Make Schools Inclusive

 In News
Toronto Star  Jan 12, 2008 04:30 AM

re Searches urged at schools Jan. 10


To keep our schools safe, we must focus on solutions that address causes and not just effects. Eye-grabbing headlines and sensationalized news coverage that puts undue emphasis on the Falconer commission recommendations about regular weapons searches at schools and bringing in gun-detecting dogs do not help.

In fact, the report by the School Community Safety Advisory Panel minces no words in condemning the punitive and "one size fits all" approach brought in by the Harris government. It is clear in saying that an effective concept of safety "includes discipline, but is capable of operating beyond straight enforcement." In other words, it's time to invest in prevention rather than suspension.

It's no surprise then that many of the report's 126 recommendations centre on the need for more staff and programs to support students who are at risk and to help build safe and inclusive schools. This means a full education team, including teachers, educational assistants, social workers, child and youth counsellors, school monitors, caretaking staff, and community outreach workers.

The report also highlights the urgent need for proactive steps to address gender-based violence and to meet the needs of students from communities that have been marginalized. And it calls on the Ministry of Education to increase funding so boards have the money they need to put these supports in place.

We all want our students to be safe and successful. But let's not kid ourselves. Investing in security devices and sniffer dogs won't make that happen any more than zero tolerance and kicking kids out of school did. It takes the support of caring adults, inclusive schools and effective programs to turn young lives around. With the full report of the commission now released, let's get on with the task of bringing in real solutions.

Kenneth Coran, provincial president, and Douglas Jolliffe, Toronto District president, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation

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