Safe and inclusive schools: Responding to the Accepting Schools Act (Bill 13)
In June 2012, the provincial government passed Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. It was in full effect as of February 1, 2013 and amended some of the “safe schools” provisions in the Education Act.
We know that a safe, inclusive and accepting school is essential for student achievement and well-being. Bill 13 requires school boards to prevent and address inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour among students in our schools. These behaviours include bullying, discrimination and harassment. The new law makes it clear that these behaviours are unacceptable in our schools. It promotes respect and understanding for all students regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, creed, disability, or any other factor.
The board was directed to create new policies and/or revise policies based on the legislation, regulations and Ministry of Education Policy and Program Memorandums. These include:
Policy 503 – It is the policy of the Upper Grand District School Board to support and maintain a positive school climate for all members of the school community. A positive school climate is accepting and inclusive of all. As part of this mandate, the Board will strive to eliminate all forms of bullying through prevention and intervention strategies which foster positive learning environments, support academic achievement, and help students to reach their full potential. The Board supports the use of positive practices including prevention and early intervention as well as consequences for inappropriate behaviour. This includes Progressive Discipline and suspension and expulsion where necessary.
As a result of Bill 13, the Board’s Safe Schools practices and procedures have changed, including what can be considered for suspensions and expulsions. A few of the changes are highlighted here. Bill 13 requires schools to:
Consider tougher consequences for students who bully others. This can include suspending and considering expulsion if:
- The student has already been suspended for bullying and the student’s presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of others, or
- The bullying was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate
- Provide training and information to teachers and others school staff on an annual basis about bullying prevention and promoting positive school climates
- Notify the parent/guardians of student who have harmed another student about the incident, when the students’ behaviour could lead to them being suspended or expelled. Also invite the parents to discuss the supports that will be provided to their child.
- Invite the parents/guardians of the student who was harmed in the incident to discuss the supports that will be provided to their child. Principals were already required to notify these parents.
- Inform parents about the supports available to their children through the school and the efforts the school is making to build a more positive school climate.
- Set up a process for parents to follow if they have concerns about the support their child is receiving.
- Develop a procedure that allows students, parents and others to safely report incidents of bullying.
- Conduct school climate surveys of staff, students and parents at least every two years
- Allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of all students on topics such as:
- People with disabilities
- Gender equity
- Sexual orientation and gender identity: These groups may include Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA’s)Allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of all students on topics such as:
- Ensure that third parties that rent space in public schools follow standards of behaviour that are consistent with the Provincial Code of Conduct.
More information about the Accepting Schools Act can be found online at: