For immediate publication
Toronto - A landmark settlement reached this week between the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario Ministry of Education will promote school safety while ensuring that all students, including students with disabilities and racialized students, are given the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall stated, “I am very pleased that the Ministry has agreed to undertake a number of actions that will directly benefit students starting this September. These will result in a safe learning environment, fair discipline policies and equal access to education for all - what we all want for our schools and our students. The Commission will be working with the Ministry to implement the terms of the settlement.”
The settlement follows a Commission-initiated complaint filed against the Ministry in July 2005, which alleged that the application of school discipline legislation and policies were having a discriminatory impact on racialized students and students with disabilities. Commission concerns were based on submissions received during the Commission’s Racial Profiling Inquiry, its consultation on disability issues in Ontario’s education system, and an external report prepared for the Commission, which supported these concerns with evidence from Nova Scotia, the United States and Britain.
As a result of the settlement, the Ministry has agreed to initiate or continue developing measures that will promote compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. These include:
- acknowledging the widespread perception that the Act has a disproportionate impact on students from racialized communities and students with disabilities
- confirming the concept of ‘zero tolerance’ has no place in the legislation, regulations or policies
- considering the application of progressive discipline as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions
- requesting expanding the regulations on mitigating factors and requiring principals and school boards to consider such factors prior to suspending or expelling a student
- providing students who have been suspended or expelled access to alternative education opportunities
- supporting the collection of data on suspensions and expulsions and making this information available
- requiring significant training initiatives for principals, vice-principals and teachers on anti-racism, anti-discrimination, cultural awareness and disability accommodation along with training on amendments to the safe schools provisions
- working with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to promote, advertise and recruit teachers from racialized communities, persons with disabilities and other under-represented groups
- holding a provincial Safe Schools Symposium with participation by the Commission following passage of any amendments, and
- annual reporting to the Commission on progress of the agreement until completed.
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Senior Policy Analyst
Policy Education, Monitoring and Outreach Branch (PEMO)
Ontario Human Rights Commission