The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is asking for the community to provide feedback to the panel reviewing the board’s anti-bullying policies.
The public sessions led by the independent experts on the Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel get underway this week.
The first session is happening this Wednesday (Feb. 15) at Westmount Secondary School from 6 to 9 p.m.
There are 15 sessions planned between this week and the end of March. They are hosting both general and group-specific sessions.
“In response to community concern, the panel’s work will provide authentic consultation and timely results to help all students and staff feel safe, supported and accepted,” said Manny Figueiredo, HWDSB ‘s Director of Education in a press release.
“Let’s Talk About Bullying is an opportunity to listen and learn from our general community and people with a unique voice in the bullying conversation.”
The HWDSB’s bullying protocols came under increasing scrutiny following the murder of 13-year-old Devan Bracci-Selvey in October 2019. 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.
In the wake of the tragedy, the call among staff, students and members of the community to address anti-bullying measures in Hamilton schools was loud and adamant.
At each public session, attendees are asked to share input on what HWDSB and its schools should stop doing, start doing or continue doing as it relates to bullying prevention, intervention, reporting and responding in order to maintain a positive school climate.
The panel engagement will be framed around healthy school relationships as bullying is about relationships, the HWDSB says.
Community feedback will become part of the panel’s findings to be summarized in an interim report due in May, 2020.
There will be an opportunity for more public feedback before this interim report leads to a final report due to the Board of Trustees by September 30, 2020.
The review panel consists of community members with decades of experience, knowledge and skills: Dr. Jean Clinton, Brenda Flaherty and Dr. Gary Warner.
They have access to a team of independent advisors and experts, as well as leading consultancy firm KOJO Institute, with expertise in equity, human rights, anti-racism and organizational culture change.
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.
To learn more about the Let’s Talk About Bullying Sessions, check here.