For immediate publication
Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the “Commission”) has initiated a complaint against the Ministry of Education (the “Ministry”) and the Toronto District School Board (the “TDSB”) alleging that the application of the Safe Schools Act and related school discipline policies is having a disproportional impact on racialized students and students with disabilities.
“We still hope to work with the Ministry and the TDSB on an effective process for addressing this important issue”, commented Chief Commissioner Keith Norton. “However, with so little progress having been made since the Commission first raised concern in 2003, we felt it was necessary to take the next step of initiating these complaints before the next school year begins so that the Commission may use its legislated power to investigate and seek a systemic resolution of the issues more directly.” If no resolution is reached, the complaints could be referred to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. No such determination has been made at this point.
While the Commission certainly supports the objectives of ensuring schools are safe, disciplinary measures must be fair, effective and non-discriminatory.
A report released by the Commission in July 2004 identified that research from the United States, Great Britain, and Nova Scotia has demonstrated the discriminatory effects of school discipline policies, and recounted similar experiences of students, educators and front-line community workers in Ontario. In a public submission made to the TDSB in April 2004, the Commission called upon school boards and the Ministry of Education to acknowledge the situation, and take appropriate action, including collecting data on suspensions and expulsions in order to monitor and safeguard against discriminatory school discipline legislation and policies.
In accordance with the Commission’s new Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination, individuals, organizations, and institutions can be held liable for failing in their duties to take appropriate action to address human rights issues of which they are aware, or ought to be aware.
“We prefer a cooperative approach,” added Norton. “One where all parties are open to examining the concerns raised in order to ensure racialized students and students with disabilities have equal access to education.”
Copies of the Commission’s policies, submissions, and reports are available online.
- 30 -
Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission