Making Ontario's Schools Safer



    Safe Schools Amendments Come Into Effect February 1

    QUEEN'S PARK, Jan. 30 /CNW/ - New changes that make Ontario's schools
safer by more effectively combining discipline with opportunities for students
to keep learning take effect February 1, 2008.

    
    School boards are now required to:
    -   Provide programs to students who have been expelled or are on a long-
        term suspension to allow them to continue their education and access
        services such as anger management or career counselling
    -   Treat bullying as an infraction for which suspension must be
        considered
    -   Consider mitigating and other factors before students are suspended
        or expelled
    -   Respond to all inappropriate behaviours in the most appropriate way
        instead of automatic suspensions and expulsions (in most cases). This
        could include a range of consequences such as meetings with parents,
        referral to a community agency, suspension or expulsion.
    

    "A safe learning environment is essential for students to succeed," said
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. "I am confident that we will continue to
make our schools safer by building on the investments and changes we have
already put in place."
    To help make these changes more effective, school boards are being
encouraged to work more closely with local community agencies. These could
include mental health providers and child and family services. The province
will provide $9 million over the next three years to help boards work with
community partners to provide at-risk students with access to these additional
supports.
    "When community agencies and school boards work together, children, youth
and their families benefit," said Minister of Children and Youth Services Deb
Matthews. "Partnerships like these help young people succeed in school and
become healthy productive adults."
    The new requirements complement an investment of more than $43.7 million
for training, programs and supports to address inappropriate behaviour, and
fund additional personnel to help students and build upon work already done to
improve school safety in Ontario. They also address a number of the
recommendations made by the School Community Safety Advisory Panel.

    
    Disponible en français

                              www.edu.gov.on.ca
                           www.ontario.ca/progress


    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

               MAKING ONTARIO'S SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES SAFER
    

    A safe and positive learning environment is essential for student
success. The McGuinty government is committed to helping our children reach
their full potential and has taken a number of important steps to not only
help make schools safer, but also reduce incidents of youth violence.

    SAFE SCHOOLS STRATEGY

    To help ensure that students feel safe at schools and on school grounds,
the Ontario government has a comprehensive Safe Schools Strategy that includes
a Bullying Prevention Strategy.

    
    -   Amendments to the Education Act - In June 2007, the government passed
        amendments to the safe schools provisions in the Education Act 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 school board teams on changes to the
        Education Act. Further training initiatives, including anti-racism,
        anti-discrimination and cultural awareness will also be undertaken.

    -   Investing in Safer Schools and Bullying Prevention - On top of the
        $28.7 million already invested, the Ontario government is investing a
        further $43.7 million for 2007-08. This includes:
        -   $10.5 million annually for school boards to fund 170
            psychologists, social workers, child and youth workers,
            attendance counsellors and others.
        -   $1.7 million in one-time funding for 18 police officers who will
            work with school boards in Toronto, London and Hamilton to
            prevent bullying.
        -   $23 million annually for programs and supports to address
            inappropriate behaviour and programs for all expelled students
            and students serving long-term suspensions.
        -   $5 million annually for other safe schools initiatives including
            providing training to school board teams including principals,
            vice-principals and teachers on changes to the act and ways to
            apply discipline in a non-discriminatory manner, along with other
            supports to school boards.
        -   A one-time investment of $500,000 to the Council of Ontario
            Directors of Education for the development of an e-learning
            behaviour management resource for principals and vice-principals
            that is part of the ministry's Bullying Prevention Strategy.
        -   $3 million per year over the next three years to help school
            boards enhance partnerships with local community agencies, such
            as regional child and family services, to help schools offer more
            services to students such as mental health counselling.

    -   Kids Help Phone - By April 2008, the Ontario government's $3 million
        partnership with Kids Help Phone will have helped them provide
        anonymous support to over 40,000 bullying victims, bystanders and the
        bullies themselves.

    -   Code of conduct for schools - The Ontario government 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 - To help reduce bullying, the Ontario government
        has developed a multi-lingual pamphlet for parents on bullying
        prevention. The government also provides a registry of bullying
        prevention programs on the Ministry of Education website and has
        developed 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 is investing $2.3 million in
        2007-08 in Pathways to Education Canada, a charitable foundation that
        helps reduce poverty by lowering the dropout rate and increasing
        access to postsecondary education among disadvantaged young people.

    -   Online respect and responsibility forum - In May 2007, the Minister
        of Education hosted a student forum to gather insights on how
        students are using the Internet, cell phones and other online
        technologies. A summary of that discussion is published in Get
        Connected, Get in the Know: Online Respect and Responsibility, which
        is available on the Ministry of Education website.

