Petition for Safe and Equitable Schools

Support Safe and Equitable Schools by signing the following petition to: Gerry Connelly, Director of Education, and the Trustees of the Toronto District School Board    To sign go to: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/safety-and-equity-now

Dear TDSB Trustee/Director,
The Centre for Urban Schooling (CUS) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education is very interested in building support for a serious implementation of the recommendations from the School Community Safety Advisory Panel's The Road to Health, A Final Report on School Safety (for more information, go to www.schoolsafetypanel.com). CUS believes that it is essential for the Board of Trustees and the TDSB administration to receive a clear message from the community about this issue.

We recognize that the responsibility for creating safe and healthy schools does not lie solely with the TDSB.  Clearly, there are many recommendations in the Report that refer to necessary actions by the Ministry of Education, Faculties of Education, the City of Toronto, and the Toronto Police Service, to name a few.  For the purposes of this petition, however, we are focusing on the TDSB because, ultimately, schools are where the greatest impact of the Report's recommendations will be felt.

We, the undersigned, feel strongly that the general focus on equity and healthy schools highlighted in the School Community Safety Advisory Panel's "Final Report" is an essential component of moving our schools forward. In particular, the stated equity focus will allow marginalized and racialized students to become engaged in the school system and create new roads towards their own success.

We recognize that connecting safety with equity requires a significant cultural shift within the Toronto District School Board. Therefore, we have highlighted ten key recommendations for immediate action that will lead the TDSB towards success in this endeavour.  These recommendations have been grouped into four broad categories:

(A) Improving Reporting and Information-sharing Capabilities

Recommendation #28:  The Board should consolidate the Weekly Incident Reports and the Crisis Reports into a "Safety Incident Report" that would be used to document all incidents – both violent and non-violent – related to school safety. This standard form would be mandatory and would be used to document the following types of incidents within the school environment: physical threats, threats involving weapons, minor physical assault (not causing injury), major physical assault (causing injury), robbery/extortion, theft, sexual harassment, minor sexual assault (inappropriate touching or grabbing), major sexual assault (forced sexual contact), property damage and weapons at school. Safety Incident Reports should be created by a principal for each incident and submitted to the Safe and Caring Schools Department every week. The Safe and Caring Schools Department would consolidate the Safety Incident Reports by quadrant, FOS, and school, and circulate the Report to the Chair of the Board, Director, Associate Director, Executive Superintendent to Trustees, Superintendents, and all administrators.

 
(B) Supporting Positive Student Engagement

Recommendation #34:  The Toronto District School Board should establish school-based teams made up of social workers, child/youth workers, and teachers to help family caregivers navigate and access the mental health services their children and youth require, and these teams should make use of a variety of treatment techniques, and work across disciplines.

Recommendation #75:  The TDSB should offer A2S, the Support Program for Expelled Students and Strict Discipline School programs (or the equivalent after Bill 212 comes into force) for all Safe School Transfers irrespective of whether the interim conditions requiring the transfer were a result of conduct that occurred on or off school property.

 
(C) Creating a Safe and Equitable School Environment

Recommendation #2:  The Toronto District School Board should develop a "Sexual Assault and Gender-Based Violence" policy. Interventions and approaches should be developed to respond to sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence, with a view to ensuring that the equality rights of girls and young women to a safe learning environment are protected. The policy should be developed in consultation with the community and organizations that work to combat gender-based violence. The policy should detail definitions, penalties, reporting procedures, resources and an annual review of how the policy is being applied in practice. All Toronto District School Board employees who work with students should have regular training on the policy and the Board should ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to implement the policy.

Recommendation #31:  Multicultural, anti-racism staff development should be provided to teachers, administration, and school staff at every school.

Recommendation #41: Thorough curriculum reform should be implemented pursuant to the Equity Foundation Statement. There should be an action plan with specific time frames and accountabilities established.

Recommendation #49:  Teachers and Hall Monitors should be engaged in an active staff development program emphasizing conflict resolution, crisis intervention and self-esteem building in students within a racial, cultural, and gender sensitive framework.

Recommendation #116:  The TDSB should ensure that all schools have a School Equity Committee made up of staff, students, parents/ guardians, and community representatives. This committee will develop an equity focus of school improvement planning and identify the policies and practices that act as barriers to inclusion.

Recommendation #114: The TDSB should publish an annual report setting out its progress in implementing the Equity Foundation Statement with reference to the Action Plan, and the results of its equity auditing procedure.

 
(D) Improving Governance and Organizational Structures

Recommendation #111:  The Panel recommends the dismantling of the "Safe School Culture" and the removal of the "Safe Schools" moniker from all of its policies and department designations. It is imperative that the TDSB send the clear message to affected 53 communities that the vestiges of the past, in the form of safe school/zero tolerance initiatives have been truly abandoned.

We are hopeful that the TDSB has both the courage and the political will to make these recommendations a reality in our schools.  Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Signees:
The Centre for Urban Schooling (CUS) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education