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Commission restates concerns about potential discrimination arising from Ontario's "Safe Schools Act"

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May 14, 2004

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For immediate publication

Toronto - The Ontario Human Rights Commission has asked the Toronto District School Board and Ontario’s Ministry of Education to recognize that "zero tolerance" disciplinary legislation and related school board policies may be having a discriminatory effect on racialized students and students with disabilities. 

 "While the Commission supports the objectives of the Safe Schools Act, to promote respect, non-violent conflict resolution, and the safety of people in schools, we have heard that in practice the legislation adversely impacts on racialized students and students with disabilities," said Chief Commissioner Keith Norton.

The Commission’s concern is based on submissions received during the Commission’s Racial Profiling Inquiry and its consultation on disability issues in Ontario’s education system.  An external report prepared for the Commission also shows corroborative evidence from Nova Scotia, the United States and Britain.

In its submission to the Toronto District School Board’s Safe and Compassionate Schools Task Force the Commission also recommends that the TDSB collect and analyze data on expulsions and suspensions under the Safe Schools Act.  This data should be used to prevent and correct any discriminatory effect.  The Commission has prepared Guidelines for collecting data on enumerated grounds under the Code that provide guidance on how data can be collected in an appropriate manner and for legitimate purposes not contrary to the Code

"There are a number of measures the Ministry of Education and school boards can take to better observe the principles of the Code and at the same time ensure a safe school environment.  Some of these include: assessing individual circumstances and exercising discretion in the application of discipline; ensuring the provision of appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities, and providing adequate alternative education services for all students who are suspended or expelled," added Mr. Norton.

Copies of the Submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission to the Toronto District School Board Safe and Compassionate Schools Task Force and the Guidelines for collecting data on enumerated grounds under the Code are available on the Commission’s Web site or by phoning (416) 326-9511, (416) 326-0603 (TTY), OR 1-800-387-9080.

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Afroze Edwards
Sr. Communications Officer
Communications and Issues Management
afroze.edwards@ohrc.on.ca
(416) 314-4528