissa is an experienced and dynamic advocate who is singularly focused on achieving the best results for her clients. Melissa is a trusted advisor to school leaders, directors of education, trustees and boards of governors. In addition to her work for school boards, Melissa represents leading independent school associations and schools across Canada. Melissa brings her unique perspective to her commitment to client service: she is a former school board general counsel and former governor of the board of an independent school.

Our core team, including seasoned school boards legal operations specialist, Sheryl Waggott, and associates Zoe Aranha, Labiba Chowdhury and Callum Hutchinson, is entirely focused on advising and acting for school boards.

We’ve seen it all before — thousands of times in the case of arbitrations — which means we don’t just follow best practices, we develop them.

BLG’s truly full-service national school boards and independent schools practice offers leading legal services on both the operational and disputes sides, including:

  • Collective agreement interpretation and grievance arbitration
  • Collective bargaining and interest arbitration
  • Governance, including policies and by-laws, trustee codes of conduct and conflicts of interest
  • Teacher and staff performance, discipline and discharge
  • Human rights advice and advocacy
  • Employment law and employment standards
  • Occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation
  • Litigation, including judicial reviews, constitutional law, and assault and defamation claims
  • Student discipline and safe schools, including expulsion hearings and suspension appeals
  • Special education law
  • School closure advice and litigation
  • Strikes and work-to-rule campaigns, unlawful strike applications and picketing injunctions
  • Child protection police investigations and crisis management
  • Construction and procurement
  • Real estate, including leasing
  • Municipal planning, including zoning, expropriation and environmental regulation
  • Corporate advice and contracts, including IT and license agreements
  • Tax law and tax risk management
  • Privacy and cybersecurity issues, ransomware threats, freedom of information requests, and use of technology (including generative AI chatbots)

We have represented school boards and independent schools before human rights tribunals, labour relations boards, student appeals bodies, and at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.


  • Counsel to the largest public and Catholic school boards in Ontario in numerous arbitrations involving collective agreement interpretation, discipline and discharge, sick leave and disability management, teacher supervision and preparation and planning time, workplace health and safety (including Covid-19 issues), and job security.
  • Counsel to the largest school boards associations in central arbitrations and Ontario Labour Relations Board proceedings, including unlawful strike and unfair labour practice applications.
  • Successfully represented a school board in its response, at the Ontario Superior Court, to two applications for judicial review alleging infringement on rights to freedom of expression.
  • Successfully represented one of Canada’s largest school boards at the Ontario Superior Court in a matter involving the censure of a trustee.
  • Counsel to school leadership regarding assault allegations, including crisis containment, media response, advice regarding the investigation and working with police.
  • Acted as preferred cyber security breach counsel to member school boards of the Ontario School Board Insurance Exchange since it launched its cyber security insurance program.
  • Argued the leading case on the employment-related records exclusion in the Municipal Freedom of Information Act and other significant school board freedom of information appeals.
  • Assisted some of Canada’s largest school boards with surplus lands and properties, including disposition, long-term land leases and engagement with neighbouring landowners for innovative mixed-use developments.
  • Appeared at the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Cole, a precedent-setting case about a high school teacher’s expectations of privacy regarding his work computer.
  • Acted for a Toronto independent school in its purchase of a neighbouring school, which was described by the headmaster as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The purchase price was structured to include a leaseback, vendor take-back mortgage, third party financing, the creation of a new affiliated charity, a correction of the legal description of the property, and analysis associated with the potential redevelopment of the property.
  • Acted for one of the largest school districts in British Columbia on all land- and construction-related matters for many years, including the acquisition and build-out of many schools. 
  • Acted for an independent school on a long-term lease for a brand-new campus tailored specifically for Grade 7 to Grade 12 students, including a robust outline of construction obligations for the landlord and tenant to convert the existing building to a school.

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