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Ontario's Safe Schools Action Team

Archived Backgrounder

Ontario's Safe Schools Action Team

Ministry of Education

The Safe Schools Action Team was re-engaged in February 2008 to review the issues of gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools. The team also looked at barriers to students reporting these types of behaviours and reporting requirements for school staff, and participated in a review of local police/school board protocols.

Team Members

Liz Sandals, MPP Guelph, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education - Sandals was elected to represent the riding of Guelph-Wellington in October 2003 and re-elected to represent the redistributed riding of Guelph in October 2007. Prior to her appointment as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, she served as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government Services and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Sandals has taught computer science at the University of Guelph and was elected to her local public school board in 1988. She served as vice-chair and chair of the board and was president of the Ontario Public School Board Association from 1998 to 2002. Sandals holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph and a Master of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo.

Leeanna Pendergast, MPP, Kitchener-Conestoga, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues - Pendergast was first elected to represent the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga in October 2007. She was appointed Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for Women's Issues and is a Member of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and of the Cabinet Committee for Emergency Management. Prior to this, Pendergast was the vice-principal of four high schools in the Waterloo region and also served as an education consultant for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Pendergast received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History at St. Jerome's College at the University of Waterloo continuing her studies at the University of Toronto and at Oxford University in England, receiving a Master of Arts in English Literature, a Bachelor of Education in English and Science, and a Master of Education in Computer Applications.

Stu Auty - Auty is President of the Canadian Safe School Network and the former chair of the Ontario Safe School Task Force. Auty leads a national multi-faceted not-for-profit organization with a mandate to reduce violence in schools and communities in Canada. Over the years Auty has acted as an adviser on safe school issues to municipalities, school boards and provincial and federal governments. He was the founding administrator of the Vanier School for Young Offenders.

Dr. Inez Elliston, Ph.D., O.Ont - Elliston has been engaged for over three decades as an educator and community volunteer. She is a former education officer within the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training and has worked at all levels of the publicly funded education system in Canada, the United Kingdom and Jamaica. In recognition of her contribution, Elliston has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Arbor Award for Volunteerism from the University of Toronto (2003), the Harry Jerome Award for Excellence in Community Service (2003) and the Order of Ontario (2004). She is currently a Patron of P.A.C.E. (Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education) Canada.

Ray Hughes, M.Ed. - Hughes has 30 years of experience in education as a teacher, department head, consultant and university lecturer. He is currently the national education coordinator of the Fourth R Project with the CAMH Centre for Prevention Science and a faculty member at the University of Western Ontario's Faculty of Education. Previously, Hughes was the learning coordinator for safe schools with the Thames Valley District School Board where he coordinated the implementation of violence prevention programs for 190 schools and 80,000 students. He has developed and implemented school-based programs related to substance abuse, domestic violence, gender equity, dating violence, human sexuality, interpersonal violence, conflict resolution and anti-bullying.

Dr. Debra J. Pepler, Ph.D., C.Psych - Pepler is a distinguished research professor of psychology at York University and a senior associate scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children. Her major focus is on aggression and victimization among children and adolescents, particularly in the school context. Her research identifies bullying as a relationship problem that transforms to other problems of power and aggression over the lifespan. Together with Dr. Wendy Craig, Pepler is leading a national network, PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network), a Networks of Centres of Excellence - New Initiative. With national non-government organizations and Canadian research partners, PREVNet's mission is to promote safe and healthy relationships for all Canadian children and youth.

Lynn Ziraldo - Ziraldo has been involved with the Learning Disabilities Association of York Region for over 27 years and currently serves as its executive director. She has represented learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on numerous committees, task forces and work groups on education, health, social and legal issues in York Region, Ontario and the United States. She is currently an adviser to the Minister's Advisory Council for Special Education and vice chair of York Region Special Education Advisory Committee. Her involvement in the Learning Disabilities Association has led her to be an effective advocate for her sons, who have learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder, as well as other people with disabilities.

Team's History

December 2004 - The Safe Schools Action Team was first appointed. The team, made up of recognized safety and education experts, visited communities across Ontario to advise on the development of a comprehensive provincewide approach to bullying prevention in Ontario schools.

Spring 2005 - The team consulted with students, school staff, parents, and community agencies and organizations about issues of bullying prevention.

November 2005 - The team presented its first report: Shaping Safer Schools: A Bullying Prevention Action Plan.

November 2005 - The team was engaged to review the safe schools provisions of the Education Act.

November 2005 - February 2006 - More than 800 parents, teachers, students and other community members provided input to the team on safe schools issues.

June 2006 - The team delivered its report on school safety: Safe Schools Policy and Practice: An Agenda for Action summarizing its findings and recommending areas for taking action.

June 2007 - The Ontario government passed amendments to safe schools legislation based on the Safe Schools Action Team's recommendations. The changes more effectively combine discipline with opportunities for students to keep learning. The changes also place a greater emphasis on prevention and early intervention.

February 2008 - The team was re-engaged to address the barriers to reporting and review the issues of gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools.

March - October 2008 - The team consulted with students, school staff, parents, and community agencies and organizations about issues of homophobia, sexual harassment, gender-based violence and inappropriate sexual behaviour.



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