McGuinty Government Receives Report On Safe Schools Act Review

Archived Release

McGuinty Government Receives Report On Safe Schools Act Review

Ministry of Education

More Than 700 Parents, Teachers, Students Help Shape Recommendations TORONTO, June 26 - More than 700 parents, teachers, students and other community members from across Ontario provided input that has helped shape a comprehensive new approach to school safety outlined in the Safe Schools Action Team's report, said Minister of Education Sandra Pupatello today. "Our government made a commitment to review the Safe Schools Act," said Pupatello. "That's why the Safe Schools Action Team was asked to listen to what people from all across the province had to say about it." As part of its review, the team conducted broad public consultations in six communities, and in addition, received more than 100 written submissions from organizations, school boards and individuals. Anyone who was not able to attend one of these sessions had the opportunity to send their input in writing. "I'd like to thank the members of the Safe Schools Action Team for all their hard work, dedication and commitment," added Pupatello. "Our government believes that safety is a precondition for learning, and that every child and every staff member has a right to feel safe at school." The report, Safe Schools Policy and Practice: An Agenda for Action, summarizes the results of that review and cites areas for taking action, including prevention, progressive or graduated discipline, parent and community involvement, and developing programs for students who have been suspended or expelled. "I'd like to thank everyone who took part in these consultations, submitted ideas and contributed to the report," said Liz Sandals, Safe Schools Action Team Chair and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government Services. "We believe it provides a concise overview of the opinions expressed by Ontarians on the Safe Schools Act and strategies to address school and community safety." "Every student is entitled to a safe and caring learning environment," said Pupatello. "That's why we have introduced a comprehensive Safe Schools Strategy to ensure our students and teachers can focus on learning and teaching." The government will study the action team's recommendations over the summer and develop a response for the fall. The report is posted on the ministry's website. Disponible en français www.edu.gov.on.ca www.resultsontario.gov.on.ca Contact Info Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- MAKING ONTARIO'S SCHOOLS SAFER Review of the Safe Schools Act The Safe Schools Act was introduced in 2000 by the previous government. At that time, it was determined that a review of the act would take place after five years of implementation. Since the act was implemented, a variety of concerns have been raised about it. The McGuinty government committed to reviewing the act to respond to those concerns raised by parents, educators, community groups and residents of communities across Ontario. The review is also part of the government's overall safe schools action plan. As part of the review, the government's Safe Schools Action Team visited communities across Ontario to examine school safety and the impact of the Safe Schools Act. A discussion guide was used that provided background on the act. The consultations took place in Ottawa, London, Toronto, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and participants exchanged ideas in more than 100 round table discussion groups. The review focused on a number of topics, including the following: Consistency ------------ Data indicates that the Safe Schools Act is not being consistently applied across Ontario. The rate of suspensions and expulsions varies widely. Some school boards in Ontario reported a suspension rate of 0.5% in 2003-04, while other boards reported suspension rates above 36%. There was less variation in expulsion rates. Some school boards reported no expulsions, while others reported expulsion rates of 2.3%. Fairness -------- Some groups are seen to be more likely to be suspended or expelled than others. A number of concerns have been raised that the legislation and related discipline policies are having a disproportionate impact on racial minorities and disabled students. Methods of Discipline --------------------- There is a perception that there should be more judgement to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions. Under the Safe Schools Act, teachers, principals and school boards use their judgement in making decisions about suspensions and expulsions. Some boards may apply the concept of progressive or graduated discipline. When progressive discipline is used, students are given a more significant consequence for unacceptable behaviour if the student has been disciplined for the same behaviour previously within a reasonable timeframe. Prevention ---------- There is a perception that the Safe Schools Act focuses more on discipline than on preventing behaviours leading to suspensions and expulsions. More than 60% of students who are suspended change their behaviour and are not suspended again or expelled. However, there is concern that not enough is being done to prevent the behaviours that lead to suspension or expulsion. The consultations took place in November and December 2005. For those who were unable to attend any of the scheduled consultations, there was an opportunity to send comments to the action team either by mail or online up until the end of January 2006. Safe Schools Action Team On December 14, 2004, the government announced the appointment of the Safe Schools Action Team to advise on the development of a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address physical and social safety issues in all Ontario schools. The action team released a report in November 2005 entitled, Shaping Safer Schools: A Bullying Prevention Action Plan. The report made several important recommendations on how to make Ontario's schools safer through comprehensive, provincewide bullying prevention programs. It was based on consultations across Ontario with educators, police, parents, students, student advocates, youth and children's services workers, health care professionals, existing bullying prevention groups and others. The members of the action team are: - Liz Sandals, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government Services - Dr. Debra Pepler, Professor of Psychology at York University and a Senior Associate Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children - Stu Auty, President of the Canadian Safe School Network - Ray Hughes, National Education Coordinator, Fourth R Project, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Centre for Prevention Science - Dr. Inez Elliston, Member of the Board of Directors of Canadian Race Relations Foundation - Lynn Ziraldo, Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario - York Region, and Chair of the Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education. Safe Schools Strategy The Safe Schools Action Team is one part of the government's comprehensive Safe Schools Strategy that includes: - A $3 million three-year partnership with Kids Help Phone to provide anonymous counselling to students in Ontario who are dealing with bullying issues, and is expected to benefit 30,000 more students each year. - A Bullying-Prevention Program in every publicly funded Ontario school - Bullying-prevention Training for Principals and Vice-Principals - Bullying-prevention Training for Teachers - School Climate Surveys to collect student, staff and parent perspectives on school safety - A Safe Schools Implementation Co-ordinator to help schools and boards share best practices - School-based Safe Schools Teams to help determine and assess their local needs - A Registry of Bullying-Prevention Programs on the Ministry of Education website to assist schools in identifying resources to best meet their needs - A Safe Welcome Program to help staff better monitor school visitors and limit points of access into schools - School Safety Audits conducted across Ontario to help schools and communities assess both the physical safety and the social climate of their schools Disponible en français www.edu.gov.on.ca www.resultsontario.gov.on.ca For further information: Valérie Poulin, Minister's Office, (416) 325-2632; Tanya Blazina, Communications Branch, (416) 325-2746; Public Inquiries: (416) 325-2929 or 1-800-387-5514, TTY: 1-800-263-2892 HELP | CONTACT US | PRIVACY | IMPORTANT NOTICES © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2008-2009 — Last Modified: February 15, 2009 For further information: Valérie Poulin, Minister's Office, (416) 325-2632; Tanya Blazina, Communications Branch, (416) 325-2746; Public Inquiries: (416) 325-2929 or 1-800-387-5514, TTY: 1-800-263-2892