McGuinty Government Making Ontario Schools Safer
TORONTO, Feb. 21 /CNW/ - Ontario is working to combat harassment and
violence in schools by reengaging a team of safety and education experts.
The team will focus on improving school safety by making recommendations
aimed at preventing behaviour such as:
- sexual harassment
- gender-based violence.
"One incident of gender-based violence or homophobia in our schools is
too many. We have a collective responsibility to take action," said Education
Minister Kathleen Wynne.
Research shows that gender-based violence is a serious issue, with
far-reaching consequences to individuals, their families, peers, and the
community at large. The team will examine the causes of these behaviours,
provide recommendations on how to prevent this type of inappropriate behaviour
among students and make it easier to report.
The team - called the Safe Schools Action Team - was created in 2004 to
examine school safety and review the former safe schools legislation.
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education Liz Sandals will lead the
team and will be joined by the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister
Responsible for Women's Issues Leeanna Pendergast.
"This is a strong team, and I'm confident we will once again deliver
recommendations that lead to positive change," said Liz Sandals, Parliamentary
Assistant to the Education Minister and chair of the Safe Schools Action Team.
Research indicates that improvements in the school climate relate to
improvements in academic achievement.
This is part of the Ontario government's safe schools strategy and also
addresses a number of issues raised by Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health's report on sexual harassment and by the Toronto District School
Board's School Community Safety Advisory Panel.
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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.
Amendments came into force on February 1, 2008.
- 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 enhance
school safety through the building of positive relationships
between police and youth.
- $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
- 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
- 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 antidiscrimination 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
- 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 underserved 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.
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ONTARIO'S SAFE SCHOOLS ACTION TEAM
The Safe Schools Action Team promotes a safe learning and teaching
environment in schools, and healthy relationships among students. The
government is reengaging the team to identify ways to improve student safety
and address concerns including those raised in Toronto District School Board's
School Community Safety Advisory Panel's report.
The team's new mandate is finding ways to prevent inappropriate behaviour
in school such as:
- sexual harassment
- gender-based violence.
It will also look at making it easier for students to report these types
of inappropriate behaviours in schools.
Leeanna Pendergast, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible
for Women's Issues will join the Safe Schools Action Team for this review.
This will enable better collaboration between the Ministry of Education and
the Ontario Women's Directorate.
Liz Sandals - The Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education
and chair of the Safe Schools Action Team. Sandals was elected to the Ontario
legislature in 2003 to represent the riding of Guelph. Prior to that, she
taught computer science at the University of Guelph and was elected to her
local public school board. 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 also represented Ontario on the board of directors of the
Canadian School Boards' Association.
Leeanna Pendergast - The Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister
Responsible for Women's Issues. Pendergast was elected to the Ontario
legislature in 2007. Born and raised in Kitchener, Pendergast has taught at
various high schools in the region, serving as vice principal of four schools
and as an education consultant for the Ministry of Children and Youth
Services. She has worked collaboratively to develop various programs to
support youth in Waterloo region, including the Safe Schools Initiative,
education representative on the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council,
and the Community Partnership Initiative for youth at risk. She has chaired
the school/police protocol for safe schools and the education foundation golf
classic to raise money for numeracy and literacy initiatives. Pendergast
obtained a BA from the University of Waterloo. She has also studied at the
University of Toronto and at Oxford University in England, receiving numerous
degrees including an MA, B.Ed., and M.Ed. She and her husband Richard Upenieks
live in Conestogo with their three sons Adam, Alexander and Benjamin.
Stu Auty - The President of the Canadian Safe School Network and 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 advisor
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 - Former Director of the Canadian Race Relations
Foundation (CRRF). Dr. Elliston spent over three decades as an educator and a
community volunteer. She retired from the position of education officer at the
Ontario Ministry of Education and Training after working at all levels of the
public education system in Canada, the United Kingdom, Jamaica and West
Indies. Inez has served as a consultant on several provincial and national
projects including: Citizenship Education, The Needs of Immigrant Women, Youth
Leadership Training Programs and University Transition Programs (Admission for
Special Groups). Her work includes teacher professional development in
multiculturalism and intercultural education and citizenship preparation and
training in anti-racist education. She received recognition for her
contribution from governments, institutions, and organizations, including the
Arbor Award for Volunteerism from the University of Toronto in 2003 and the
Order of Ontario in 2004.
Ray Hughes - The National Education Coordinator for the Centre For
Prevention Science with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. He is the
past Learning Coordinator for Violence Prevention with the Thames Valley
District School Board where he coordinated the implementation of violence
prevention programs for 190 schools and 80,000 students. Hughes conducts
presentations on violence prevention and safe school initiatives and has
developed and implemented school-based programs on a wide variety of related
topics. He has successfully implemented a proactive response to violence in
schools called the Interpersonal Development Program.
Dr. Debra Pepler - Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York
University and a Senior Associate Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children
She leads the PREVNet -- a Networks of Centres of Excellence New Initiative to
Promote Relationships and Eliminate Violence. This national network brings
together 42 national organizations and 45 researchers to promote healthy
relationships for all Canadian children and youth. Dr. Pepler edited a recent
book on international bullying prevention programs and has consulted with the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on school violence and
bullying. She heads two research networks and holds seven research grants
related to understanding and addressing children and adolescents' aggressive
Lynn Ziraldo - The Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities
Association of York Region and advisor and past chair of the Minister's
Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE). As a parent of two sons with
disabilities, Ziraldo has been involved provincially and nationally as a
parent advocate in the field of special education for the past 25 years. She
has also given numerous workshops and training on learning disabilities to
parents, professional groups and community agencies. She has represented
learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on
numerous committees/task forces on education, health, social and legal issues
throughout York Region, Ontario, Canada, and the United States. Her work also
has been acknowledged through several awards.
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 examine school safety and the impact of the former safe
November 2005 - The team presented its first report: a bullying
prevention action plan for schools and communities.
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 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
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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