VII. Disproportionate impact in Ontario

School boards in Ontario do not collect statistics on the race of the students who are suspended and expelled and there are no plans to do so. A senior official at a school board in the GTA stated that he was “not aware of any ongoing discussion that would take us in that direction at this time” and expressed concern that the statistics “would be misused, that people would take [them] in isolation and interpret them for their own purposes.”[113] A senior official at another school board in the GTA took a similar position: “I don’t think that it would be appropriate. There has been no discussion whatsoever within our school board of any attempt to gather statistics based on race and ethnic background.”[114] Statistics on the number of students with exceptionalities who are being suspended are being collected, but they are not yet available to members of the public.[115]

The total absence of statistics on race and the inaccessibility to statistics on disability makes it impossible to determine with any certainty whether the application of discipline in schools is having a disproportionate impact on racial minority students and students with disabilities. However, there is anecdotal evidence and some empirical evidence available from other sources which point in that direction. The following section of the report reviews some of that evidence in conjunction with the views of school board officials.

A. Study on Perceptions of Racial Minority Students

Unlike the United States and the United Kingdom, school boards and schools in Canada rarely, if ever, collect statistics on the race of students who are suspended and expelled – at least not in any systematic way. The absence of such data precludes determining with any certainty whether racial minority students are disproportionately impacted by suspensions and expulsions. However, one relatively recent study, Racial and Ethnic Minority High School Students’ Perceptions of School Disciplinary Practices: A Look at Some Canadian Findings, provides significant perceptional evidence.[116]

The study examined the perceptions of differential treatment relating to school disciplinary practices by high school students of Black, South Asian, Asian, White and “other” (Aboriginal, Hispanic and mixed-race) racial backgrounds in Toronto. The results found that racial minority students, particularly Black students, are much more likely than White students to perceive discrimination with respect to teacher treatment, school suspension practices, the use of police by school authorities and police treatment at school. More specifically:

  • Teacher Treatment. Black students were significantly more likely than South Asian, Asian, White and “other” racial minority students to perceive that teachers at their school treat students from their racial group worse or much worse. South Asian students were also more likely than White students to perceive that they would be treated worse or much worse
  • School Suspension Practices. Black students were more likely than South Asian, Asian, White and students from “other” racial backgrounds to perceive that members of their own racial group were more likely to be suspended. South Asian students were significantly more likely than Asian and White students to perceive discriminatory treatment and students from “other” racial backgrounds were significantly more likely than White students to perceive discriminatory treatment.
  • Use of Police by School Authorities. Black students were significantly more likely than South Asian, Asian, White and students from “other” racial backgrounds to perceive that students from their racial group were more likely to have the police called on them. South Asian students were more likely than White students and Asian students to perceive discriminatory treatment and students from “other” racial backgrounds were significantly more likely than White students to perceive discriminatory treatment.
  • Police Treatment at School. Black students were significantly more likely than South Asian, Asian, White and students from “other” racial backgrounds to perceive that they would be treated worse or much worse by the police at school. South Asian, Asian and students from “other” racial backgrounds were also all significantly more likely than White students to perceive discriminatory treatment.[117]

The likelihood of perceiving discriminatory treatment is particularly strong for Black students. For example, compared to White students, Black students were 7.41 times more likely to perceive discriminatory treatment by teachers, 17.5 times more likely to perceive discriminatory treatment in the application of suspension practices, 31.6 times more likely to perceive discriminatory treatment in the use of police by the school, and 26.9 times more likely to perceive discriminatory treatment by the police at school. The gap between Black students and South Asian students, who are second most likely to perceive discrimination, is quite wide (the same statistics for South Asian students relative to White students in the aforementioned categories are 2.86, 4.38, 7.25 and 8.28 times more likely).[118]

