Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rehtaeh Parsons - A name I will never forget

The Youth Criminal Justice Act was established April 1, 2003 and is the law that governs Canada’s youth justice system.  It applies to youth who are at least 12 years of age to under 18 years of age, who have allegedly committed criminal offences.
The preamble/declaration states, among other things that "communities and families should work in partnership with others to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, responding to the needs of young persons and providing guidance and support".
Additionally, the "the youth justice system should take into account the interests of victims and ensure accountability through meaningful consequences, rehabilitation and reintegration".
And the part that I really like, is that the Youth Criminal Justice Act is a “system that is intended to protect the public by (i) holding young persons accountable through measures that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person, (ii) promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons, and (iii) supporting crime prevention by referring young persons to programs......"
Canada’s youth justice system is restorative in nature.  I get that.  It further guarantees the rights and freedoms of young people, including those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, another area that Canada is woefully lacking in.
Now let’s turn to that house party in November of 2011 where a 15 year old girl had too much to drink.  It resulted in a photo of her vomiting out of a window while a young boy violated her from behind.  Let’s talk about how she was bullied and shamed, and how she turned to self-harming as a result of that photo circulating. AND let’s talk about how no one took notice until she attempted to take her own life 18 months after that sexual assault.  She died on April 7, 2013, as a victim that still needs to be protected.
Let’s talk about Rehtaeh Parsons, a name that Canada’s youth justice system is trying to get us to forget as a result of one of this country’s highest profiled child pornography case stemming out of Halifax - a judge ordered publication ban for the purpose of protecting the “victim”.  The time to have protected this victim was when she came forward with the allegations. 
The young lad who took the photo when he was 17 years old (who is now 20 years old) pleaded guilty to one of the most heinous crimes - Child Pornography.  His sentence is a “conditional discharge”, which means that as long as he behaves for the next 12 months and meets the conditions imposed by the Judge, he walks away a free man.
The media may have been ordered not to use the name of Rehtaeh Parsons, but I wasn’t.  AND now I need to ask – was there “accountability through meaningful consequences” established here?  Did Rehtaeh receive justice, or has the Youth Criminal Justice Act just empowered young boys to violate young women knowing that they will be able to walk out of the courtroom without substantial consequences?

Lastly – does unjust law exist?   

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Remember all the promises made about a new 'safe schools' program?

On October 9, 2014 “a precedent-setting task force involving labour and school boards has tabled 22 recommendations to make Ontario public elementary school communities healthier and safer places to work and learn.”  You can see the EFTO media release here:,%20Safer%20School%20Communities.aspx

The EFTO MOU Task Force on Health and Safety – Report and Recommendations report can be viewed on the EFTO website.  Take the time to read the report as I did.  Among other things, I note that it was yet another labour intensive project without any information as to the cost to Ontario tax payers; the parents who support publicly funded education with their hard earned tax dollars; the very individuals who were, yet again, not at the table and part of this task force. 

The report looks impressive, and the recommendations are good ones, but I found it leaned almost entirely towards EFTO members as opposed to a healthy and safer school culture. “The health and safety culture in school boards should encompass a whole school approach.  A whole school approach is one where everyone is committed to a positive health and safety culture.  This provides a framework for schools to be safe, secure, healthy and supportive working and learning environments.”  I find this to be very disconcerting as the very union involved in this task force, contains the same individuals who insist that aggressive situations among their students do not take place; the very individuals who parents are suing in a court of law for lack of due diligence for keeping their children safe while at school; the very individuals who cannot advise me how many schools have a safe and accepting schools team in place because the PPM’s quoted in the report don’t mandate that this information must be reported back to the Ministry of Education. 

Page 8 of the report references the all-encompassing PPM’s that are thrown into parents’ faces.  PPM 144 states “each school must have in place a safe and accepting schools team, responsible for fostering a safe, inclusive, and accepting school climate…..”.  In a Freedom of Information Request I was advised that “It is the expectation that all schools have a safe schools team in place.  There was no requirement to report this and therefore there is no record.” The statement that each school must have a safe and accepting schools team is now redundant.

Will the Ministry of Education have oversight of the 22 recommendations because it has no oversight of the content set forth in the PPM’s that they produce?  If the answer is yes, then it will validate that their emphasis is on union members as opposed to students.  

