December 15, 2011: Giving Bullied Students Hope.
Giving Bullied Students Hope.
By Yasir Naqvi, MPP Ottawa Centre.
Every child deserves to feel safe and loved. Our government is committed to a safe and inclusive school environment because we believe that safe schools are needed for student success and academic achievement. We are committed to providing all students with the supports they need to learn, grow and achieve.
The Honourable Laurel Broten, Minister of Education, recently introduced new legislation, which, if passed, will create safer and more accepting schools for all students. The Accepting Schools Act, if passed, would bring tougher consequences for bullying and hate-motivated actions. The legislation would also introduce tougher consequences for bullying and hate-motivated actions – up to, and including, expulsion.
The Act would also require all school boards to support students who want to lead activities that promote gender equity, anti-racism, understanding and respect for people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including groups with the name gay-straight alliance or another name. The legislation would add a definition of bullying to the Education Act and designate the third week of November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week to raise awareness about bullying and encourage more people to stand up against bullying.
To ensure consistency, the Act requires school boards to: develop policies and guidelines on progressive discipline, and bullying prevention and intervention that include supports and resources for students; develop and implement equity and inclusive education policies; and create greater transparency and accountability by requiring boards to report on progress against goals for establishing a positive school climate for all students.
The proposed legislation is the latest step in our Equity and Inclusive Education and Safe Schools Strategies that allows our children to learn in a safe and inclusive environment. Safe Schools Strategy included: funding for bullying prevention training for teachers, principals and vice-principals and partnerships with the Kids Help Phone to ensure bullied students have someone to talk to. Most importantly, the Safe Schools Strategy required: school staff who work directly with students to respond to inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour, including bullying,
when it is safe to do so; the establishment of a Safe Schools Team in every school and introducing the Premier’s Safe Schools Awards to recognize the innovative work they do; and principals to contact the parents of victims of serious student incidents, including bullying.
The Premier also joined the It Gets Better Project and made an important statement regarding bullying. You can watch the video at www.premier.gov.on.ca.
Bullying has no place in our schools. Our kids deserve to feel safe and loved in their learning environments. The introduction of this important legislation today will help us create more inclusive and accepting schools in our community.
For more information on anti-bullying initiatives, visit www.ontario.ca/acceptingschools or www.yasirnaqvimpp.ca, or call my office at 613-722-6414.
With the holiday season fast approaching, there has never been a better time to stop and reflect on the meaning of compassion, understanding and acceptance. By teaching our children to respect and accept their peers, and leading by example in our own lives, we can help to make our schools and our community a safer, kinder and more inclusive place for everyone.
May the spirit of the holidays inspire you to reach out to your neighbours and promote understanding in our community.
I wish all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Season’s Greetings to you and your family.