Although there is little quantitative evidence to assess whether the perceptions of the students in this study accurately represents reality, the authors point out that the very fact that racial minority students have these beliefs needs to be addressed because it is “a psychological reality for students which undoubtedly impacts on their schooling experience” and “has important implications if schools are to develop measures to ensure that students from all racial and ethnic groups perceive equal educational opportunity.”[119]

B. Special Education Monograph No. 5

The Ontario government has been aware for more than five years that the use of suspensions and expulsions in schools may have a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, and be viewed as discrimination if there is no attempt to accommodate them. In 1997, the Ministry of Education circulated an internal draft of Special Education Monograph No. 5, Guidelines for the Implementation of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Violence-Free Schools Policy with respect to Exceptional Pupils and Others with Special Needs. The key excerpt is worth quoting in its entirety:

3.0 POTENTIAL FOR DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACT OF THE VFSP

Initially, violence prevention policies usually focus upon those students who are willfully violent. Strategies such as suspensions and expulsions are used to protect others in the school from dangerous outbursts, and to provide a clear signal to a student who has been violent that violence is not acceptable.

However, some students who have violent outbursts are not wholly responsible for their behaviour. Some students with severe disabilities have varying levels of understanding and controlling acceptable behaviour. These students may need additional support to understand, change, and demonstrate acceptable behaviour consistently over time.

Usually pupils with severe behavioural problems will have been formally identified by an Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC). Regulation 305 requires that all exceptional pupils have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), which sets out the specific special education programs and services they require to meet their educational goals. The IEP will include the needs of the pupil as identified by the IPRC and will set out academic and other educational goals for the pupil. Pupils with behavioural problems will have behavioural and/or social goals set out in the IEP.

The ministry is concerned that if such pupils are suspended or expelled when behavioural episodes occur, these pupils will never have access to the education they require to succeed. If suspensions and expulsions are used before other educational strategies are tried, per the IEP, the student will be denied the very type of educational program which has the potential to reduce or even eliminate the pupil’s unacceptable behaviour.

Just as we would remediate a pupil who fails a mathematics or language test, rather than use suspensions or expulsions, we need to review the remedial strategies which can be used when pupils fail to meet behavioural objectives in their IEP. To do otherwise may potentially be viewed as discrimination toward a child due to disability.[120] [Emphasis added]

Monograph No. 5 has never been formally adopted, but the principle that some students are not wholly responsible for their behaviour is reflected in the mitigating factors in the Safe Schools Act and Regulations. What is completely missing in the new legislation is the principle (which is found in the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that there must be an attempt to accommodate a student with a disability before using a suspension or expulsion.

C. General Perceptions

1. Black Students

Based on interviews with lawyers, a school board trustee, community workers, youth, parents and academics from the Black community in the GTA, there appears to be a strong perception that the Safe Schools Act and the new school board policies on discipline are having a disproportionate impact on Black students. The general feeling is that discipline policies have always had a disproportionate impact on Black students, but the Act and “zero tolerance” policies have made the problem much worse, with significantly higher numbers of Black students being suspended and expelled.

The chair of an organization of parents of Black children states that when the organization was founded in 1980, the issue of suspensions and the unfair treatment of Black students was an issue that parents identified as “serious”. However, she notes that since the Safe Schools Act came into effect, the organization is getting more calls about expulsions and the increased presence of police in schools. She also points out that “[a]ll the major [advocacy and education] groups in the African Canadian community... are aware of this problem. Some people are calling it racial profiling.”[121]

A school board trustee, who has also advocated and worked in a low-income, multiracial community with a significant Black population for thirty-five years, states that the impact of school discipline policies on Black students has always been a problem, but “[it] is now a front burner issue because the numbers have increased.”[122] She made this observation about the schools in her ward:

In the school year 2002-2003, which is not yet ended, at the three high schools I represent as a trustee there is the following situation. [At the first school] there have been 131 suspensions. [The second school] has 145 suspensions. [The third school] has 65. This is only what is recorded. Almost all of them are Black or visible minority students.[123]

