Toronto, January 14, 2008- Schools are a vital part of our larger society. It takes a lot of committed people from a lot of different walks of life to work together to support young people, to help them avoid becoming either the perpetrators or the victims of violence, and to foster a learning environment where they can succeed.
?The early release of the report of the Advisory Panel on School Community Safety provoked a rush to judgement that needs to give way to thoughtful focus on a positive way forward that protects, supports and respects students,? says Colleen Schenk, President of the Ontario Public School Boards? Association.
OPSBA welcomes the intense focus on further strengthening safety in our schools and communities that has grown out of the tragic events of last May. Every school needs to be a haven of safety for all students. The solutions needed are broad-ranging and all of us ? schools, educators, communities, parents, students, social agencies, police, every level of government ? have a responsibility to take on and a have contribution to make.
Some of this work is already happening and many of the programs that are in place to help students are acknowledged in the Panel?s report. These are evident in the Toronto District School Board and in public boards across the province. Some are board-developed; some are offered in partnership with community agencies; some are student-led; all of them are aimed at providing support, skills and hope to young people marginalized by life circumstances. The recommendations of the Panel that call for deeper levels of collaboration between school boards, communities and various levels of government are a move in the right direction.
Changes to the Safe Schools legislation emerged out of broad consultations with educators, students, parents and community. The changes which were passed last fall will come into effect on February 1st of this year and they also move us in the right direction. Consequences for violent acts, sexual aggression and other kinds of unacceptable behaviour are clearly expected. The consequences go hand in hand with programming and counselling aimed at changing the behaviour while keeping young people engaged in their education. These plans reflect what is advocated in the Panel?s report.
In all of this, it is impossible to underestimate the value of parental engagement in their child?s education and student involvement in the life of the school. The teacher comments from both CW Jefferys and Westview Centennial plead eloquently for parents to connect with them and to be involved in their children?s schooling. Students were loud and clear in calling for more after school programming and access to counselling. These are indispensable foundations for success in school and in life.
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