Earlier this week, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) approved the deadline extension of a much-anticipated anti-bullying report.
An HWDSB press release issued Monday (Dec. 16) said trustees received an update on the public consultation plan and approved an extension to the timelines of the Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel.
When the panel was approved in late October, it was expected at that time that a report would land by May 31, 2020. At the time, some trustees expressed their doubts about the tight deadlines.
“The recommendation comes at the request of seeking additional consultation after an interim report is first received in May,” this week’s release says. “The final report will be submitted to the Board no later than September 30, 2020.”
The extension creates no additional cost to the Board, the HWDSB says, a cost estimated between $100,000 and $150,000.
“Trustees approved the panel’s request to extend the timeline to ensure sufficient resources are
provided for a highly engaging public consultation process,” said Alex Johnstone, Chair of the Board.
“We will not wait to implement changes on revelations that come forward as a result of the public consultation – we will act immediately on emerging themes.”
The panel will be reviewing issues related to prevention, intervention, reporting and responding to incidents of bullying.
The HWDSB’s bullying protocols have come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of the murder of 13-year-old Devan Bracci-Selvey in October. Bracci-Selvey was murdered outside of his East Hamilton school, Sir Winston Churchill, in front of his mother.
Bracci-Selvey was reportedly bullied by those currently facing charges in the incident that led to the boy’s death.
The panel is expected to engage with students, front-line staff, administration, parents, community groups and anyone else who feels their voice needs to be heard to collect data on what is happening in schools.
They will be working with qualitative and quantitative information, said Manny Figueiredo, Director of Education in October, to develop an actionable approach to the issue of bullying in schools.
From January to May 2020, there will be a minimum of 20 feedback sessions across the city that will solicit public input from students, families, staff and community partners.
Information about how to take part in the feedback sessions will be posted to the HWDSB website during the week of January 6, 2020. Online opportunities will also be available to those who prefer digital engagement.
“The panel’s work will provide authentic consultation and timely results to best support our students and staff in feeling safe, supported and accepted,” said Johnstone.
In the meantime, the Board has introduced a slew of anti-bullying measures in Hamilton schools. Some of the new measures include training sessions for teachers, awareness campaigns for students and the reintroduction of HWDSB Helps, a way in which students can report bullying anonymously through web, texts and an app.