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IV. School Boards: The Toronto District School Board

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School boards in Ontario are under a legal obligation to adopt and revise policies, guidelines and procedures in accordance with the Safe Schools Act and Regulations and the Ontario Schools Code of Conduct.[69] The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), for example, has adopted or revised, among other things, a Code of Conduct and an Appropriate Dress Policy,[70] as well as Suspension Procedures, Suspension Review/Appeal Procedures, Expulsion Procedures and an Expulsion Appeal Process, all of which can be found in its Safe Schools Procedures Manual.

A. Suspension and Expulsion

The TDSB has exercised its option to add to the list of infractions for which suspension or expulsion is mandatory and create a list of infractions for which suspension or expulsion is discretionary.[71] It has constructed a Consequences of Inappropriate Student Behaviour Chart, which lists all the infractions, the minimum number of days a student must be suspended or expelled for, and whether the principal “may” or “shall” notify the police. The additional infractions for which suspension is mandatory are:

  1. Physical assault.
  2. Threats of serious physical injury.
  3. Extortion.
  4. Sexual harassment.
  5. Racial harassment.
  6. Distribution of hate material.
  7. Hate motivated violence.
  8. Inappropriate use of electronic communications/media.
  9. Possession or misuse of any harmful substances.
  10. Fighting.
  11. Bullying, intimidating, threatening.

There is only one additional infraction for which expulsion is mandatory: possession of an explosive substance.

The new list of infractions for which suspension is discretionary includes:

  1. Persistent truancy.
  2. Persistent opposition to authority.
  3. Habitual neglect of duty.
  4. Willful destruction of school property; vandalism causing damage to school or Board property or property located on school or Board premises.
  5. Use of profane or improper language.
  6. Conduct injurious to the moral tone of the school or to the physical or mental well-being of others.
  7. Use of tobacco.
  8. Theft.
  9. Aid/incite harmful behaviour.

The list of infractions for which expulsion is discretionary is cross-referenced with some of the infractions for which suspension is mandatory:

  1. Uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person.
  2. Committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to school property at the pupil's school or to property located on the premises of the pupil's school.
  3. Physical assault.
  4. Threats of serious physical injury.
  5. Extortion.
  6. Distribution of hate material.
  7. Hate motivated violence.
  8. Inappropriate use of electronic communications/media.
  9. Possession or misuse of harmful substances.

B. Mitigating Factors

The Safe Schools Procedures Manual makes it clear that although one or more of the mitigating factors set out in the Education Act and Regulations may exist to preclude a mandatory suspension or expulsion, the principal may still impose a discretionary suspension or expulsion.[72]

The Manual also sets out the factors that a principal must take into account in selecting the most appropriate type and duration of consequence:

  • nature and circumstances of the incident;
  • number of individuals involved;
  • degree of harm caused to the victim and the school community (both people and property);
  • intent to cause harm;
  • age of the individuals involved;
  • history of offences;
  • consistency of application across the Board; and
  • willingness of the individual to undertake a program of restitution or rehabilitation.

When a student with exceptionalities is involved, the principal must also consider:

  • the nature of the exceptionality;
  • extenuating circumstances (parental input to be sought);
  • level of understanding and communication of the student;
  • degree of intention;
  • environmental triggers;
  • the student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP); and
  • appropriateness of negative consequences in relation to the exceptionality.[73]

A teacher who suspends a student must follow the same rules. Although one or more of the mitigating factors may exist to preclude a mandatory suspension, a teacher may still impose a discretionary suspension.[74] A teacher must also take into account the same factors as above in selecting the most appropriate consequence.[75] As a matter of practice, however, the teachers’ federations in Ontario have advised their members not to suspend students and to refer all disciplinary matters to the principal.[76]

C. Review and Appeal

The Manual sets out the procedures for review and appeal of a suspension and appeal of an expulsion. A request for review of a decision by a principal to suspend for more than one day must be made within seven days and will be reviewed by the superintendent of schools. An appeal of that decision must be made to the Board within seven days. A Committee of the Board consisting of three persons (trustees) will hear the appeal and make the final decision. Both the superintendent and the Committee have the power to confirm the principal’s decision, modify the type or duration of the suspension, or overrule the decision of the principal and reinstate the student.[77]

Where a principal believes that a student has committed an infraction for which an expulsion is warranted, the principal shall suspend the student for twenty days. This suspension is not subject to review or appeal until after the principal has conducted an inquiry and reached a decision regarding expulsion. If the decision of the principal is not to expel and a suspension is warranted, the suspension would then be subject to a request for review. An appeal of a principal’s decision to impose a limited expulsion must be made to the Board within seven days. A Committee of the Board consisting of three persons will hear the appeal and make the final decision. The Committee has the power to confirm the principal’s decision, modify the type or duration of the suspension, or overrule the decision of the principal and reinstate the student. The decision is final.

