Accepting Schools Act
Ontario intends to introduce new legislation today to help create safer, more accepting schools.
Research shows that students who feel welcome, accepted and connected to school are more likely to succeed academically.
The legislation, if passed, would:
- Introduce tougher consequences for bullying and hate-motivated actions -- up to, and including, expulsion
- Require all school boards to support students who want to lead activities that promote gender equity, anti-racism, understanding and respect for people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including groups with the name gay-straight alliance or another name
- Add a definition of bullying to the Education Act
- Designate the third week of November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week to raise awareness about bullying and encourage more people to stand up against bullying
- Require organizations using school property to follow standards consistent with the provincial code of conduct.
The legislation would also require school boards to:
- Develop policies and guidelines on progressive discipline, and bullying prevention and intervention that include supports and resources for students
- Develop and implement equity and inclusive education policies
- Create greater transparency and accountability by requiring boards to report on progress against goals for establishing a positive school climate for all students.
Safe Schools Strategy
This builds on work the government has undertaken through its safe schools strategy, including:
- Funding bullying prevention training for teachers, principals and vice-principals
- Partnering with Kids Help Phone to ensure bullied students have someone to talk to
- Adding bullying as an activity for which suspension must be considered
- Requiring all board employees to report serious student incidents, including bullying, to the principal
- Requiring school staff who work directly with students to respond to inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour, including bullying, when it is safe to do so
- Requiring the establishment of a Safe Schools Team in every school and introducing the Premier's Safe Schools Awards to recognize the innovative work they do
- Requiring principals to contact the parents of victims of serious student incidents, including bullying.