05/07/2012 04:40 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Judge certifies class action suit against Brantford school for the blind

TORONTO - The Ontario Superior Court has certified a class action lawsuit launched by former students of a school for the blind in Brantford.

Madam Justice Carolyn Horkins granted the certification for the class action against W. Ross MacDonald, a provincially run residential school for the visually impaired, blind and deaf-blind.

Students allege they suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse as children and teenagers while living at the Brantford school.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

The class action is composed of up to 1,000 students who were enrolled at the school between 1951 to the present day and who were alive as of Feb. 22, 2009.

Lawyer Kirk Baert of Koskie Minsky says the former students will now have the opportunity to tell the public about the alleged abuse they endured while enrolled at the school.

"The alleged abuse these former students were subjected to for years, many while as children, is unthinkable," Baert said in a release.

"We want the government to do the right thing and ensure that former students of this school see justice and receive the reasonable compensation they rightly deserve."

The case involves allegations that the Ontario government failed to operate or supervise the school to ensure the safety and well-being of its students.

The Ministry of Education declined to comment on the class action suit Monday.

The lawsuit was started by Robert Seed, a former student who attended the school from 1954 to 1965.

Seed alleges in his statement of claim that "students were frequently punished for minor or innocuous matters such as being homesick, wetting the bed, throwing up, having trouble reading or using too much toilet paper."

Teachers and house parents used "physical violence, humiliation and bullying" for discipline, taking advantage of the students' disabilities, "particularly those who were completely blind," reads the statement.

"This included beating or shoving students, making students drink from urinals, slapping students with a bare hand or with classroom objects such as books, and grabbing students by the hair."

The W. Ross MacDonald School opened in 1872 as the Ontario Institution for the Education of the Blind. It is one of two provincially run residential schools in Ontario for visually impaired, blind and deaf-blind students.