Anti-bullying & gay-straight alliances
May 30, 2012
Ontario MPPs are voting this week on Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters
Bill 13 is an amendment to the Education Act, and includes a definition of bullying, and requirements that all school boards develop and implement equity and inclusive education policy. It also says that all boards must support student activities and organizations that promote inclusion and understanding.
The government recently amended the Bill to specifically state that students must be allowed to start clubs that are called gay-straight alliances. This has caused some controversy over the last few days.
The overall vision
The Bill states that “the people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:
- Believe that education plays a critical role in preparing young people to grow up as productive, contributing and constructive citizens in the diverse society of Ontario;
- Believe that all students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability…”
- and more, to read the full statement of belief, click here
Some of the requirements in the Bill
Boards must “develop and implement an equity and inclusive education policy, and, if required by the Minister, submit the policy to the Minister and implement changes to the policy as directed by the Minister…”
“Every board shall support pupils who want to establish and lead,
- activities or organizations that promote gender equity;
- activities or organizations that promote anti-racism;
- activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities; or
- activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.”
People For Education Viewpoint:
In the Bill, bullying is defined as ”repeated and aggressive behaviour by a pupil where:
- the behaviour is intended by the pupil to cause, or the pupil ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to cause, harm, fear or distress to another individual, including psychological harm or harm to the individual’s reputation, and
- the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the pupil and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, race, disability or the receipt of special education; (“intimidation”).
This Bill is an important step along the road to ensuring that every student in Ontario is able to attend schools where they feel accepted and supported.
Having visited schools with gay-straight alliances, it is easy to see that they make a difference – for everyone.