On June 19, 2012 Bill 13, Accepting Schools Act, 2012, received Royal Assent.
In this blog we address how the changes to the Education Act created by Bill 13 will impact on principals.
The Education Act is amended to require that principals ensure the promotion of a positive, inclusive and accepting school climate and promote the prevention of bullying.
A definition of bullying is now added to the Education Act, it states:
“bullying” means aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a pupil where,
(a) the behaviour is intended by the pupil to have the effect of, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,
(i) causing harm, fear or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property, or
(ii) creating a negative environment at a school for another individual, and
(b) the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, disability or the receipt of special education; (“intimidation”)
Bullying includes, includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written or other means.
Cyber-bullying has also been added to the legislation, and it is defined as bullying involving the following:
(a) creating a web page or a blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
(b) impersonating another person as the author of content or messages posted on the internet; and
(c) communicating material electronically to more than one individual or posting material on a website that may be accessed by one or more individuals
Staff are required to report incidents of bullying, and the principal now has an explicit duty to investigate all instances where bullying is reported. In addition, the principal will have to report back to the employee having made the report, unless the employee is not a teacher and it would not be appropriate to do so. The principal will have to be sure not to disclose any more personal information than necessary.
Where a student has been harmed as a result of the bullying, both the parents/guardians of the student bullied as well as the bully are to be advised as soon as reasonably possible. As part of the disclosure to both parents, the principal will be required to describe the nature of the activity that resulted in harm to the other pupil; the nature of any disciplinary measures taken in response to the activity; and the supports that will be provided for the pupil as a result of the behaviour. The principal will also need to refrain from disclosing the name of the student, to the degree possible, and the principal is required to invite the parent/guardian to have a discussion about the supports that will be provided for the student.
Principals will be required to ensure that the board’s bullying prevention and intervention plan is available on the school website, and if the school does not have a website then in another appropriate manner.
Finally, principals will have to permit and support student led groups that promote a safe and inclusive learning environment, the acceptance of and respect for others and the creation of a positive school climate, and a principal cannot refuse to allow a student to call the club a gay-straight alliance.
While many of the requirements that are not part of the legislation have been a part of a principal’s regular duties and/or included in school board policies and procedures, some changes are more significant, such as the new definition of bullying and the requirement to permit school clubs.
As well, many of the requirements being imposed on school boards and many of the steps being taken by the Ministry of Education as a result of this legislation will have impacts at the school level.
We will be covering these other duties and requirements in future blogs.
The blog sets out a variety of materials relating to the law to be used for educational and non-commercial purposes only; the author(s) of the blog do not intend the blog to be a source of legal advice. Please retain and seek the advice of a lawyer and use your own good judgement before choosing to act on any information included in the blog. If you choose to rely on the materials, you do so entirely at your own risk.