Dr. Pushor prepared a research paper “Parent Engagement: Creating a Shared World” wherein a clear differentiation is made between parent “involvement” and parent “engagement”.  Dr. Pushor states “With parent involvement, the scripted story of school as protectorate does not change.  Because the school is still setting the agenda and determining what roles parents are to play within that agenda; the hierarchical structure of educators as experts, acting in the best interests of the less-knowing parents, is maintained.”

This needs to change.


Monday, August 25, 2014


Lets talk about respect for a moment....shall we.  Respect is an action where an individual will show regard or consideration for something or someone.  As parents we spend a great deal of time teaching our children this very simple and basic action throughout their childhood.  "To earn respect you must give respect".  Simple....right? Well not always. 

A person of authority is someone whose real or apparent authority over others inspires or demands obedience.  This would include parents, teachers, and police officers as traditional authority figures, for children, at least.  I would like to think that "inspires" obedience is something that would be practiced by most authority figures towards the average human being, as opposed to "demanding" it.  Yet sometimes obedience is "demanded" in a very disrespectful manner by an authority figure just because they can.  Let's call THIS power and control, which is the number one trait of a bully.  

Quite frankly I don't care who you are.  A parent, a teacher or a police officer.  If you don't conduct yourself respectfully toward another individual you don't deserve it in return, and I don't care if you are wearing a police uniform or not. Just because someone wears a uniform does not exempt them from being an ass.

I have experienced and learned a great deal over the past 9 years as it relates to bullying.  A huge common denominator are the complaints I receive from youth who have lost all respect for their police services because of their personal experiences. Because of the very disrespectful manner a police officer handled a situation.  It's a real shame.  Those who don't deserve to wear the uniform give it a bad name.

Example: 19 year old driving a three toned, run down vehicle because that's all he can afford, is driving home from a labour intensive job.  He is grubby and dirty looking because of dealing with piping etc. all day.  He is driving the speed limit and is stopped by police who asks for a licence and registration which is respectfully handed over.  The next command from the police officer is that this young driver open the trunk of his car. When the officer was asked for his badge number the young driver was sent on his way.  This certainly does not look like profiling.....or does it?  Has this professional individual of authority overstepped his bounds?

Next example:  A 17 year old student is stopped by a police officer after having been up for 24 hours working on a school assignment.  Eyes are tired and blood shot. The officer asks how much pot the student smoked. When providing the answer of "none", the student is threatened with an "obstruction of justice" charge if they don't admit to having smoked pot.  So they admit to it simply because they are terrified of being charged.  Nice - lets get our young jammed up unnecessarily. Is there a quota trying to be reached in this example, or is it an issue of power and control?

Last example:  A mother is asking questions of a police officer regarding the process of their child being arrested.  She is accused of being uncooperative.  Why - because she is just looking for information?

I have been employed within the legal profession for the past 32 years.  I believe in justice, but not in the judicial system we have.  And as far as rights and freedom of speech go.....well it's something that isn't always permitted, even if it is respectful, when dealing with a police officer.  Because in this country, you are guilty until proven innocent. 

Parents - prepare your children with this useful information. Make sure they know what their rights are.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Union Member Entitlement

First….and foremost….I hold the teaching profession in the highest regard.  But then I read headlines like this and my back does go up. 

There is a definite holier than thou attitude when it comes to public sector workers v. private sector workers.  At the end of the day it is government that has allowed the union entitlement get to where it is.  I work hard (without a raise in the past five years I might add).  I pay my taxes, which support my school board.  I, therefore, have the absolute right to express my opinions about the all-mighty Union. 

Our teachers enjoy a level of protection far beyond their perceived 'right' to retirement security. Expensive labour lawyers, working at taxpayers’ expense on behalf of boards of education are very busy working against union lawyers, employed to defend the rights of their “brothers and sisters”. They debate and settle cases ranging from monetary abuses to sexual misconduct and we never hear a thing about it. I'm sure it would blow the minds of the majority of parents currently forced to fund the education system. The list of problems and injustices are just too many to cover, but the one that is most disturbing is the hijacking of the anti-bullying campaigns initiated by people like myself.

The only group, now being advocated for as a result of all of our efforts appears to be those who belong to the LGBQT movement. What happened to protecting straight, overweight boys, or girls with a speech impediment, with protruding teeth or thick eyeglasses? What day and month of the year is their parade? The original fight was for fairness and equality. And what do teacher's pensions and benefits and the anti-bullying/gay rights movement have in common?  Special interest groups have united while the rest of us slept through it, and they have united to become an extremely difficult force to contend with.