A lawyer at a legal clinic that serves the Black community notes that there has been an “increased level of feedback from the Black community” on this issue and that the impact on Black students has “definitely increased” since the implementation of the Safe Schools Act.[124] As a result, the clinic, which provides legal representation to African Canadians on a variety of issues, has made representation of Black students in suspension and expulsion matters one of its priority areas of work.[125]

The executive director of a Somali social service organization states that the impact on Somali students only became an issue when the zero tolerance policies started: “We saw an increase in the number of suspensions and expulsions of Somali students since these policies came into effect. And not for good reasons.”[126] A family services worker at a social service organization that serves the Caribbean and Black community also believes that the new policies have “impacted on students as a whole, but mainly Black children.”[127]

A specialist on race and ethnic relations at a school board in the GTA also notes: “In my observations and liaison with visible minority parents, they have complained about the interpretation of the Safe Schools policies which have had adverse effects on their children.”[128]

The perception that Black students are being disproportionately impacted by discipline policies is not limited to the Black community. The executive director of a legal clinic that serves children and youth remarked: “Schools with large racialized communities, for example, around Jane and Finch, have always had a high number of suspensions and expulsions and students not returning.”[129] Perhaps the most straightforward comment came from the course director in the education faculty of an Ontario university:

I think anybody who looks at the issue honestly would have to acknowledge the disproportionate impact [on Black students]. A lot of people really believe that they don’t look at race. It is the same reason that they don’t collect statistics. It maintains the façade that everyone is treated the same, so there can’t possibly be a discriminatory outcome. I can’t say whether most people in the [school] system know about the disproportionate impact, but I think anyone who looks at it honestly would know it, and I think that there are lots of people who know it but would never say it.[130]

2. South Asian, Aboriginal, Latino, East Asian and Southeast Asian Students

The perception of disproportionate impact also exists in other racial minority communities. The coordinator of a Tamil youth centre believes that there were quite a number of suspensions of Tamil students in the past, but that the Safe Schools Act and new school board policies have made things much worse.[131] A lawyer at a legal clinic that serves the Aboriginal community states that he was not aware of discipline policies being a particularly significant issue prior to the Act, but there is a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal students now.[132] A community worker at a legal clinic that serves the Latino community made a similar observation about the Latino community.[133] The executive director of a legal clinic that serves the Chinese and Southeast Asian communities has noticed an increase in cases, but is not sure if it represents a disproportionate impact on Chinese and Vietnamese students.[134]

A senior official at a school board in the GTA would not confirm or deny that there is a disproportionate impact on Black or other racial minority students. Rather, he seems to believe that students at-risk are being disproportionately impacted and it is necessary to address all the factors – not only racism – that put children at-risk:

Kids who don’t come to school regularly are not successful in school. If you are not successful in school, you don’t feel as good about yourself. If you don’t feel as good about yourself, you tend to act out. If you tend to act out, your behaviour is not acceptable, and on it goes. We know certain things. We have the information about who lives in areas with different socio-economic groupings. We know that kids who come from two-parent families generally do better in school than kids who come from one-parent families. We know that boys don’t do as well on provincial tests in reading and math. We also know that boys learn differently from girls. We also know that far more boys get suspended than girls.... Do I have a concern about the number of black boys in difficulties? Yes, I do. But I am also equally concerned about other students who are from other groups that find themselves in difficulty.... There are a multitude of factors that can come into play in many issues when you have kids at-risk. I think that [racism] is one of the factors, but it is not the only factor. So from my perspective, I want to have the discussion that would look at the many factors and try to address them from a multifaceted standpoint.[135]

He also suggests that perceptions about disproportionate impact may not always be in accord with reality. He cites the example of a low-income community in downtown Toronto where the issue was raised: “The community did bring that forward, and I, along with a number of other people, have met with them looking to develop intervention and suspension support programs, in this case, for kids in grades 1, 2 and 3, etc. But when we actually looked at the statistics, the rates of suspension were lower than anywhere else around.”[136]

