Ontario acting to reduce bullying and violence in schools

Archived Release

Ontario acting to reduce bullying and violence in schools

Ministry of Education

Pilot project will help improve student's ability to learn TORONTO, May 7 - Education Minister Gerard Kennedy today announced that the McGuinty government is expanding the Roots of Empathy program to help foster respect and reduce bullying in Ontario's elementary schools. "Enhancing children's emotional skills has been shown to reduce bullying and violence in our schools and makes students more ready to learn other skills, like literacy and numeracy," said Kennedy, speaking at a York region conference on character and citizenship. "We will build on the Roots of Empathy track record of promoting compassion and emotional literacy in school children." Roots of Empathy, founded in 1996, has been offered to more than 18,000 elementary school-aged students across Canada. The goals of the program are to enhance emotional literacy and reduce levels of bullying, aggression and violence in children's lives. The program connects elementary classrooms to a neighbourhood family with a baby. Students, led by Roots of Empathy instructors, interact with babies and their parents in the classroom over 27 sessions, exploring the themes of human development, perspective taking, emotional literacy and inclusion. Funded by the province, the $500,000 Roots of Empathy research and development pilot project will: - Help assess how the Roots of Empathy approach can be duplicated provincewide; - Help extend a program on citizenship values to other parts of the province; and, - Allow Roots of Empathy training sessions to be offered to staff of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, the Toronto District School Board and other boards across the province. "Public education is the most effective way to build a civil society and this funding from the provincial government will help us bring our message to more young Ontarians," said Joan Green, Roots of Empathy's Chair of the Board. "Our program is about making Ontario a better place, classroom by classroom." A study conducted by the University of British Columbia in 2001, concluded that 88 per cent of students who had demonstrated aggressive behaviour before being exposed to the Roots of Empathy's approach, showed a reduced aggression level after taking part in the program. "Developing emotional skills is an important part of building character," said Kennedy. "We have to ensure that our public education system helps our students succeed and become responsible citizens." Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- May 7, 2004 BUILDING EMOTIONAL SKILLS TO REDUCE BULLYING AND VIOLENCE The McGuinty government will provide $500,000 to the Roots of Empathy not- for-profit organization to determine how it can expand its approach in school boards across Ontario. Roots of Empathy was founded in 1996 and has offered programs to more than 18,000 students across Canada. Roots of Empathy is dedicated to the goal of building caring and peaceful civil societies. It accomplishes this through programs aimed at elementary students. These programs foster the development of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced bullying and aggression. A building block for citizenship values education ------------------------------------------------- The pilot project will help determine how the approaches to increasing empathy and social and emotional competence developed by Roots of Empathy can provide a foundation for citizenship values education in Ontario schools. The pilot will use Roots of Empathy programs already offered in Toronto District School Board schools to assess the program's approach and methodology. Educating students on citizenship values is a deliberate effort to develop virtues in students such as good judgment, honesty, empathy, caring, persistence, self-discipline and moral courage. Students exposed to citizenship values have been shown to have better behaviour, academic performance and morale. Schools that teach the values associated with character education see less tardiness, truancy and discipline problems. Expanding the Roots of Empathy program -------------------------------------- The pilot will enable Roots of Empathy to expand and support its research capacity, offer additional training programs and better support existing programs within the Toronto District School Board. The $500,000 in provincial funding will also allow Roots of Empathy to offer training for staff from the Toronto Catholic District School Board and for staff from other school boards outside Toronto. Evaluation of Model ------------------- Evaluation of the Roots of Empathy research and development pilot project will include an analysis of implementation issues associated with taking a community-based approach to teaching citizenship values. The evaluation report will also recommend best practices that may be adopted by school boards as they develop and implement their own plans for citizenship values programs. Disponible en fran├žais www.edu.gov.on.caFor further information: Media Contacts: Amanda Alvaro, Minister's Office, (416) 325-2632, (416) 509-5696 (cell); Dave Ross, Communications Branch, (416) 325-2709; Public Inquiries: (416) 325-2929 or 1-800-387-5514, TTY: 1-800-263-2892