The preamble to Bill 13 (the Accepting Schools Act) speaks to the
need for a “whole school approach to bullying”, such that: "government,
educators, school staff, parents, students and the wider community – has a role
to play in creating a positive school climate and preventing inappropriate
Last week we commented on the sections of Bill 13 that affect the duties
of school Principals in relation to the prevention and response to bullying in
schools. The amendments, which come into force September 1, 2012, also mandate
specific obligations for school boards.
Part VI of the Education Act deals with the ‘Duties and Powers’
of Boards. This section previously began with the statement “Every Board shall
(a) promote student achievement and well-being”. Bill 13 now adds two more
requirements, specifically that (a.1) boards shall promote a positive school
climate that is inclusive and accepting of all students and (a.2) shall promote
the prevention of bullying.
Boards are required to develop policies to achieve these goals, and to
monitor the effectiveness of such policies and the efficiency of their
implementation. Monitoring under Bill 13 requires boards to conduct ‘School
Climate Surveys’ at least once every two years in order to collect information
from pupils, staff, parents and guardians of its pupils.
In addition, boards are required to establish policies and guidelines
with respect to student discipline, which include progressive consequences for
inappropriate behaviours including bullying, sexual assault, gender-based
violence, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Specific bullying activities
will result in mandatory suspension. Boards will be required to submit to the
Minister of Education reports with respect to suspensions and expulsions.
Boards must also develop a bullying prevention and intervention plan,
consulting with teachers, staff, students, volunteers, parents and guardians in
the plan’s formation and periodic review, ensuring that it is both publicly
communicated and implemented.
For teachers and other staff, boards must provide annual professional
development programs, addressing bullying prevention and strategies for
promoting positive school climates.
In any agreement with third party users of board facilities, boards must
include a requirement that the third party follow standards which are
consistent with the board’s Code of Conduct.
Boards are required to support students who want to lead activities or
organizations that promote a safe and inclusive school environment, and must
allow the use of the name ‘gay straight alliance’. Boards are required to
establish programs, interventions or other supports, which may be provided by
social workers, psychologists, or other professionals, for pupils who have
either been the victim of bullying, engaged in bullying, or have witnessed a
Bill 13 also imposes specific duties on the Ministry of Education related primarily to the development of policies and guidelines. We will cover these duties in our next posting.
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