TORONTO – On Pink Shirt Day, February 26, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the launch of an online survey to hear from students, parents, guardians and school staff about their experiences with bullying in Ontario schools.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 21 percent of Ontario students in Grades 7-12 have reported being bullied at school. This new survey seeks to gain a better understanding of the issue, ideas on how to better prevent and report bullying and new ways to make schools safer.
“Bullying is far too common in our playgrounds, schools and communities across Ontario,” said Minister Lecce in a release. “That is why our government is taking decisive action to ensure every person—regardless of their faith, heritage, orientation, race or income—is protected and respected. Every child deserves to learn in a safe and inclusive school; that is why we are empowering students to have a voice.”
“In order to prevent bullying in our schools, we need to be aware of what’s happening at the classroom level,” said MPP Christina Mitas. “The online survey will help us better understand the ways in which bullying manifests in classroom settings. This will assist us in framing the problem and designing more effective programs—ones that will keep our children safe.”
Students, parents and guardians and school staff are encouraged to participate in the survey, which is posted at Ontario.ca/page/consultation-bullying-ontario-schools and ‘Information for Parents/Guardians about Ontario’s Survey on Bullying’ is also available online.
In November 2019, the government announced five new initiatives to combat bullying in schools, including the student survey and the assignment of Christina Mitas, MPP for Scarborough Centre and former teacher, to advise the minister on education matters with a focus on bullying prevention; training for educators in anti-bullying and de-escalation techniques; a review of school reporting practices on bullying and a review of the definition of bullying in ministry policies to ensure it reflects the realities of today.
The government has updated the health and physical education curriculum for Grades 1 to 8 to now include mandatory learning about online safety in all grades, including learning about cyber bullying, cyber security and privacy. Students also learn how to build and support healthy relationships and develop skills to identify, prevent and resolve issues that may lead to bullying. Implementation of the updated curriculum began in September 2019.
In October, Ontario announced an investment of nearly $40 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year to advance student mental health in partnership with education groups. It is also committed to permanently fund approximately 180 front-line mental health workers in secondary schools.
Ontario is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to create new mental health and addictions services and expand existing programs.