How To Make Schools Safe

How To Make Schools Safe – What students learn in school is significantly more than what they see in textbooks. In schools, they learn to interact with peers in their age group and adults in positions of authority. They learn how to behave in public. Parents want their children to learn the social values ​​of respect and compassion in school, just as they want their children to learn about biology or history. Fostering these aspects of learning requires a safe, inclusive educational space.

But how do teachers contribute to these additional aspects of learning? How does the way students engage with the curriculum teach them social values ​​and empathy and build a sense of belonging?

How To Make Schools Safe

This aspect of education is called secondary socialization: the part of social learning that introduces children to the world outside their home. Secondary socialization helps children understand how to manage different levels of intimacy and how to achieve certain social goals in order to become an accepted member of a social group. It relies on a reinforcement system where positive social achievements are met with positive attention and attitudes from peers and teachers.

Safe Schools New Hampshire

This secondary socialization has three key dimensions: behavioral, moral, and cultural adaptation. Students learn what behavior, attitudes, and expressions are appropriate in the school environment, and more specifically, in their circle of friends and peers. However, such learning is often influenced by teachers’ attitudes toward different social and cultural classes—attitudes that often privilege the dominant class. That’s why it’s so important that teachers get equity and diversity training.

Schools have made great strides toward inclusion over the past four years. One of the first steps toward making Ontario schools more accessible began with the Education Amendment Act of 1980, which aimed to make public education in Ontario accessible to students with learning and physical disabilities. Today, Ontario has similar legal supports that extend to students from a range of backgrounds, regardless of ability, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, religion or first language.

However, Varsity spoke to two teachers in Ontario who, in fact, do not provide these grants by school boards. As a result, the responsibility for making schools a safe environment often falls on teachers or students. This deficiency can be traced back to the Ministry of Education, which does not adequately outline what inclusive education should look like and provide the resources to make it happen.

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Today, Ontario’s public education system is administered by the Ministry of Education, which consists of 72 school boards. These include 31 English, 29 English Catholic, four French and eight French Catholic school boards. The ministry establishes a set of policy and curriculum expectations for the province, and each school board develops expectations for its schools. The Ministry also provides a range of reflective tools for educators and administrators to ensure they are following the Ministry’s standards.

Safe Schools Declaration

This framework has some benefits. Ontario is the most diverse province in the country, meaning that a rigid, uniform approach to education only means that Ontario is represented on a macro scale. So, instead, individual boards are given the freedom to respond to the needs of their communities, meaning they can design flexible educational environments that better suit their students. For example, individual school boards may develop specific curricula to focus on and work with Indigenous people born on the land their board serves, rather than offering a broad survey of Indigenous culture, heritage, history and studies in Ontario.

But the ministry’s broad and flexible approach to policy also raises several problems. The standards set by the Ministry are relatively general, so school boards have significant power and responsibility in developing the specific content of their policies and curricula. As a result, we see that equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives are unevenly implemented.

Students are the ones who experience the fallout from these deficiencies. In Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, former Education Minister Kathleen Wynne recognized that “students who feel welcome and accepted at school are more likely to succeed academically.” If all students can receive valuable and effective socialization in schools, then they facilitate a safer environment for their peers, which allows all students to learn more effectively. It’s not hard to see, then, how an unsafe environment can harm student success.

The ministry outlines its expectations for schools and school boards in the Ontario Kindergarten through Grade 12 Policy and Program Requirements document, which is available in PDF format on its website. The document emphasizes the importance of safe learning environments in schools, which are “critical to the positive cognitive, emotional, social and physical development of learners”.

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This hope that the school environment will be a safe space for all students and staff is an important part of the ministry’s mission. If schools can foster this environment, they not only meet the expectations of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), but studies show that students achieve better results and are more likely to graduate.

More specifically, the Ministry has three goals to achieve inclusive education: shared commitment leadership between the Ministry of Education, school boards and schools; Accountability and transparency in school boards for equitable and inclusive education policies and practices.

The ministry also wants school boards to train teachers and other school staff on topics such as anti-racism, anti-discrimination and sexual violence. This may include conducting gender and sexual orientation sensitivity training or educating employees about necessary intervention and prevention strategies when faced with incidents of racism, homophobia, harassment and sexual violence.

However, rather than providing a clear or descriptive framework for what equality training and practice should look like, the document mostly suggests that these programs should exist. In most cases, the OHRC describes the moments when a school board is asked by a student to allege a violation of Ontario’s human rights law and explains whether the violation was legal. These examples are far from the active equity tools required by schools.

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Varsity spoke with several teachers in Ontario who said they were not receiving enough equity and diversity training. Robert Switzer, a current teacher with the Limestone District School Board (LDSB), told The Varsity that there are structural barriers to professional development, and it’s a complex process. “It’s very underfunded…it’s always self-driving. “Teachers do it in their own time.”

Switzer acknowledged that school boards have always understood equality, but emphasized that teachers must work individually to foster an inclusive environment where sensitive topics can be appropriately discussed. Still, he hopes it will still be possible: “I think it’s important to recognize that there’s a will and there’s no resistance to doing it.” But trying to figure out how to do it requires a lot of work from people, and it’s not easy.”

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This difficulty is reflected in the Ministry’s policy documents. Fortunately, the ministry recognizes the role that school and classroom environments play in student well-being and success. But the Department of Education does not provide educators or boards with descriptive guidance on how to best foster this environment, nor does it specify which cultural values ​​teachers should implement when adapting the curriculum more broadly.

Overall, it fails to provide a comprehensive framework for how to teach equity and inclusion strategies to employees. Instead, the ministry says “all schools and boards must support students who want to create and lead activities and organizations that promote a safe and inclusive learning environment.”

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Another LDSB teacher, David Khanna, admitted in an interview with “Varsity” that he has found a positive attitude towards equity initiatives. She said she believes she has seen a shift toward equity and inclusion since she began teaching. “I think a lot of this is going to be community-driven, student-driven, especially when I think about the work that’s happened recently with students of color and students with disabilities. This is where I think students are moving forward. And [school staff] responded because that’s what we had to do,” he said.

Fortunately, since the Ministry’s policy stipulates that schools should support students who want to create a more inclusive environment in their schools, there – in theory – students’ initiatives should not be hindered. If the student body recognizes the need for social change, the Ministry of Education insists that it should. However, students who facilitate a safe school environment are simply not in a safe environment to begin with. Such responsibility should not fall on the shoulders of students, but school boards should ensure that staff and administration have adequate access to provide a safe and equitable space for students to enjoy.

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