Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, has announced five new measures to prevent and combat bullying in Ontario schools to improve student safety and well-being. These latest steps include:
The assignment of Christina Mitas, MPP for Scarborough Centre and former teacher, to advise the Minister on education matters with a focus on bullying prevention;
- A province-wide survey to better understand students’ experiences with bullying;
- Training for educators in anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques;
- A review of school reporting practices on bullying; and
- A review of the definition of bullying in ministry policies to ensure it reflects the realities of today.
“We are taking action to root out bullying in our schools with one aim – keeping Ontario’s students safe,” said Minister Lecce. “We are working to change the culture to one where everyone sees the inherent dignity and the value of a person, irrespective of their faith, heritage or orientation or race or their income, to build a more accepting and inclusive province.”
As part of MPP Mitas’ new role, she will engage with students, parents, educators and experts to provide short- and long-term strategies to combat bullying and ensure students have the right tools and supports.
“I am thrilled to be assigned to this new role and to work on such an important issue,” said MPP Mitas. “We want kids impacted by bullying to reach out and for them to know they are not alone. We all have an obligation to make sure that our schools are safe and inclusive places that foster learning while keeping the nurturing of the whole child in mind.”
To complement this work, the province will be launching a student survey to learn about students’ experiences with bullying and the reporting of incidents. This information, along with input from the survey, will be used to better understand the issue and find new ways to make schools safer and more inclusive.
Training will be offered to educators to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to address bullying in schools. Educators will learn anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques to reduce instances of bullying, support victims and help students develop feelings of empathy.
As well, the Ministry will be looking at the definition of bullying in its policies to ensure it accurately captures the various forms of bullying and cyberbullying faced by students today.
“Kids Help Phone hears from young people in Ontario every day that bullying, both in person and online, continues to pose a significant challenge,” said Alisa Simon, Senior Vice President, Service Innovation and Chief Youth Officer, Kids Help Phone. “We are the only 24/7 service to support young people develop healthy relationships, feel less alone and gain skills for navigating the impacts of bullying. We want to ensure young people know that support is just a call, chat or text away.”
The government has updated the Health and Physical Education curriculum for grades 1 to 8 to now include mandatory learning about online safety in all grades. In addition, learning about cyberbullying, cyber security and privacy has increased. Implementation of the updated curriculum began in September 2019.
The government has invested $3.18 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year towards various programs, partnerships and services that help to promote a positive school climate, support healthy relationships, build empathy and address bullying and cyberbullying. It also announced an investment of nearly $40 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year to advance student mental health in partnership with education groups. It also committed to permanently fund approximately 180 frontline mental health workers in secondary schools.