Statement by Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne re: school safety

    TORONTO, Jan. 10 /CNW/ - I would like to thank Julian Falconer, his panel
and the Toronto District School Board for their report and recommendations.
    I appreciate the Toronto District School Board's commitment to reviewing
school safety. This report raises some serious issues that the board needs to
study and carefully consider. And the Ministry of Education will continue to
work with the Toronto school board, educators and parents to make sure our
schools are the best places for students to learn.
    We know that in order for students to be at their best, they need to be
safe and feel safe. A safe and healthy learning environment is an essential
part of student achievement.
    Provincewide school safety audits, new security devices, a
bullying-prevention program in all schools and training for principals are
several ways we've already made school buildings safer.
    Keeping the building secure is one part of school safety - engaging
students in active learning so that they are in classrooms instead of
wandering the malls or streets is another.
    We have 9,000 more teachers and 7,600 more support staff who are giving
more individual attention, helping all kids focus on learning, and helping
at-risk youth avoid trouble.
    Learning is now mandatory to the age of 18, meaning increased graduation
rates, and lower dropout rates.
    Our Community Use of Schools program makes school buildings available and
affordable for community groups, clubs and sports groups.
    We will continue to make more improvements to our schools, but we know
that schools alone cannot provide the total solution. Last June, Premier
McGuinty appointed former Chief Justice Roy McMurtry and former Speaker of the
Legislature Alvin Curling to conduct a review of youth violence. The review
will help identify contributing factors to youth violence and provide
recommendations to continue building safer, stronger communities.
    The work of making our schools as safe as possible is never done, and we
must remain vigilant.
    As Minister of Education, I strongly believe that our publicly funded
schools offer Ontario students the best education possible. Ontario's schools
should be as inclusive, welcoming and safe as possible.
    Students should have every opportunity to flourish and to become
well-rounded citizens who can contribute to a cohesive society and our future
prosperity. Students ask for nothing more. And we owe them nothing less.

    Disponible en français



                       ONTARIO'S 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

    As part of its strategy, in June the government introduced amendments to
the safe schools provisions of the Education Act that more effectively combine
discipline with opportunities for students to continue their education.

    Highlights include:

    -   Adding bullying to the list of infractions for which suspension must
        be considered
    -   Supporting a progressive discipline approach to choose the
        appropriate course of action in the case of inappropriate behaviour
    -   Replacing mandatory suspensions and expulsions for students (except
        in limited circumstances) with the requirement that principals and
        school boards respond to all infractions that occurred in the most
        appropriate way
    -   Requiring that mitigating and other factors be considered before
        students are suspended or expelled
    -   Clarifying decision-making authority for principals to suspend and
        school boards to expel students.
    -   Providing programs and supports for expelled and long-term suspended

    The safe schools provisions of the Act will come into effect February 1,

    Investing in Safer Schools and Bullying Prevention

    To support the changes, the government has allocated $43.7 million. This

    -   $12.2 million to help school boards.
        -  $10.5 million annually 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
    -   $23 million annually for programs and supports to address
        inappropriate behaviour and programs for all expelled students and
        students serving long-term suspensions.
    -   $8 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 program for
        principals and vice-principals that is part of the ministry's
        Bullying Prevention Strategy.

    Of this $43.7 million total investment, $41.5 million is annual funding,
as of 2007-2008.
    The amendments and funding builds on the government's earlier
$28.7 million investment to make schools safer and help prevent bullying. This
investment includes:

    -   $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 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
    -   $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.

    We are also supporting at-risk students through expanded tutoring and
homework help, additional staff, more program choices, more one-on-one
assistance through programs like Pathways to Education, more diverse and
reflective curriculum, and expanded character development initiative.

    Key Facts

    The Ontario government has also:

    -   Invested $3.7 billion in publicly funded education since 2003, a
        25 per cent increase
    -   Committed to invest a further $3.1 billion by 2011
    -   Provided funding for the Toronto District School Board - an increase
        of $346 million since 2003 or a 17.2 per cent increase - while
        enrolment has declined by 10 per cent
    -   Conducted over 3,400 safety audits in our schools
    -   Provided $3.2 million for 844 elementary schools for the Safe Welcome
        Program - used for security enhancements (cameras, access devices,
        windows that provide clear lines of sight)
    -   Provided $2 million for character development initiative to help
        students become well-rounded citizens and achieve success
    -   Introduced amendments to the safe schools provisions of the Education
        Act that more effectively combine discipline with opportunities for
        students to continue their education.
    -   Established a three-year, $3 million partnership with Kids Help
        Phone. The investment will double the 24-hour helpline's capacity to
        provide anonymous counselling to students in Ontario who are dealing
        with bullying issues.

    Disponible en français


For further information:

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

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