There has been a Union call to arms of partners which include:  teacher unions, nursing unions, postal workers unions, indigenous groups, LGBQT groups, migrants, immigrants, people with disabilities, prisoners, the Communist party of Canada, pot smokers rights groups…just to name a few.

The majority of these groups depend on taxpayers for their existence yet most taxpayers are so busy working and taking care of their day to day affairs that they don't even realize that these groups have united, and not for the benefit of the average working, taxpaying, law abiding citizen. It's only once you realize that you begin to notice their constant presence in the news, always being victimized by the government, calling on their “brothers and sisters” to fight austerity. They spend millions and take over election campaigns.  Now compare the list above to the following, and then give some thought to Ontario citizens who are NOT receiving the quality services that they pay for:  students, patients, seniors, veterans, straight people, taxpaying citizens, private sector employees, victims of crime, and young rape victims forced into prostitution.

The autonomy attached to our educational system, whether it be student safety, whether it be academic…..can be considered, in some instances, to be almost criminal and with Union support.   

I spent three years trying to keep my child safe at school.  The educational system failed my child miserably.  So when I read “Ontario high school teachers prepared to fight back against austerity” AND “We want to move towards a fair deal; we’re not looking for disruption” I think to myself…..wouldn’t it be great if every parent in the province of Ontario could home school their child the exact same month, and then ask for a tax credit. 

In the last round of safe school legislation, not ALL children who were perceived as being different benefited from the changes? There is just one, perceived to be 'different' group, who benefited more than the rest?  If we allow the syphoning off of funds to support special interest groups with interests detrimental to the majority, we will be in for a rude awakening in 2015!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


On Monday, July 21, 2014 PC MPP Mr. Jeff Yurek questioned the Minister of Education about what process the ministry follows to ensure school boards comply with anti-bullying legislation, how the Ministry keeps school administrators accountable, and the process having failed in his riding.
The Hon. Liz Sandals replied with “Not every incident turns out to be managed 100% perfectly”. This is a response that is not acceptable to us or any other Ontario tax payer whose child has been let down by their education system. The message the Minister of Education sent with that statement held the tone of “oh well – we’re not perfect – get over it”. The problem is many children are still trying to do just that. That kind of off the cuff remark is disrespectful to all young people who have suffered as a result of non-proactive administrators and other adults within the educational institution.
The non-compliance that Mr. Yurek speaks of is as a result of Ministry PPM’s that contradict existing legislation. The results from two separate Freedom of Information Requests clearly indicate the true lack of attention the issue of bullying is being given by our school boards. PPM's do not equate to statute law. They are guidelines at best with no requirement to report back to the MOE thereby making PPM's redundant.
The Minister of Education also mentioned that parents should be “contacting their local trustee, because it is, in fact, the local trustees who are accountable for ensuring that safe school legislation is put into place.” Parents do contact their elected school board trustees and they repeatedly retort with "it’s a governance issue and go back to your Principal as they have the ultimate say." There is a huge disconnect as to what the Liberal government says happens and what actually takes place. Trustees have no power or authority. Since the ministry changed their governance model from Site Based Management to the Carver model the school system is in disarray.
At the end of the day the issue of bullying within Ontario schools remains chronic and the manner in which some situations are dealt with is nothing more than shameful with our children paying the physical and emotional price.
The PC party failed to vote in favour of Bill 13 the Accepting Schools Act because it was not an anti-bullying piece of legislation. Very little has changed for the London and York Region Anti-Bullying Coalitions. We continue to receive the desperate phone calls and emails describing situations that were not “managed 100%” and the long-term consequences of this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do school boards really want to tackle the issue of bullying

