Inside this Issue

A Review of Bill 13, Accepting Schools Act, 2011

By Eric M. Roher
Borden Ladner Gervais, LLP
Tel: 416-367-6004
E-mail: eroher@blg.com

On November 30, 2011, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, 2011 for First Reading. The widely published suicides of Jamie Hubley from Ottawa and Mitchell Wilson from Pickering, among other recent suicides involving Canadian youth, provided a catalyst for the new legislation. It is recognized that bullying is an underestimated and pervasive problem in Ontario schools and in its communities.

A 2009 survey of grade 7 to 12 students by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that almost one in three students has been bullied in school. A 2011 survey by Egale Canada found that 64% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer students felt unsafe at school.

In introducing the new legislation, Laurel C. Broten, the Minister of Education, said that “It is incumbent on each and every one of us – government, teachers, parents, peers, the whole community – to find the pathway forward that allow each student to feel safe, included and welcome in Ontario schools.”

Hubley, the 15-year-old son of Ottawa city counsellor Alan Hubley, took his life after being targeted for his sexual orientation. Wilson, an 11-year-old Pickering boy with muscular dystrophy, committed suicide on Labour Day after being tormented at school by friends of a boy accused of mugging him.
Under the proposed bill, students who bully could face expulsion and school boards will be encouraged to ensure there is early intervention to stop aggressive behaviour.

The highlights of the proposed legislation include the following:

  • Bullying will be defined in the Education Act, with a more expansive definition.
  • School boards will be required to use surveys to monitor the effectiveness of board policies.
  • The third week of November will be designated as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.
  • School boards will be required to establish revised policies and guidelines with respect to bullying prevention and intervention in schools.
  • School boards will be required to support students who want to establish and lead activities or
    organizations that promote gender equity, anti-racism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
  • Subsection 310(1) of the Education Act, which sets out the circumstances in which a student must be suspended and considered for possible expulsion, will be amended to include certain circumstances related to bullying and to activities that are motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.
As discussed above, Bill 13 includes a new definition of bullying that would replace the definition set out in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 144 entitled “Bullying Prevention and Intervention”. For the first time ever, the proposed definition would be included in the provisions of the Education Act. The proposed definition is as follows:

“Bullying” means repeated and aggressive behaviour by a pupil where,
(a) the behaviour is intended by the pupil to cause, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to cause, harm, fear or distress to another individual, including psychological harm or harm to the individual’s reputation, and

(b) the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, race, disability or the receipt of special education.

For the purposes of the definition, bullying behaviour includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written or other means.

This is the first time the definition of bullying includes reference to “psychological harm” or “harm to an individual’s reputation”. These terms are not defined in the proposed legislation. The new definition appears more expansive than the current definition set out in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 144.

Moving the new definition of bullying from Ministry policy into the Education Act will give it enhanced legal authority. In this regard, it is hoped that there will be a greater awareness among all stakeholders, including students, teachers, school administration and parents, as to what constitutes bullying and confirming that such behaviour is not acceptable in Ontario schools.

In addition, under the provisions of Bill 13, students involved in bullying could face possible expulsion. Bill 13 proposes an amendment to subsection 310(1) of the Education Act, which sets out the circumstances in which a student must be suspended and considered for possible expulsion. It proposes the following addition to infractions listed in subsection 310(1) of the Education Act.

7.1 Bullying, if,
i. the pupil has previously been suspended for engaging in bullying; and
ii. the pupil’s continuing presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person.

7.2 Any activity, listed in subsection 306(1) that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.

In light of the proposed amendment, where a student had been previously suspended for engaging in bullying and the student’s continuing presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person, the principal can recommend an expulsion. Under the current provisions of the Education Act, the principal could recommend an expulsion from the student’s school only or from all schools of the board. Only the school board or a committee of the board, consisting of at least three trustees, has the authority to expel a student.

In addition, Bill 13 proposes that where a student is involved in certain conduct, such as uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person, swearing at a teacher or bullying behaviour that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on factors such as race, ethnic origin, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, the principal could recommend an expulsion.

These proposed changes provide a principal with a greater range of tools to take disciplinary action in circumstances related to bullying or activities motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. Under Bill 13, bullying behaviour will be taken as seriously as physical assault at the school. The purpose of the bill, among other things, is to encourage a positive school climate, address inappropriate student behaviour and promote early intervention.

Research indicates that children who suffer prolonged victimization through bullying, as well as children who use power and aggression as bullies, may experience a range of psycho-social problems that may extend into adolescent and adulthood.

In reviewing Bill 13, the concern arises about support for students who are impacted by the inappropriate behaviour of other students. Depending on the circumstances arising out of an incident of bullying, there may be support needed for the victim of the behaviour, any bystander who may have witnessed the conduct and/or the child who uses power and aggression as a bully.

