As you are aware, on December 14, Education Minister Gerard Kennedy announced that a special Safe Schools Action Team had been appointed to implement the government's comprehensive plan to actively lead and study the improvement of preventative practices, policies, programs and physical environments to ensure that every student is safe and feels safe at school and on school grounds.
The Safe Schools Action Team is led by Liz Sandals, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Other members include: Stu Auty, the founding director of the Canadian Safe School Network, Ray Hughes, the National Education Coordinator at the Centre for Prevention Science (CAMH) and Dr. Debra Pepler, a Professor of Psychology at York University and a Psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children.
The Action Team has been drawing on the knowledge of Ontario's school boards and experts in the areas of safe schools and bullying at every stage of its work. One of the first projects undertaken by the team was to create a robust safe schools audit to help schools and communities assess both the physical safety and the social climate of their schools.
The audit has three key goals. Firstly, it will assist principals, school councils, educators, students and parents to assess the safety of their schools. It will also increase awareness of safety issues within the school and the community. Secondly, the audit will provide schools, school boards, the ministry of education and the Action Team with up-to-date information on the safety programs and conditions in our schools. Finally, the results of the audit will be useful for school boards as they plan their school renewal efforts, which are supported by the government's recent $4 billion Good Places to Learn initiative.
The Action Team is finalizing the audit in advance of it going out to schools and it is now available for your review. The Ministry will provide the audit to school principals, on behalf of their school councils in March. The Action Team will work with school boards to determine a process for analyzing and delivering the results.
The Action Team will create a provincewide anti-bullying hotline based on examples of successful hotlines from across the province and the country. Members of the team will be working with students, parents and educators to ensure that the hotline meets the needs of Ontario's students and families.
The Action Team will also be forming a reference group to support their work on anti-bullying. Members will identify effective anti-bullying initiatives across Ontario, creating a set of key provincewide criteria that boards and schools will use to establish effective anti-bullying programs in every school.
This spring, the Action Team will also host consultations on the issues arising from both the Robins Report's recommendations and the implementation of the Safe Schools Act.
Your continued commitment and contribution are vital to ensuring that Ontario's schools are safe places for students, teachers and education workers. If you are interested in submitting your name for consideration for one of the reference groups, please fill out an Ontario Provincial Education Network (OPEN) form and identify your interest in the space under the Safe Schools check box. OPEN, our email network, will also keep you up to date on important education developments, policies, and events in the coming months. It also serves as a vehicle to exchange ideas and provide the Minister with your insight.
Your feedback is welcome and solicited. It should be directed to:
Laurel Broten, Minister of Education
900 Bay Street, Toronto, ON, M7A 1L2