Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Justice is Served

For over a decade I have listened to horror stories by parents.  Stories of how their school boards were either too casual or completely in denial over issues of bullying.  Parents whose credibility was attacked simply for pushing the issue of keeping their child safe while at school; children who were re-victimized by those in authority by being blamed for their own victimization.

Over the years, these same parents have often taken the position that their school board knew when a student  was being aggressively victimized (either physically or verbally) by a peer(s), yet failed to take action by protecting that student. 

For many years whenever I read about an incident of bullying in the media, the standard school board response was that they were taking the matter seriously and that it was an isolated incident.  For over a decade parents have contacted me with countless examples of these isolated incidents.  They all had one common denominator…..their child was not being kept safe while at school.  Yet the Ontario Ombudsman’s office does not consider this to be a systemic issue and continues to encourage parents to resolve issues at the front lines.

On May 24th of this year Vania Karam and her son changed things thereby validating what every family before them experienced at the hands of our publicly funded education system.  This matter has garnered global attention and has found its way into Wikipedia

In this litigation, the Plaintiffs had to prove that on a balance of probabilities the Defendant breached the standard of care as set out in Patrick v. St. Clair Catholic District School Board.  In that decision the Court stated “the standard of care to be exercised by school authorities in providing for the supervision and protection of students for whom they are responsible is that of the careful and prudent parent.”

In his Reasons for Decision, the Honourable Judge Bansie stated, among other things:
1.    1.  This court finds that the staff of Broadview Public School breached the standard of care owed to Winston Karam;

2.    2.  The Ottawa Carleton District School Board is liable for the inaction of the Broadview staff.

After the Karam Reasons were released, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board put out a statement of their own:

"The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has a very strong commitment to providing safe and caring learning environments for all students. Across the district, our schools are engaged in a number of initiatives to prevent bullying and discrimination. We believe this work is making a difference.”

Again, a standardized comment, one of which I have read many times before. I, along with the approximate 140,000 other families in the Province of Ontario, maintain this work of which they speak will only make a difference if those within our publicly funded educational system are held to account.  The Karam family did just that, for which I thank them.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Are school boards doing all that they can?

On February 27th of this year I wrote a post asking what the Ministry of Education was actually doing to keep our children safe while at school.  Just subsequent to that post, the York Region District School Board  was in the news over issues of racial incidents that were being ignored by the school board. And, as recently as last week we now have this situation.
"A safe, inclusive and accepting school environment is a necessary condition for student success. Students cannot be expected to reach their potential in an environment where they feel insecure and intimidated. We are committed to providing all students with the supports they need to learn, grow and achieve." This statement is taken directly from the Ministry of Education website, yet my phone continues to ring on a weekly basis.  
Parents are continually baffled with the process of trying to navigate the school system, constantly finding themselves on a hamster wheel when all they want is for their child to be safe while at school.
When is all of this bureaucracy by these self-governing corporations called school boards going to end? When are some of our children actually going to be respected by those whom we taught to respect? And most importantly, when are some of the adults within the system going to be held to account?
Ontario has safe schools legislation, the Ministry of Education hands down Policy Program Memorandums, each school board has a safe school policy.  Yet most of this has been created and worded in such an ambiguous manner so as to leave the safety of our students up to the discretion of those in authority.  
I do not categorize our educators.  Having said that I will be the first to point a finger where an injustice has been done.  Too many children's lives have been jeopardized by what is called our educational system and this needs to end.
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