York University’s Debra Pepler, one of Canada’s leading experts on bullying, stated that if students are going to face expulsion for their behaviour, they need “alternative classrooms, alternative schools where there is extensive mental health support”. She indicated that where students struggle with social and emotional development, the school needs to provide specialized support and services. She said that when students struggle in math, we give them support and tutoring in math. “When they struggle with social and emotional development, it seems to me we should come in with every resource we have.”

The new bill was introduced for First Reading on November 30th. However, with a minority of seats in the House, the Liberals will need support from either New Democratic Party or the Progressive Conservative Party for it to become law. On November 30th, all three parties spoke in the House about the importance of working together. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that given the importance of this issue, now is not the time to “play politics”. On November 30th Progressive Conservative MPP, Elizabeth Witmer also introduced her own anti-bullying strategy in the legislature.

It is expected that in the Spring of 2012, the proposed legislation will be passed in some revised form.

On November 30, 2011, Minister Broten provided strong commitment that the Government will pass legislation that will address this complex issue. “We are unequivocal in our commitment that Ontario schools will be places where all of our students will be supported, where all students will be loved for who they are.”

The Minister stated: “We want to do our part to end bullying in our schools, but we will not get there alone. We need the whole school community to be involved. We all have a role to play in helping to make our schools safer.”

Meeting with PC Education Critic MPP, Lisa MacLeod

OCSTA has a tradition of meeting with provincial party leaders, education ministers and critics to ensure that Ontario’s political leaders are made aware of the priorities of Catholic schools and the contribution and value that our system brings to the life of this province.

Through one on one meetings with MPPs we are able to develop relationships that foster better understanding and support for Ontario’s Catholic schools.

On February 13, OCSTA President, Nancy Kirby and OCSTA staff met with PC Education Critic, Lisa MacLeod.

During that discussion a number of key points were discussed including:

  • Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act, 2011 introduced by PC MPP Elizabeth Witmer
  • Education sector labour relations
  • The vitality of Catholic education in Ontario

MPP McLeod confirmed to OCSTA representatives that the PC Party in Ontario continues to support Ontario’s publicly funded Catholic schools.

Annual General Meeting & Conference Update, Deadlines

2012 OCSTA AGM & Conference
When: April 26 – 29, 2012
Where: Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Kingston (285 King St. East)
Registration can be processed online by clicking here.

Program Highlights:

Rev. James T. Mulligan, Author – “Walking in the Light of Christ”

Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI, Diocese of Hamilton – “The Past and Future of Catholic Education”

Module 5, Trustee Professional Development Program – ” Performance Review, Director of Education & Board Self-Assessment

Module 12, Trustee Professional Development Program – “Running Effective Meetings”

The Poverty Challenge: Addressing Local Poverty Issues Through Experiential Learning

Key Deadlines – to view all Conference deadlines please visit the AGM & Conference page:

January27, 2012 Resolutions to be Submitted to OCSTA
March 9, 2012 ‘Early Bird’ discount on registration fees ends
April 1, 2012 Hotel rooms in OCSTA block to be released – Holiday Inn – Kingston Waterfront
April 2, 2012 Hotel rooms in OCSTA block to be released – Radisson Hotel Kingston
April 4, 2012 Hotel rooms in OCSTA block to be released – Four Points by Sheraton
March 30, 2012 Nominations deadline for:

  • OCSTA President
  • OCSTA Vice President
  • OCSTA Representative to the CCSTA Board of Directors

If there are no nominations received at the OCSTA office (within the time-frame published) for the position of OCSTA President, Vice President and OCSTA Representative to the CCSTA Board of Directors, nominations will remain open until, but not later than, two hours and fifteen minutes prior to the time fixed in the Notice of Meeting for the call to order of the first plenary session at the Annual Meeting.

To register online for the 2012 OCSTA AGM & Conference please click here.

CEW-Poster_17Nov11_OutlineTxt.aiCatholic Education Week Materials Issued to All Boards

By now all Catholic school boards should have received the 2012 Catholic Education Week Resource Packages for Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Included in each package are:

  • Grade specific curriculum materials and prayers
  • Student activity guides
  • Full Colour 20″ x 30″ posters
  • Prayer Cards for board and community meetings
  • CD with MP3 featuring the 2012 CEW song: “Walking in the Light of Christ” by Dufferin-Peel CDSB teacher, Nancy Bodsworth
  • Parish and Media Announcement Templates

All of the above materials are also available on this website and can be accessed via the following link:

http://www.goodnewsforall.ca

Student Trustees’ Publication – Call for Submissions

A message from Student Trustee,
Clarisse Schneider (Halton Catholic CDSB)
President of the Catholic Board Council,
Ontario Student Trustees’ Association

To: Catholic Stakeholders, Boards, Educators, and Students of Ontario:

The Catholic Board Council of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association – l’Association des élèves conseillers et conseillères de l’Ontario (OSTA-AECO) would like to extend a call for the work of students of Ontario’s Catholic school boards for inclusion in a magazine entitled Keep the Flame Burning.

