Anti-bullying Initiatives

Mr. Bob Delaney: This question is for the Minister of Education. Minister, this week is Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. In western Mississauga, we have an outstanding school that has done some groundbreaking work in creating an open, supportive and accepting learning environment for all students.

St. Joseph Secondary School in the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board won a Premier’s Award for Accepting Schools last year for its accomplishments in creating a gay-straight alliance formed by a group of students who wanted to connect in a safe space. In Mississauga, St. Joseph’s has provided Ontario with a template for excellence in a productive learning environment.

Minister, what has Ontario done province-wide to help all students feel safe while learning?

Hon. Liz Sandals: I’d like to add my congratulations to St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga for winning the Premier’s award.

During this week, I hope that everyone will take some time to consider the issue of bullying and the role it may be playing in their lives or the lives of others. Every student has the right to feel safe and accepted at school. If the students don’t feel safe, they can’t be at their very best.

That’s why I’m so very proud of our government’s Accepting Schools Act. The act requires boards to provide supports for the bully, the bullied and the bystander, and requires principals to investigate all reports of bullying. The government has invested over $425 million in Safe Schools initiatives that are helping to make Ontario schools safe. We’ve defined bullying in legislation and we are making great progress on the whole issue of bullying prevention.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Mr. Bob Delaney: Thank you, Minister. St. Joseph school’s work is led by its principal, Jeff Quenneville, whom I’ve come to know and respect. In fact, Jeff himself is one of this year’s award winners for building an accepting school climate. The administration and staff at St. Joseph’s have developed a healthy and respectful relationship among students throughout the entire school and in the surrounding community.

When this House considered bullying in Bill 13 last year, it saw that repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals does cause fear and distress. Bullying involves more than physical and verbal violence. It includes social and cyberbullying.

Minister, how is Ontario addressing cyberbullying in respect to kids, computers and cellphones?

Hon. Liz Sandals: Thank you to the member for this very important question.

Cyberbullying has been a concern of our government and the Safe Schools Action Team for a number of years. That’s why the Accepting Schools Act explicitly defines cyberbullying as part of its definition of bullying.

If a principal believes that actions that occurred online had a negative impact on the school climate, the principal legally has the authority to take action. Ontario’s actually pretty unique in that respect because we know that when students bully each other outside of school online and come into the school, they don’t feel safe and then they can’t succeed. We know that we need to have a way for principals and teachers to intervene in the cyberbullying and the life of the student so that we can ensure that schools are a safe and accepting place for all our students, and that we will not tolerate bullying.