A senior official at another school board in the GTA does not believe that there is a disproportionate impact on Black and other racial minority students because principals apply discipline objectively:

From a racial perspective, no, I don’t agree, although I am aware in certain communities that is a perception. Because I am involved with suspensions and reviews, I can say that it is based on objective behaviour that students commit, regardless of racial background.... In my experience, in the actual decision-making, the principal gathers the information and makes a determination whether or not the particular behaviour occurred and who did what. The ethnic background of the student isn’t a consideration in the decision-making. Our principals would say that I just look at the facts of what happened, the age and gender of the student, the seriousness of the injury or whatever it is that happened, whether it is a repetitive kind of behaviour, and what steps have been taken before to try and get the child to change the behaviour.[137]

He also suggests that the erroneous perception of disproportionate impact may stem from the fact that the student population in some schools largely consists of one racial or ethnic group:

Some schools represent Latin American communities, some represent Filipino communities, some represent Chinese communities and some represent African Canadian communities. The largest population in that building is represented by that group and then there might be a variety of other groups with small representation. It wouldn’t surprise me if the kids who are part of the largest group in the school are leading in suspensions because statistically they are the largest group, not because of any particular bias in decision-making.[138]

3. Students with Disabilities

Interviews with a social worker, a community worker, lawyers, mental health experts, advocates for people with disabilities and others reveal that there is a strong perception that the Safe Schools Act and the new school board policies are having disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, particularly students with emotional/behavioural disorders, intellectual and learning disabilities, autism, and Tourette’s Syndrome (including associate disorders such as attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and difficulties with impulse control).

The executive director of a children’s mental health centre believes that suspension and expulsion policies were a significant issue for students with emotional disorders and learning disabilities before the Act came into effect, but “it is a bigger issue now.”[139] A behaviour consultant for a school board in Northern Ontario states that he now sees the suspension and expulsion of students with emotional/behavioural disorders “all the time.... [T]here has been a substantial increase in suspensions and expulsions.”[140]

The executive director of an organization that serves people with Tourette Syndrome reports that there has been an “absolute increase” in the suspension and expulsion of students with Tourette syndrome: “There were concerns before, but there has definitely been an increase since the Act was enacted.”[141] The coordinator of an advocacy group for students with disabilities states that there have definitely been “more suspensions” of students with disabilities since zero tolerance policies came into effect.[142] The executive director of a legal clinic that serves children and youth has also noticed that since the new school board policies came into effect, “[t]he public expectation of mandatory consequences has pushed schools to act more aggressively towards students with learning disabilities.”[143]

A senior official at a school board in the GTA would not confirm or deny that there is a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, but emphasized that principals do apply the mitigating factors to ensure that students with disabilities are treated fairly:

The Safe Schools Act does provide for mitigating factors. There are three of them. Our focus and intention is to always work with the mitigating factors. In the case of special education students – and it is something we are actually engaged in discussions and review about right now – what are the needs of the students and how do they fit? We try very hard to not go in a straight line from point A to B. There are some people who look at the chart of consequences and they would choose to treat that as a drop down menu. I can tell you that from my direction and from those on the Board who work with me in schools, this is not a drop down menu. It may be prescriptive and a legislative requirement, but we do not treat it as a drop down menu and we work very hard to look at all factors and circumstances.[144]

A senior official at another school board in the GTA stated that the Board has not yet analyzed its statistics to see what the impact is on student with disabilities, but if the analysis does show that there is a disproportionate impact, steps will be taken to remedy the situation:

[Our special education committee was] presented with a report which identified across our system the numbers of student who were suspended who had an exceptionality, what kind of exceptionality it was, and so on. We haven’t analyzed that information yet. At the end of the school year, I can see us giving the database to our research department and then say what can we learn from this? Can we target additional resources? Can we identify a group that seems to be disproportionately represented? Can we analyze why did that happen? Why are those students getting into difficulties. Can we introduce programs and positive intervention strategies to offset that? But we are not at a point yet where I could say that they are disproportionately represented.[145]