Pope John Paul II offered the following advice to North American Bishops in June 1998: “The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.” As Catholic student trustees we recognize the importance of Catholic education in the province of Ontario and furthermore its significance in the formation of the student. Catholic education is a unique privilege; as both Catholic students and Catholic trustees, we feel it should be celebrated.

On behalf of OSTA-AECO, we would like to celebrate Catholic education and highlight all that it has to offer in the form of a magazine. The magazine, entitled Keeping the Flame Burning, will act as an effort to connect all Catholic boards from across the province in a celebration of Catholic values and achievements of Catholic students.

In assistance with our effort we encourage all boards to submit material from students of all ages to be featured in the magazine. This material can include but is not limited to:

• Artwork
• Sketches
• Photographs
• Essays
• Letters
• Articles
• Descriptions of social justice work and school initiatives

Materials and questions can be sent to keeptheflameburning@osta-aeco.org. We ask that all material be submitted no later than April 1st, 2012 so that the magazine can be completed by Catholic Education Week.

We hope that this magazine will shine a light on the importance and distinction of Catholic education.

God bless.

OCSTA in the News

The Catholic Register

Ontario’s teachers, trustees brace for cuts after Drummond report

Written by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 12:38

The Drummond Commission On the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services was commissioned by Premier Dalton McGuinty and released Feb. 15. It recommends dozens of cuts to education funding.
TORONTO – Full-day kindergarten may be off limits to the Drummond chainsaw, but Ontario’s Catholic schools are still bracing for a lean season.

The Drummond Commission On the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services was commissioned by Premier Dalton McGuinty and released Feb. 15. In it, TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond recommends dozens of cuts to education funding. That’s never good news for Catholic schools, said Paul Whitehead, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association senior policy advisor for finance. Less money means less flexibility for school boards.

“Catholic boards need flexibility to be able to deal with their denominational mandate,” said Whitehead. “Adequacy of funding gives school boards the ability to make certain kinds of choices. In the period that is ahead, with whatever of those Drummond recommendations are accepted, it will have the inevitable effect of reducing the flexibility the school boards have. We consider that to be a general negative.”

Before Drummond delivered 543 pages containing his 362 recommendations, both the OCSTA and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association had submitted pre-budget recommendations to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan. Both asked for more spending on everything from special education to fixing old schools to classroom computers.

By contrast, the Drummond Report names strategies for cutting education spending.

“Education is the most quantified and the most monetized of all the sections of the report,” notes Whitehead. “It was probably the easiest section of the report for the Drummond commission to write, because they were able to say, ‘If you do this you will save this much, if you do that then you will save that much.’ When you look through other ministries you get very little of that.”

OECTA wants to see classroom spending protected when the provincial budget comes out in March.

“We’re number five in the world,” OECTA president Kevin O’Dwyer points out, referring to recent Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rankings of school systems.

Even in an age of austerity, Ontario needs to continue its recent progress, he said.

“Focus on classrooms. Focus on teachers. Focus on student support,” he told The Catholic Register.

OECTA’s pre-budget submission identifies savings it thinks the government should move on. The union sees board administration getting bloated and wants to slim down the Education Quality and Accountability Office by going from annual universal testing for literacy and numeracy to targeted, random testing.

“The 2010 Ontario budget asked boards to reduce spending on senior administration by 10 per cent. In reality, these expenditures have continued to increase,” said the OECTA pre-budget submission.

A 25-per-cent cut to spending at board offices would give back $150 million in annual savings, according to OECTA.

“The fact of the matter is that board administrations tend to be quite lean,” said Whitehead.

People expect a lot out of their school systems, and they want concrete, quantifiable results. Boards can’t measure results or oversee multiple initiatives without adequate, up-to-date management, said Whitehead.

Schools would be more efficient and could teach more effectively if they weren’t using 10-year-old computer systems, according to the OCSTA pre-budget submission. The trustees ask for an infusion of cash to update computer systems used in classrooms and by administration.

“(Drummond) suggests that the budget for instructional materials, textbooks and computers be cut back by 25 per cent a year. That line has already been cut back the two most recent years, and that presents a serious problem,” said Whitehead.

The teachers’ union and the trustees agree on the need for more realistic and greater funding for special needs students. Collectively the 29 Catholic school boards will spend $67.4 million more than they’ve been allocated in 2012-13 on special education.

The teachers and the trustees are enthusiastic supporters of early childhood education, but see a gap between funding and the province’s ambitions for full-day kindergarten and junior kindergarten.

Insufficient capital funding to equip classrooms has been a stumbling block, according to the trustees. Setting average class sizes at 26 has led to odd distortions in how the program is implemented, say the teachers.