Making Ontario's Schools Safer
A safe and positive learning environment is essential for student success. The McGuinty government is committed to helping students reach their full potential and has taken a number of important steps to help make schools safer and reduce incidents of youth violence.
To help ensure students feel safe at schools and on school grounds, the Ontario government has a comprehensive Safe Schools Strategy that includes:
- Education Act - Amendments to the safe schools provisions in the Education Act came into effect on February 1, 2008 that more effectively combine discipline with opportunities for students to continue their education. In addition, bullying has been added to the list of infractions for which suspension must be considered. Training has been provided to principals, vice-principals and teachers on changes to the Education Act. Further training initiatives, including anti-racism, anti-discrimination and cultural awareness will also be undertaken.
- Safer Schools and Bullying Prevention - the ministry is making our schools safer by:
- Providing $10.5 million for additional paraprofessionals, including social workers, child and youth workers, psychologists and attendance counsellors
- Developing programs and supports for expelled students and students serving long term suspensions
- Providing $10 million to 33 select high schools located in urban areas that face challenges such as poverty, criminal and gang activity, and a lack of community resources. The funding will help provide needed supports for students and their families, such as after-school recreational programs and programs to improve student achievement.
- $1.7 million in one-time funding for police officers to work with school boards in Toronto, London and Hamilton to enhance school safety by building positive relationships between police and youth
- $5 million for other safe schools initiatives including providing training to school board teams of principals, vice-principals and teachers on changes to the act
- Multi-year funding of $3 million per year for three years beginning in 2007-08 to help school boards enhance partnerships with local agencies, such as children's mental health agencies.
- Kids Help Phone - The ministry's partnership with Kids Help Phone has helped them provide anonymous support to over 40,000 bullying victims, bystanders and the bullies themselves. This partnership is being extended for a further three years.
- Code of conduct for schools - The ministry has revised the Provincial Code of Conduct for schools to make it clear that hate propaganda and other forms of behaviour motivated by hate or bias are unacceptable in Ontario schools.
- Bullying prevention - The ministry has developed a multi-lingual pamphlet for parents on bullying prevention. The government also provides an online registry of resources and has developed sample school climate surveys that will help school staff determine their school's needs and make decisions on bullying-prevention programming.
- Pathways to Education - The government has committed $19 million over the next four years in Pathways to Education to expand its operations to help students in Ottawa, Kitchener and Toronto's Jamestown and Lawrence Heights communities. Pathways to Education is a charitable foundation that helps reduce poverty by lowering the dropout rate and increasing access to postsecondary education among disadvantaged young people.
- Gang Awareness Seminars - The government co-sponsored two Gang Awareness Seminars during the summer of 2007 for over 250 educators and school officers. This initiative was presented in partnership with The Committee of Youth Officers for the Province of Ontario and The Ontario Gang Investigators Association.
- Community Use of Schools - This program promotes participation in a range of community activities by helping school boards lower or eliminate the fees charged to not-for-profit community groups for the use of school space after hours.
- Focus on Youth - In summer 2008, the ministry provided more than 20,000 young people with free or affordable access to sports and recreation activities, as well as leadership development opportunities at area schools through the Focus on Youth program. It was targeted to families in Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa that have limited access to learning and recreation opportunities when school ends for the year. School space was offered for no charge to more than 200 community groups that successfully applied to their local school boards.
- Character Development - The ministry has introduced a Character Development initiative that supports academic achievement by developing well-rounded citizens who will help build respectful, safe, caring and inclusive school environments.
These investments build on work undertaken in 2007-08, including: