Toronto, April 17, 2007- The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) is a strong advocate for schools that are safe places for our students to learn and for our staff to work in. We believe that the solutions to keeping schools free of violence and to reducing levels of violence in society overall lie in far-sighted education and prevention initiatives. OPSBA welcomes, therefore, the proposed legislative amendments to the safe schools provisions of the Education Act.
“OPSBA believes that ensuring safety in our schools means sending clear messages that there are behaviours that are unacceptable and they will be dealt with,” said Rick Johnson, president of OPSBA. “The proposed legislative changes strike a responsible balance. They set out strong consequences for unacceptable behaviour and, at the same time, put in place alternative programs that allow students to continue their education while learning accountability for their behaviour. The proposed legislation supports Boards in building more creative and flexible approaches to addressing the complex issue of discipline.”
OPSBA supports the current efforts made by the government to address the growing problem of bullying and cyber-bullying. In their various forms, these behaviours victimize too many of our children and undermine their healthy growth and development. Adding bullying and cyber-bullying as infractions for which suspensions must be considered sends a strong message that they will not be tolerated in the lives of our children. Seeking input from students regarding cyber-bullying is a step in the right direction. The current pace of innovation has made our young people the experts in YouTube, instant messaging and the other internet- based methods now used to very publicly share personal information, to incite hatred or to bully someone.
OPSBA has formed a committee that is working on measures to counteract the effects on children and youth of violence as it is portrayed in the media and other areas of popular culture. Education and prevention are a strong focus of this work. School boards need to be supported in integrating violence-prevention education into all aspects of the curriculum and providing our young people with the skills to be critical consumers of media.
While key provisions of the Safe Schools Act relate to students who have been suspended or expelled for their actions, it is equally critical to support victims of violence and their families. Assistance from school staff and board specialists and appropriate referrals to community agencies are vital to the healing of students who have been victimized.
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