Duhaime's Law Dictionary

School Definition:

A place for education of a lower grade, usually below a college or university.

Related Terms: Education, School Board, Diploma

In Carlyle v The County of Oxford, Justice Meredith of the Ontario Court of Appeal used these words:

"The word school is to be given its ordinary and popular meaning - a place or establishment for instruction."

In East Sandwich v Tecumseh Electric Railway, Justice Riddell of the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote this of the term school:

"In modern usage the term (school) is applied to any place or establishment of education, as day schools, grammar-schools, academies, colleges, universities, etc., but it is in the most familiar use restricted to places in which elementary instruction is imparted to the young. This definition is well enough, if we do not unduly limit the application of the word elementary. In our common parlance, the word is used of any place in which education is given of a character more elementary than that given in a college giving education of a post-matriculant character. In the term school are, I think, included high schools and collegiate institutes-these being high schools by statute. It is true that those who attend high schools are not called children in the Act, but pupils- this, however, is the name."

schoolThis, slightly at variance with how, relying on Cadet-Ettes Corporation v Brown, the American doctrinal encyclopedia of law, the C.J.S., described a school:

"A school is a place where instruction is imparted to the young; it is an institution of leaning of a lower grade, below a college or university."

In City of Thunder Bay v. Potts, a 1982 decision of the High Court of Justice of Ontario, Justice Dupont noted with approval this definition of school:

"Institution or place for instruction or education, including private schools."

But he also added:

"Considerable reliance has been placed upon definitions of school which are restricted to and describe elementary and secondary public school activities academically oriented. Such definitions evolved prior to the advent of much contemporary school activities not oriented to academic learning but related instead to the arts and vocations, although incorporating a degree of academic subjects. It can be said that what was understood by the term school 75 years ago may be restrictive when compared to what is conjured up by such terms in today's society. Notwithstanding, there exist definitions of some vintage that would incorporate within that term a program of instruction beyond those associated with public primary and secondary schools."


  • Cadet-Ettes Corporation v Brown, 406 N.E. 2d 538
  • Carlyle v. Oxford, 18 D.L.R. 759 (1914)
  • City of Thunder Bay v Potts, 142 D.L.R. (3d) 253
  • East Sandwich v Tecumseh Electric Railway, 16 OLR 641 (1908)
  • Mahe v Alberta, 80 A.R. 161 (1987)

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