Where a principal refers the matter to the Board and a Committee of the Board decides to impose a limited or full expulsion, the procedures for making an appeal to the Child and Family Services Review Board are set out by the Ministry of Education and the Child and Family Services Review Board.[78]

D. Due Process and Procedural Fairness

The Manual recognizes that a student facing disciplinary consequences must be treated fairly. Procedural fairness requires the school administrator to be impartial and free of bias and includes:

  • giving the student reasonable notice of the rule involved;
  • the opportunity to be heard – to tell his or her side of the story; and
  • the right to know the case against him or her.[79]

The Manual further provides that suspension review hearings and suspension hearings are governed by the Statutory Powers Procedure Act, which requires the following:

  • a party has a right to be represented by counsel or an agent;
  • any party may call and examine witnesses and present arguments and submissions;
  • any party may cross-examine witnesses; and
  • any witness at the hearing is entitled to be advised by counsel or an agent as to his or her rights, but such counsel or agent may take no other part in the hearing without permission of the school board or Committee of the Board.[80]

E. Alternative Programs

The TDSB runs four programs for suspended students – Alternative to Suspension (A2S), Alternative Curriculum for Excluded and Suspended Students (ACE), Community Alternative Programming for Suspended Students (CAPSS) and SAFETY – and one program for students on limited expulsion – Support Program for Expelled Students (SPES).[81] School boards are not legally required to run these programs and there is no dedicated provincial government funding for them. The Manual also directs schools, where reasonable and practical under the circumstances, to offer relevant schoolwork to suspended students, including suspended students who are being considered for expulsion.[82]

The TDSB, in partnership with two children’s mental health centres, runs two strict discipline programs on a two-year pilot project basis in the GTA. These programs are legally mandated and funded by the Ministry of Education. The criteria for the pilot projects stipulate that the components of the program must be 60% educational and 40% non-educational, which includes assessing and addressing the student’s academic, remedial, psychological, social and emotional needs. Each student’s program is individualized.[83]

F. Collection of Data on Disability and Race

Basic data on the student is collected following a suspension. The Manual directs the principal or the teacher, as the case may be, to complete a Suspension Report Form. The form has sections on demographic information, the basis for suspension, support services, and a detailed summary of the incident. Under the section on support services, the principal or the teacher must provide information on whether the student has been identified as “exceptional” by the Identification and Placement Review Committee and, if applicable, check the exceptionality or exceptionalities, including behaviour, communication (learning disability, autism, deaf and hard hearing, speech impairment, language impairment), intellectual (gifted, mild intellectual disability, developmental disability), physical (blind and low vision, physical disability) and multiple (multiple exceptionalities). Data on the race of the student is not collected.[84]


[69]Supra note 42, s. 302.
[70] Adopted 10 April 2002. See Appendix I, Tab 24.
[71] Toronto District School Board, Policy C.010, Code of Conduct, adopted 10 April 2002, 13-15. See Appendix I, Tab 23. See also the TDSB brochure, A Safe Learning Environment, revised 1 May 2001, at Appendix I, Tab 21.
[72] Section E – Suspension Procedures, E.3.2; Section G – Expulsion Procedures, G.2.2.
[73] Section D – General Considerations Related to Discipline, D.4.
[74] Section E – Suspension Procedures, E.3.2.
[75] Section D – General Considerations Related to Discipline, D.14.
[76] Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, “Suspension of Students,” Advisory to Members; Bill Reith, “Suspensions and expulsions under Bill 81,” Update: Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Vol. 29, No. 5, 27 November 2001. See Appendix I, Tab 20.
[77] Section F – Suspension Review/Appeal Procedures, F.1.1 and F.2.1.
[78] Section H – Expulsion Appeal Process, H.1.1, H.1.4 and H.2.
[79] Section D – General Considerations Related to Discipline, D.5.
[80] Section G – Expulsion Procedure, G.6.1.
[81] Toronto District School Board, Attendance/At-risk/Alternative/Safe Schools/SALEP Programs for Suspended/Expelled Students, Report No. 01-03-0228, 31 January 2003, Appendix A.
[82] Section E – Suspension Procedures, E.4.
[83] The Toronto District School Board, Safe Schools Procedures Manual, Section A – Safe Schools Project Plan – A.4; East Metro Youth Services and the Toronto District School Board, “Expelled Students Program,” A Strict Discipline Project. See Appendix I, Tab 27.
[84] Section E – Suspension Procedures, E.4, E.6.

 

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