D. Expulsion and Suspension Appeal Hearings

1. Black Students

Several trustees at a school board in the GTA who adjudicate expulsion and suspension appeal hearings have reported that they see a disproportionate number of Black students at hearings. A trustee, who has sat on 15-20 hearings since November 2000, stated: “I believe, based on my experience and talking with colleagues, we are, in this Board expelling boys of colour – Black or Indian, visible minority boys – at a much greater rate than mainstream White kids.... In my experience, it is Black male students who are most likely to be in an expulsion hearing.”[146] Another trustee, who sat on “many” expulsion hearings before the Safe Schools Act came into effect and two since then, stated: “At expulsion hearings, it is disproportionately Black males... If I sit on six expulsion hearings, five would be Black or members of visible minorities.... The [new] policy has not changed anything. It has made things worse.”[147]

A recent CBC radio program on school discipline and racial profiling reported similar findings in interviews with eleven TDSB trustees: “Every trustee contacted who has sat on an expulsion hearing reported [seeing a disproportionate number of visible minorities.] At least 80% of the students they see before them are visible minorities. The vast majority of them are Black.”[148]

However, a senior official at a school board in the GTA takes the position that the observations of individual trustees should be viewed with caution: “I don’t think that it is totally fair for individual trustees to make those sorts of statements when they don’t sit on all the hearings, only on some.”[149]

E. Lawyers

Lawyers who provide summary advice to or represent students who have been suspended or expelled from school report seeing a disproportionate number of Black students and students with disabilities. The demand for services in this area from community legal clinics which serve the Aboriginal, Latino, East Asian and Southeast Asian and disability communities has also increased.

1. Black Students

A lawyer, who has provided representation to students at five expulsion hearings over the last ten years, states that all of those clients were Black. He also reports that, out of about one hundred referrals or contacts on suspension matters, in all but two cases, the students were Black.[150] Two lawyers, who practise together at the same firm and have represented about five students at expulsion hearings, report that all, except one, were African Canadian or Somali.[151] The executive director of a legal clinic that serves children and youth states that about half of the clients that the clinic represents at hearings are visible minority students, and of that half, two-thirds are Black. Furthermore, 75% of the students that the clinic provides brief services or summary advice to are visible minorities.[152]

2. Aboriginal, Latino, East Asian and Southeast Asian Students

Legal clinics serving the Aboriginal, Latino, and East Asian and Southeast Asian communities have all gone from doing no work in the area of school discipline prior to the enactment of the Safe Schools Act to contacts with parents and students about discipline issues at least once per month. A legal clinic that serves the Aboriginal community sees about one student every three weeks;[153] a legal clinic that serves the Latino community receives a call about once per month;[154] and a legal clinic that serves the East and Southeast Asian communities has received just under twenty calls over the past one to two years.[155]

3. Students with Disabilities

A lawyer at a community legal clinic northeast of the GTA reports that in the last year the clinic has been addressing the “fall-out” from the Safe Schools Act: “When we have calls from clients regarding a suspension, expulsion or exclusion or any kind of disciplinary action, we are not hearing from people whose children do not have disabilities as much as we are hearing about the application of that legislation to children with disabilities.”[156] The executive director of a legal clinic that serves children and youth states that 95% of the students to whom the clinic provides brief services or summary advice have special needs and 85% of the students represented at hearings have special needs.[157]

F. Alternative Programs

The author of this report was not able to interview the staff of alternative programs or strict discipline programs in the GTA. Telephone calls were either not returned or there was a refusal to be interviewed and a referral to a senior official at a school board in the GTA.[158] That official stated that according to his observations the students in the programs “are fairly reflective of the students who are in our schools in terms of the profile culturally and racially, except there are far more boys than girls.”[159] Some of the other interviewees, however, believe that there are a disproportionate number of racial minority students, particularly Black students, and students with disabilities in those programs.

