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X. Interviewees’ recommendations

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The interviewees made a number of recommendations about how to improve the current framework established by the Safe Schools Act or alternatives which would reduce or eliminate the (perceived) disproportionate impact on racial minority students and students with disabilities. The main recommendations, with some further explanation where necessary, are:

1. Collecting, publishing and analyzing statistics on the race and disability/disabilities of all students being suspended and expelled with the goal of addressing any inequities that may exist in the application of suspensions and expulsions. The analysis should incorporate the intersection between race and disability, as in the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.[290]

2. Removing the reference to “zero tolerance” in the Toronto District School Board’s Safe Schools Foundation Statement Policy and other school board policies in Ontario. Government and school board officials should stop referring to the Safe Schools Act and Regulations and school board policies as a “zero tolerance” regime.

3. Guaranteeing all children the right to a free and appropriate education. This would include a legal requirement that the Ministry of Education and school boards set up and fully fund alternative programs for all suspended and expelled students. At a minimum, this right should be guaranteed to children with disabilities, as in the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (see below).[291] It is worth pointing out again that during the House Debates on the Safe Schools Act, the Minister of Education did promise that the government would support alternative programs for suspended and expelled students.[292]

4. Guaranteeing all students with disabilities the protections found in the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Draft Special Education Monograph No. 5 and the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including:

  • Guaranteed access to an interim alternative education program.
  • A right to return to one’s original education placement after a set number of days (for example, no more than 45 days).
  • A requirement that the school attempt to reasonably accommodate a student with a disability who may be exhibiting a disability-related behaviour before suspension or expulsion.[293]

At a minimum, the Education Act and Regulations should be amended to prohibit suspending or expelling a student for disability-related behaviour. Instead, the student should be reasonably accommodated (which may involve a change of placement but not suspension or expulsion).

5. Training the administrators of discipline, particularly principals, teachers and trustees, on racial stereotyping and profiling, cross-cultural differences, accommodating people with disabilities, and understanding the immigrant and refugee experience.

6. Creating a better balance between peacekeeping (intervention and security approaches), peacemaking (dispute management and negotiation approaches) and peacebuilding (longer range approaches that aim to prevent future escalation of conflicts or to restore healthy relationships after outbreaks of violence, by redressing underlying inequities and social conflicts). In other words, the current disciplinary regime should create a better balance between punishment, conflict resolution, peer mediation, prevention, human rights protection, and equity.

7. Using in-school suspensions, particularly where the student does not present a threat to the safety of others, in order to ensure that a suspended student is not unsupervised during the day. Some schools already use in-school suspensions.

8. Mandating mediation before a hearing in order to try to bring out underlying issues and find a resolution to the problem as early as possible.

9. Applying suspensions and expulsions to Aboriginal and Black students individually, but also differently, to account for systemic factors and disproportionality, as in the sentencing principles of the Criminal Code.[294] Section 718.2(e) of the Code requires judges to consider all available sanctions other than imprisonment and to pay particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders. It is designed to ameliorate the serious problem of overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in prisons. Section 718.2(e) directs judges to undertake the sentencing of such offenders individually, but also differently, because the circumstances of Aboriginal people are unique. In sentencing an Aboriginal offender, the judge must consider: (a) the unique systemic or background factors which may have played a part in bringing the particular Aboriginal offender before the courts; and (b) the types of sentencing procedures and sanctions which may be appropriate in the circumstances for the offender because of his or her particular Aboriginal heritage or connection. For particularly violent and serious offences, imprisonment would likely result, but for less serious offences, an offender may receive a non-custodial sentence with an emphasis on restorative justice.[295] The above principles are also applicable, with some modifications, to Black offenders.[296]

10. Restoring the community advisor, youth outreach worker, attendance counsellor and social worker positions that were cut by the Toronto District School Board.

[290] See Part VI, above.
[291] See Part VI, above
[292] Ontario Debates (Hansard), 6 June 2000, supra note 28.
[293] See Part VI, above.
[294] Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46.
[295] R. v. Gladue, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 688.
[296] See R. v. Borde (10 February 2003), C38189 (Ont. C.A.).

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