McGuinty Government Doing More To Make Schools Safer

    Proposed Changes Include Adding Bullying As An Infraction and New

    TORONTO, April 17 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is proposing to make
bullying an infraction that can lead to suspension under the Education Act.
    The proposal is one of a number of legislative amendments to the safe
schools provisions of the act that would more effectively combine discipline
with opportunities for students to continue their education.
    "Our first priority is safer schools and discipline that works," said
Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. "Our proposed changes would strike a
balance between the consequences for inappropriate behaviour and its causes,
as well as provide programs so students can earn their way back into the
classroom and complete their education."

    The province is proposing:
    -  To add bullying to the list of infractions for which suspension must
       be considered
    -  That a progressive discipline approach be used to choose the
       appropriate course of action in the case of inappropriate behaviour
    -  To replace mandatory suspensions and expulsions for students (except
       in limited circumstances) with the requirement that principals and
       school boards consider and respond to all infractions that occurred in
       the most appropriate way
    -  To require that mitigating factors be considered before students are
       suspended or expelled
    -  To clarify decision-making authority around suspensions and expulsions
       for principals and school boards.

    To support these proposed changes, the government has allocated $31
million annually, beginning in 2007-2008 to make Ontario's schools safer. This
includes $23 million to provide programs for expelled students and those on
long-term suspension. The province will provide training to principals and
vice-principals on ways to apply discipline in a non-discriminatory manner.
    These proposed improvements to the act are the result of recommendations
made by the Safe Schools Action Team, which was led by Liz Sandals,
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education. The action team
conducted broad public consultations and based its report on what it heard
from hundreds of people from across the province.
    "Through our consultations we heard that there were serious discrepancies
in consistency, fairness and methods of discipline when it came to the
application of the act, as well as a lack of focus on prevention," said
Sandals. "The proposed changes offer a better, fairer, more equitable approach
to ensuring safety in our schools, while also ensuring that all our students
can achieve their potential."
    "The changes proposed are consistent with the spirit of compassion and
concern that underpins the traditional approach to discipline in our schools,"
said Bernard Murray, President, Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association.
    "We're pleased to see the focus on alternative programs which will help
get kids off the street and back into learning programs", said Dave Clark,
Chair of the Guelph Police Services Board and Chair of the Community Task
Force on Youth Violence. "The increased emphasis on prevention, intervention
and partnerships with police and community agencies is a more effective
approach to dealing with behaviour issues."
    The proposed amendments and associated funding would build on the
government's current $28.7 million investment to make schools safer, which
    -  $3 million for a three-year partnership with Kids Help Phone to
       provide more resources for bullying and cyber-bullying prevention
    -  $6 million for model projects to promote positive behaviour
    -  $7.8 million for bullying-prevention programs/resources for schools
       and boards
    -  $4.5 million for bullying-prevention training for up to 25,000
    -  $1.2 million for bullying-prevention training for approximately 7,500
       principals and vice-principals
    -  $3.2 million for security access devices for schools as part of a Safe
       Welcome Program to help staff better monitor school visitors and limit
       points of access into schools
    -  $3 million through the OESC Special Circumstances Bullying and
       Violence Prevention Fund for schools facing additional challenges

    "Safe schools are key to student success, in learning and in life," said
Wynne. "These changes are the right thing to do - for the kids involved and
for society as a whole."

    Disponible en français




    The Safe Schools Act was introduced in 2000 by the previous government.
Since the act was implemented, a variety of concerns have been raised about
    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 was also part of the government's
overall safe schools strategy.
    The review focused on a number of topics, including:

    -  Consistency: Data indicated that the safe schools legislation was not
       being applied consistently across Ontario. The rate of suspensions and
       expulsions varied widely among schools.
    -  Fairness: Some groups were seen to be more likely to be suspended or
       expelled than others. A number of concerns were raised that the
       legislation and related school board discipline policies were having a
       disproportionate impact on racial minorities and disabled students.
    -  Discipline: There was a perception that there should be more judgment
       used when deciding to suspend or expel a student.
    -  Prevention: There was a perception that safe schools legislation
       focused more on discipline than on preventing behaviours leading to
       suspensions and expulsions. More than 60 per cent of students who were
       suspended changed their behaviour and were not suspended again or
       expelled. However, there was a concern that not enough was being done
       to prevent the behaviours that led to suspension or expulsion.

    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 legislation, and to listen to the concerns being raised.
    The consultations took place in November and December 2005, in Ottawa,
London, Etobicoke, Scarborough, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, and participants
exchanged ideas in more than 100 round-table discussion groups. There was also
an opportunity to send comments to the action team either by mail or online up
until the end of January 2006. The team heard from more than 700 people and
received over 100 written submissions.
    The team's report, Safe Schools Policy and Practice: An Agenda for Action,
was presented to the minister in June 2006.

    Safe Schools Action Team

    The members of the action team include:
    -  Liz Sandals, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education
    -  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 former Chair of the
       Minister's Advisory Council on Special Education.

    Disponible en français


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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