A community worker at a social service organization that serves Caribbean and Black youth has seen the students in alternative programs for excluded and suspended students, such as the ACE program, and observed: “[I]f you look... at students who are sent to [alternative] schools, where excluded kids are sent, the number of kids there are disproportionately Black.”[160] A school board trustee, who has sat on committees for Supervised Alternative Learning for Excused Pupils (SALEP), states: “I must tell you of my dismay and horror at the amount of Black students who are coming through these programs. If I see a student who is not Black, I question it. I ask what is happening. Have you got the wrong student?”[161]

The executive director of a legal clinic that serves children and youth reports that she spoke to someone who works in a program for expelled students and was told that out of thirty students in the program, only one was White and all of them had learning disabilities.[162] A lawyer at a legal clinic that serves the Black community has been told by the principals of strict discipline schools as well as students who have attended them, that there are a disproportionate number of Black students in those schools.[163]

G. Front-Line Workers

Youth, community and social workers as well teachers and behaviour consultants who provide front-line services to students who have been suspended or expelled report seeing a disproportionate number of racial minority students, particularly Black students, and students with disabilities.

1. Black Students

A counsellor at a youth employment program in a low-income, multiracial community with a significant Black population, stated:

I mostly see Black students.... Quite a few of them are experiencing the negative effects of zero tolerance. I haven’t met one White student yet. I have met a few Latino and Hispanic students, but not one White student.... [W]e found that while before we had a waiting list of thirty students to get into our program, we now have fifty to fifty-seven students trying to get into the program because they are trying to find something to do while they are suspended.... I now ask them why they aren’t in school, especially the Black students. They say they were suspended or expelled because of zero tolerance....[164]

She also recalled attending an anti-violence workshop at Metro Hall, which was attended by a large number of students who were suspended or expelled from school, and observed that “[i]t was predominantly Black and a few East Indian kids.”[165]

A community worker at a social service organization that serves Caribbean and Black youth also stated: “[Y]ou have schools where there are significantly less Black students, but more of them will be suspended. A case in point is [a high school in the GTA with a large Asian population and a small Black population.] Only about 10% of the students there are Black, but lots of students will tell you that they are being suspended at an alarming rate, higher than other groups.”[166]

A social worker who works with at-risk youth at a high school in a low-income, multiracial community stated: “[T]he vast majority of suspensions will impact on visible minority students because that is the demographic of the school. However, within this diverse school, there are disadvantaged groups who are being impacted more than others. The groups I think are being impacted the most are young Black males and Tamil boys, and to a certain extent Afghan boys.”[167]

The chair of a Muslim social service organization, which is working on implementing a community program for suspended elementary school students, stated: “Black students are definitely suspended more frequently than White students are.... What I have observed in terms of application is that, when the law is applied, a White kid might be suspended for one or two days, but the Black kid is suspended for five days.”[168]

2. Latino Students

A community worker at a legal clinic that serves the Latino community has noted that all the parents who have contacted her are “visible” members of the Latino community: “In my experience, it is indigenous, Black and mixed Latinos who are being suspended and expelled, not White Latinos.”[169]

3. Students with Disabilities

A teacher at an elementary school in a low-income community states that students with certain types of mental disabilities are mostly heavily impacted by zero tolerance policies:

If you take a look at the numbers in terms of who is most affected by the zero tolerance policy, the majority are identified as having some type of disability such as Mild Intellectual Disorder, Learning Disability or Behavioural. Those are the three labels that kids in special education are placed in.... I would say a large portion of suspended and expelled students would fall into one of those three categories. It will affect them the greatest because they are more likely to get into a situation where zero tolerance has to be applied.[170]

