Research Focus: Centre for Education, Law & Society (CELS)

profile, research office

February 17, 2015

The Centre for Education, Law and Society (CELS) aims to improve the legal literacy of children, young adults and educators through a program of research, teaching, curriculum development and community initiatives. CELS faculty and staff believe that legal literacy is essential to cultivating a just, open and caring society.

CELS Research

CELS works primarily with teachers, prospective teachers, school administrators and educational and legal organizations to help fulfill its mandate.

Research and program development activities focus on

  • an understanding of law, its role in society and impact on the individual
  • the relationship between law and citizenship
  • social justice, civic and human rights
  • conflict and dispute resolution
  • school policies and culture

Recent projects include:

  • researching cyber-bullying at the K-12 and post-secondary levels; assessing students' and teachers' understanding of human rights, citizenship, identity and sustainability issues
  • providing curriculum support to a school for marginalized youth
  • investigating the ethics of care in school settings; researching and advocating for legal literacy opportunities in schools

Current Project: Isidore Starr Film Project

Dr. Wanda Cassidy, Director of CELS, interviewed and filmed Dr. Isidore Starr in January 2015, for a documentary CELS is doing on his work. Watch a teaser here.

Course and Program Development

The team at CELS developed three undergraduate credit courses in law-related education that are offered through the Faculty of Education. They are geared towards teachers and include:  

Legal Context of Teaching

EDUC 445

Designed to provide education students, teachers, counsellors and school administrators with a comprehensive understanding of the legal issues and potential legal liabilities encountered in the BC public school system. Special attention is devoted to the legal dimensions and consequences of routine classroom and administrative activity. Topics include: sexual abuse by school board employees; negligence and supervision; private lifestyles and community standards; discipline and corporal punishment; sexual harassment in the workplace; responsibility for curriculum fulfillment; liability outside school hours; and the AIDS controversy. Prerequisite: 60 units.

Law for the Classroom Teacher

EDUC 446

Provides a fundamental knowledge of law to teach law-related content in the BC curriculum: social studies, science, personal planning, language arts, P.E., social responsibility, and business. Topics: Canadian legal system, legal history, legal reasoning, dispute resolution strategies, the role of the courts, and family, environmental, property and contract laws. Prerequisite: 60 units.

Teaching about Justice, Law and Citizenship

EDUC 448

The justification and practise of law-related education in the K-12 curriculum are the subjects of this methodology course. Students will examine the place of law in the curriculum, existing resources and appropriate teaching strategies and will have the opportunity to develop unit plans and curriculum materials. Emphasis is on developing and implementing law-related programs in the classroom. Prerequisite: 60 units including six in education courses. Teaching experience is recommended.

The second iteration of a new Master’s program – Justice, Law and Ethics in Education – is currently being offered at the Surrey campus. CELS also organizes symposia on current legal issues and its staff regularly appears in the media. The centre attracts a number of graduate students interested in human rights and citizenship education, cyberbullying, and diversity issues.  

Who's involved?

Dr. Wanda Cassidy, Director

Dr. Ozlem Sensoy, Associate Director

Dr. Chantal Faucher, Program Coordinator

Ms. Ann Cardus, Office Administrator

Funding and Support

The Centre for Education, Law and Society is supported through an endowment with contributors being The Law Foundation of British Columbia, The Notary Foundation of British Columbia, The Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, The Simons Foundation and various law firms. Funding is also obtained from various governmental and non-governmental sources for project-specific initiatives.


“Law is not a static system of rules, developed on high by a few and passed down to citizens without input or redress. Law in a democracy is meant to reflect the values, mores, and hopes of the society at large…Often there is a tension between existing law and where society wants to go, but this tension and debate is fundamental to an open and responsive society.”  (Cassidy, 2004).

Connect with CELS

CELS Office

Simon Fraser University
Faculty of Education
Galleria 5288, Surrey Campus

Phone: 778-782-8045