The Ontario Ministry of Education policy program memoranda, school board policy, and what is actually taking place at the ground level are identifiable separate matters.  There is a huge difference between law and policy.
Legislation is only as good as those who enforce it.  Current safe schools legislation is a good example.  There is no real-time enforcement of Keeping our Kids Safe at School Act and the Accepting Schools Act.  It is the very reason parents are turning toward our judicial system for resolve.
“The main difference between a law and a policy are who can create them and who can enforce them.  A law is legally enforceable by the judicial system and is created at the provincial and federal levels.  A policy provides a set of rules or guidelines that are  meant to guide behaviour or practices and are enforceable by the body that created it, rather than the judicial system”……in this case, our school boards. 
Policies are also created in response to legislation.  Ontario safe schools legislation requires that each school have a safe and accepting school team in place.  This is confirmed by way of Program Policy Memorandum No. 144 as follows:
“Each school must have in place a safe and accepting schools team responsible for fostering a safe, inclusive, and accepting school climate……”    I have been told that “It is the expectation that all schools have a safe schools team in place.  There was no requirement to report this and therefore there is no record.”  The mandate must in PPM 144 now becomes redundant because it omitted to state that the implementation of safe and accepting school teams must be reported.  How convenient.
Further, “the safe and accepting schools team is responsible for creating a climate where bullying has no place, yet they are not responsible for responding to incidents.” 
AND the best of all…..”school boards are not required to track incidents of bullying.”
Are school boards choosing to ignore the serious issue of bullying or choosing to deal with the issue head on?  Is the government that created and promoted our safe schools legislation as the first of its kind in Canada trying to appear as if they have done their due diligence?  
A York Region District School Board trustee once told me to “trust your school board to do the right thing”.  I waited 3 years for that to happen.  It is not an action that represents accountability or transparency.

As mentioned earlier, there is a huge difference between law and policy.  Neither  should be ignored and both should be dealt with.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

It takes a village to raise a child.....or maybe not!

Who is responsible for raising our children?  It’s a question that has surfaced a number of times over the past few months.  You are all aware of the old adage…..“it takes a village to raise a child”.  That’s how it used to be.  Today some parents live in an “us” v. “them” world; “us” being parents and “them” being the school board. So what does parental engagement even mean and are parents actual inhabitants of that village?  Do we as parents want to be engaged…or do we only want to be involved with our children’s education? 

Dr. Debbie Pushor, professor at the University of Saskatchewan:  “With parent involvement, the scripted story of school as protectorate does not change.  Because the school is still setting the agenda and determining what roles parents are to play within that agenda, the hierarchical structure of educators as experts, acting in the best interests of the less-knowing parents, is maintained.” 

Parental engagement looks slightly different:  “Parent engagement, different from parent involvement, is an alternative way to bring teachers and parents together in schools, an alternative possibility for changing the scripted story of school.”

When parents find themselves up against a brick wall and demonstrate apprehension over social policy, sexual education curriculum, bullying situations, the type of food permitted at school etc., what is actually taking place is a lack of desire to sit back and conform to the ways dictated by our educational institution.  They are then met with the offensive and react in a defensive manner.  When this takes place, parents are actually not interested at pointing a finger at individuals within their school board and schools.  Rather, they point their finger at the system.

In a recent post on “Sheila Speaking”:

“Parents don’t understand teaching and learning.
Parents speak in the language of terms and compliance because that’s how we speak to them.
They understand grades, behavior, some of the fundamentals of literacy, and other abstractions like effort, inspiration, success, and failure.
But what if they understood how people learn even half as well as most teachers? What if they understood the pros and cons of certain assessment forms (this isn’t rocket science), the inherent limitations of letter grades (there’s no way they don’t already have an instinct for this), or how to coach critical thinking and observation on a daily basis?
Parents are the sleeping giants in education. Think of them as students with 25 years of life experience added on. If they had any clue how poorly education serves most students (no matter how “successful” the student navigates education in its current form), they’d redirect anger currently pointed at teachers and principals, and point it instead at policymakers, and perhaps even take up the task themselves as entrepreneurs.
Hey, there’s an idea."

I welcome your thoughts on this!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Achieving Excellence

A great deal has transpired over the past few years as it relates to safe schools legislation; baby steps to say the least.  So while families continue to reach out to me for assistance, I have a hard time dealing with statements put out by our Ministry of Education. "Achieving Excellence" can be found  Specifically, pages 14 to 16 talk about "Promoting Well-Being" of our students.  For the most part I commend the hard and honest work being done by those who have a duty of care over our young.  Having said that, this does not mean that there are certain individuals within our educational system that we have no business handing our children over to.  Until this is addressed, until there is oversight that existing safe schools legislation is being adhered to, I am afraid that vision statements put out by our Ministry of Education are only words on paper; that nothing will change, and I will continue to hear from families involved in serious safety situations that most definitely do not promote ongoing health supports for some of our children.