A social worker who works with at-risk youth in a high school in a low-income community has also observed that suspensions are handed out “quite freely” to students who have poor impulse control and the discretion not to suspend is not exercised: “There are fewer resources within the school environment to assist kids with special needs, so perhaps the hands of the school are tied. The school has no choice. There is discretion but there is a lot of pressure from teachers who don’t want the classroom environment to be unsafe.”[171] A behaviour consultant for a school board in Northern Ontario has noticed similar trends in the schools in which he works:

The Safe Schools Act really targets the kids with emotional/behaviour disorders. It effectively excludes them from mainstream programs.... I see a lot of principals who feel that their hands are tied and that if a child commits a certain act, they feel obliged to suspend the child. Even if there are mitigating circumstances, they are generally not applied.[172]

H. Behaviour and Special Needs Classes

The course director in the education faculty of an Ontario university points out that discipline policies must have a disproportionate impact on Black students because there is evidence that behaviour and special needs classes have a disproportionate number of Black students and students from those classes are disproportionately disciplined:

The same thing is true of behaviour classes and special education classes: there is a disproportionate number of Black kids. Those kids who are not meeting success academically in school would logically be the kids who also then act out in different ways for all kinds of reasons, masking their academic issues or other issues they have. This leads to the kinds of stuff that leads to the suspension. When I was teaching behaviour classes in [a school board in the GTA,] there was a work group set up called the behavioural work group. There were quite a lot of people from [the city] who worked on this for two years. A report of the behavioural work group came out. This was in [a low-income ward with seven schools.] We did a study of the kids who were in behaviour classes in those seven schools and statistically it was overwhelmingly Black. I am not mentioning behaviour classes for no reason because when you look at who ends out getting suspended, it is overwhelmingly those kids.[173]

I. Children At-Risk

An expert on children at-risk at an Ontario university states that if Black children and children with disabilities are “at risk of or exhibit more anti-social behaviour than other children, then the fact is that [discipline policies] would have a disproportionate impact on them.”[174]

1. Black Students

The expert points out that, based on the evidence that is available about the chances of a poor child being identified as having behavioural problems, and the connection between poverty and race, discipline policies must be having a disproportionate impact on Black children:

If you grow up poor in Ontario, the odds of being identified by your teacher as having multiple behaviour problems are ten times that of the middle class... [C]learly these kids are in more trouble in school and the [Safe Schools] Act is going to have a bigger effect on them... [B]lack kids may have higher levels of anti-social behaviour. That may be accounted for solely because of their economic disadvantage. There is a British study which suggests that if you control for economic disadvantage, the effects of race and ethnicity on levels of emotional and behavioural disturbance in children wash out. What appears to be the driving force is that Black kids are disproportionately poor.[175]

He further states that the unresolved issue is whether discrimination is compounding the disproportionate impact: “The second [issue] is whether there is distortion of their behaviour, whether they are treated unfairly compared to other kids, controlling for levels of anti-social behaviour. We don’t have any firm data on that.”[176]

2. Students with Disabilities

The expert makes similar observations about students with learning disabilities: “Two things have to be considered. First, children with learning disabilities are at increased risk for behavioural problems. They come in contact with elements of the Act more than other kids because of their higher level of anti-social behaviour. Second, whether they are treated unfairly, compared to other kids, controlling for the levels of anti-social behaviour, we don’t know.”[177]