    -   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.

    -   Developing and enhancing curricula - Changes are being made in
        existing curricula for all levels of the elementary and secondary
        education system in Ontario in order to ensure it is inclusive and
        addresses anti-discrimination education by giving students and staff
        opportunities to learn about diverse cultures and perspectives.
        Knowledge and skills relating to conflict resolution, to bullying
        prevention, and to discrimination and harassment are also being
        integrated into the revised curriculum as appropriate.

    -   Community Use of Schools - Since 2004, the province has provided
        $20 million annually for the Community Use of Schools Program. The
        program helps school boards lower or eliminate the fees they charge
        not-for-profit community groups to use school space after hours to
        promote participation in a range of community activities.

    -   Focus on Youth - In summer 2007, the government provided $4 million
        to school boards to create new, or expand existing summer youth
        programs in Toronto schools in priority neighbourhoods.

    -   Character Development - The government has introduced a Character
        Development initiative that supports academic achievement by
        developing well-rounded citizens who will help build a strong, caring
        and compassionate society.

    REDUCING YOUTH VIOLENCE

    The Ontario government is also working with schools and communities to
prevent youth violence.

    -   Review of the Roots of Youth Violence - Premier McGuinty has asked
        former Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and former Speaker of the
        Legislature Alvin Curling to co-chair a comprehensive review of the
        roots of violence involving youth. They are to recommend measures,
        among others, that will make children, schools and communities safer,
        and help young people make good choices. The review is not only
        surveying the academic research about causes of and proposed
        solutions for violence involving youth, but also consulting with
        leading experts and, most importantly, with the youth most affected
        by violence in their communities. The Co-Chairs' recommendations are
        expected to address both short and long term measures that will lead
        to positive action.

    -   Project PEACE - The government's $270,700 investment in Project PEACE
        (Public Education And Crime Eradication), a prevention, education and
        enforcement initiative of the Toronto Police Service allowed police
        officers to work closely with communities, schools and young
        Torontonians to keep guns out of the hands of youth and youth out of
        the reach of gangs.

    -   Youth Justice Committees - The Youth Justice Committee program, an
        alternative to the formal court process that holds low-risk young
        offenders accountable and addresses issues that may lead to re-
        offending, has been expanded to 54 communities across the province -
        one for every court jurisdiction. More than 80 per cent of the
        participants have had no further contact with the justice system
        within one year of completion.

    -   Youth Intervention Centres - Since April 2006, the government has
        established 32 youth intervention centres across the province. The
        centres provide structured and closely supervised programs where
        youth in conflict with the law accept responsibility for their
        actions, and develop anger management, learning, employment and life
        skills to help reintegrate them into their communities.

    -   African Canadian Youth Justice Program - In May 2006, the government,
        in partnership with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, launched an
        innovative program to reduce youth offences and help youth in
        conflict with the law, aged 12 to 17, achieve better outcomes through
        appropriate community-based, culturally-sensitive services and
        referrals. Operating out of four Toronto-area youth court locations,
        the program offers both court workers and reintegration social
        workers to assist youth in accessing community supports and
        resources, including counselling and mentorship opportunities.

    -   Youth Opportunities Strategy - The government is investing
        $28.5 million over the first three years of the strategy to improve
        outcomes for youth in under-served communities. The strategy features
        a range of community services and supports including employment and
        training initiatives, a prevention and diversion program to support
        school success, youth outreach workers and a website to better
        connect youth with appropriate services and supports -
        www.youthconnect.ca.

    -   Down with Guns Program - The government has directed $3 million in
        grants to a community-designed initiative that is being led by the
        African-Canadian Christian Network in partnership with the Toronto
        Community Foundation. This youth anti-violence strategy is focused on
        four key areas: family, education, employment and crime prevention.

    -   Apprenticeship Training - Pre-apprenticeship projects for at-risk
        youth total approximately $2.1 million over three years.
        Approximately 220 at-risk youth have learned practical skills to help
        them become eligible for apprenticeship programs in the skilled
        trades.

    Disponible en français

                              www.edu.gov.on.ca
                           www.ontario.ca/progress
    





For further information:

For further information: Michelle Despault, Minister's Office, (416)
212-3747; Patricia MacNeil, Communications Branch, (416) 325-2676; Public
Inquiries: (416) 325-2929 or 1-800-387-5514, TTY: 1-800-263-2892

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