On Wednesday (Nov. 27) education minister Stephen Lecce, announced five new measures to prevent and combat bullying in Ontario schools.
“We are taking action to root out bullying in our schools with one aim — keeping Ontario’s students safe,” said Lecce in a release announcing the new measures.
“We are working to change the culture to one where everyone sees the inherent dignity and the value of a person, irrespective of their faith, heritage or orientation or race or their income, to build a more accepting and inclusive province.”
These latest steps include:
- The assignment of Christina Mitas, MPP for Scarborough Centre and former teacher, to advise the Minister on education matters with a focus on bullying prevention;
- A province-wide survey to better understand students’ experiences with bullying;
- Training for educators in anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques;
- A review of school reporting practices on bullying; and
- A review of the definition of bullying in ministry policies to ensure it reflects the realities of today.
Mitas’ new role will involve engaging with students, parents, educators and experts to provide short- and long-term strategies to combat bullying and ensure students have the right tools and supports.
“I am thrilled to be assigned to this new role and to work on such an important issue,” said Mitas. “We want kids impacted by bullying to reach out and for them to know they are not alone.
To complement this work, the province will be launching a student survey to learn about students’ experiences with bullying and the reporting of incidents.
This information, along with input from the survey, will be used to better understand the issue and find new ways to make schools safer and more inclusive.
Training will be offered to educators to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to address bullying in schools. Educators will learn anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques to reduce instances of bullying, support victims and help students develop feelings of empathy.
“Kids Help Phone hears from young people in Ontario every day that bullying, both in person and online, continues to pose a significant challenge,” said Alisa Simon, senior vice-president, Service Innovation and Chief Youth Officer, Kids Help Phone.
“We are the only 24/7 service to support young people develop healthy relationships, feel less alone and gain skills for navigating the impacts of bullying. We want to ensure young people know that support is just a call, chat or text away.”
Earlier this month, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) appointed an independent and specialized team to lead an anti-bullying review panel.
The move came in the aftermath of the murder of Sir Winston Churchill Secondary student, 14-year-old Devan Bracci-Selvey on Oct. 7.
In the wake of the tragedy, it emerged that Bracci-Selvey’s family had made several complaints about bullying to the school but nothing effective had been done to put an end to the behaviour.
Two former students of Churchill, one 18-years of age and the other, 14, are facing first-degree murder charges in relation to the incident that saw Bracci-Selvey stabbed to death in front of his mother on school property.
The Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention & Intervention Review Panel will be reviewing issues related to prevention, intervention, reporting and responding to incidents of bullying.
They too will be engaging with students, staff and the public to provide the HWDSB director of Education, Manny Figueiredo, with independent feedback and recommendations on how to prevent, intervene, report and respond to bullying.
The resulting report is expected in May 2020 and will be shared with the Board of Trustees and made public.
On Friday (Nov. 29) despite work-to-rule action being underway throughout the province, HWDSB teachers will be attending training sessions geared towards bullying intervention and prevention.