The McGuinty government is reviewing the safe schools provisions for the first time since the rules were enacted to assess the effect they are having on the safety of Ontario schools, Education Minister Gerard Kennedy said today.
“This is the first time a provincial picture of suspensions and expulsions has been gathered and it supports the need for a public review,” said Kennedy. “A fact-based perspective and public discussion will enable us
to make informed decisions about the impact of the Safe Schools Act and what else needs to be done to protect student safety.”
Data collected, verified and made public today by the Ministry of Education shows that the act is not being consistently applied across the province. Boards report an extremely large variance in the rates of
suspensions from 0.5% of students in one board to 36% of students in another.
The most recent data collected from the 2003-04 school year shows that the vast majority of students, over 92 per cent, followed their schools code of conduct and did not receive a suspension and over 99.9 per cent did not receive an expulsion.
In 2003-04, 152,626 students (or 7.2% of the total student population) were suspended. Of those:
– Over 65% were suspended only once
– Boys were more than three times more likely to be suspended than girls
– Northern and rural boards were more likely to have higher suspension
rates than urban boards
– 27,250, or 18% of suspended students were students with
exceptionalities* – accounting for 8.8% of all exceptional students
* An exceptional pupil is a pupil whose behavioural, communicational,
intellectual, physical or multiple exceptionalities are such that he or
she is considered to need placement in a special education program by a
In 2000-01, the year before the act was implemented under local rules, 113,778 students were suspended, and 106 students were reported expelled. Suspensions and expulsions spiked in the first two years the act was introduced and by the third year, in 2003-04, the number of suspended students was 152,626 and the number of expelled students was 1,909. The most recent trend in 2002 to 2003 shows a reduction of 8 per cent in the number of suspensions.
Liz Sandals, Parliamentary Assistant to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Monte Kwinter, is leading the Action Team of safety experts who are implementing the Safe Schools Action plan.
“Data shows that some groups, including boys and students with exceptionalities may be impacted by the act in greater numbers than the rest of the student population,” said Sandals. “That’s why we are pleased to be
adding Lynn Ziraldo and Dr. Inez Elliston, experts on school safety with particular knowledge of special education and multiculturalism in education, to our team.”
The Safe Schools Act was introduced in 2000 and implemented in 2001-02 by the previous government. At that time, it was determined that a review of the act would take place after five years of implementation.
The McGuinty government committed to review the Safe Schools Act as part of an overall safe schools action plan. The plan to date has resulted in the elementary school Safe Welcome Program with security access devices, mandatory bullying prevention programs for every school in the province and an
anti-bullying hotline. The next initiative will include a review of Justice Robins’ recommendations on the prevention of sexual misconduct in Ontario schools.
As part of the overall review, the McGuinty government’s Safe Schools Action Team is holding public consultations in communities across Ontario. A discussion paper, found at www.edu.gov.on.ca is being used as part of the consultations.