Supporting Safe Schools In Ontario
McGuinty Government Celebrates International Day of Pink
The Ontario government applauds students, teachers and schools for participating in today's International Day of Pink. A safe and positive learning environment is essential for student success. Even one instance of bullying in Ontario's schools is too many.
The International Day of Pink encourages students to support diversity and raise awareness about bullying, homophobia and discrimination by wearing pink and participating in activities that promote tolerance and inclusiveness. All students have the right to feel safe and welcome in their school community.
Ontario's safe schools strategy provides students with the support they need to succeed inside and outside of the classroom. Since 2004, the government has invested $178 million in safe schools initiatives that are helping make Ontario's schools some of the safest in the world.
Safe Schools Action Team
In February 2008, the Safe Schools Action Team reviewed the issues of gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour in schools. The team also looked at barriers to reporting these types of behaviours and reporting requirements for school staff.
In December 2008, the team presented the Minister of Education with its report titled, Shaping a Culture of Respect in Our Schools: Promoting Safe and Healthy Relationships. The report summarizes the team's findings and recommends areas for action.
Quickly moving on the team's recommendations, the Ontario legislature passed the Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act and expanded the sample school climate surveys to help schools assess perceptions of safety.
Work is already underway with education partners to revise the curriculum to ensure gender-based violence, homophobia, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behaviour are discussed in the classroom.
The government amended legislation to make bullying an infraction for suspension. It is mandatory for principals to consider suspension for incidents of bullying. A key part of Ontario's safe schools strategy is the requirement for all school boards to have their own policies and procedures in place on bullying prevention and intervention.
The government has taken action to increase bullying prevention by making numerous investments that have resulted in:
§ Bullying prevention programs and resources for schools and boards.
§ Bullying prevention training for up to 25,000 teachers and approximately 7,500 principals and vice-principals.
§ Partnering with Kids Help Phone to provide 24/7 online and phone counselling for issues including bullying and cyber-bullying.
§ Training and resources for school and school board staff on the new safe schools legislative requirements and related policy changes, which includes reporting and responding to bullying.
§ Additional resources, supports and programs to promote safe, equitable and inclusive schools.
Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy
Ontario is a leader in building and sustaining an equitable and inclusive education system.
The Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, introduced in 2009, provides a framework to help the education community identify and remove discriminatory biases and systemic barriers to student achievement. These barriers, which include racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination, can prevent students from reaching their full potential.
The government wants an inclusive and equitable system in Ontario where all members of the school community are welcomed and respected, and every student is inspired to succeed. To achieve this, the government is supporting the strategy with a number of actions, including:
§ Training school board staff on equity and inclusive educations.
§ Collaborating with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) to provide additional training to boards on antiracism.
§ Providing over 15,000 additional materials to school boards to support their training, including other materials provided by the OHRC.
By September 2010, all school boards are expected to have an equity and inclusive education policy in place that will also include religious accommodation guidelines.
The strategy upholds the fundamental human rights described in The Ontario Human Rights Code and The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and is a significant step toward ensuring all of Ontario students have an opportunity to succeed.
Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act
The Keeping Our Kids Safe At School Act, which went into effect on February 1, 2010, makes schools safer and helps more students reach their full potential.
Ontario is now the first province in Canada to require all school staff to report serious student incidents -- including bullying -- to the principal. Principals are also required in these situations to contact parents of victims -- another first in Canada.
The legislation helps keep students safe by:
- Requiring all school staff to report to the principal all serious student incidents that must be considered for suspension or expulsion.
- Ensuring that parents are kept informed and principals are aware of serious incidents in the school so they can respond appropriately.
- Requiring school staff to respond to inappropriate, disrespectful behaviour among students as well as activities that can lead to suspension and expulsion.