[113]Supra note 2, 14 May 2003, at 10, 12.
[114]Ibid., 16 May 2003, at 5.
[115] The school board official said that a freedom of information request would have to be made because the information had not yet been presented to the trustees and generally information does not become public until the trustees have seen it. Ibid.
[116] M.D. Ruck, & S. Wortley, “Racial and Ethnic Minority High School Perceptions of School Disciplinary Practices: A Look at Some Canadian Findings” (2002) 31(3) Journal of Youth and Adolescence: 185-195. See Appendix I, Tab 43.
[117]Ibid. at 190.
[118]Ibid. at 192.
[119]Ibid. at 186, 194.
[120] Ministry of Education and Training, Special Education Monograph No. 5: Guidelines for the Implementation of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Violence-Free Schools Policy with respect to Exceptional Pupils and Others with Special Needs, revised 2 October 1997, 2-3. See Appendix I, Tab 44.
[121]Supra note 30 at 1-2.
[122]Supra note 12 at 4.
[123]Ibid. at 1.
[124]Supra note 13 at 1, 3.
[125] The executive director of the clinic recently said: “It has taken over our caseload.... It’s really a huge problem.” Christian Cotroneo, “Schools target blacks: Lawyer,” Toronto Star, 6 December 2002.
[126] Interview, 17 March 2003, 1-2.
[127] Interview, 18 March 2003, 1.
[128] Interview, 15 May 2003, 1.
[129] Interview, 5 March and 28 May 2003, 1.
[130] Interview, 23 May 2003, 3.
[131]Supra note 17 at 2, 6-7.
[132] Interview, 3 April 2003, 1,3.
[133] Interview, 26 March 2003, 1, 3.
[134]Supra note 16 at 1, 3.
[135]Supra note 2, 14 May 2003, at 8-10.
[136]Ibid. at 11.
[137]Ibid., 16 May 2003, at 4.
[138]Ibid. at 5.
[139]Supra note 29 at 4.
[140]Supra note 19, 13 May 2003, at 3.
[141]Supra note 19, 14 May 2003, at 4.
[142] Interview, 8 May 2003, 11.
[143]Supra note 129 at 1.
[144]Supra note 2, 14 May 2003, at 8.
[145]Ibid., 16 May 2003, at 4-5.
[146] Interview, 7 April 2003, 1-2.
[147]Supra note 12 at 6.
[148] “The Colour of Zero Tolerance,” The Current, CBC Radio One, 20 November 2002. The CBC asked each trustee how many expulsion hearings he or she had sat on and how many of the students who appeared were visible minorities. The raw tabulation was 56 hearings and 52 visible minority students. (The CBC did not cross tabulate to account for the overlap of several trustees sitting on one hearing, but states that the “at least 80%” figure is accurate.) Interview, Producer, CBC Radio One, 20 May 2003, p. 1.
[149]Supra note 2, 14 May 2003, at 11-12.
[150] Interview, 14 March and 28 May 2003, 2.
[151] Interview, 24 April 2003, 1; Interview, 11 April 2003, 1.
[152]Supra note 129 at 2.
[153]Supra note 132.
[154]Supra note 133.
[155]Supra note 16.
[156]Supra note 18 at 1.
[157]Supra note 129 at 2.
[158] For example, the author of this report contacted one of the principals of alternatives programs in the GTA. She refused to be interviewed and made a referral to a senior school board official. The author also independently arranged an interview, through an e-mail network of community workers, with youth workers at a community centre, which runs an ACE program for excluded and suspended students. Immediately before the interview began, one of the youth workers called the principal of the program to ensure that they could speak about the issue of disproportionate impact. The principal told her not to answer any questions, to cancel the interview and to make a referral to the same senior school board official.
[159]Supra note 2, 14 May 2003, at 9.
[160] Interview, 16 April 2003, 2.
[161]Supra note 12 at 1.
[162]Supra note 129 at 1.
[163]Supra note 103 at 1.
[164]Supra note 11 at 1-2.
[165]Ibid. at 3.
[166]Supra note 160 at 1.
[167] Interview, 15 April 2003, 1.
[168]Supra note 14 at 2-3.
[169]Supra note 133 at 2.
[170] Interview, 11 April 2003, 2.
[171]Supra note 167 at 2.
[172]Supra note 19, 13 May 2003, at 1.
[173]Supra note 130 at 2.
[174] Interview, 6 May 2003, 1.
[175]Ibid. 1-2.
[176]Ibid. 2.
[177]Ibid.

Organizational responsibility: