Sunday, June 15, 2008

Abuse has to be Reported.

Again this week a disturbing educational issue hit the news. In Friday's Toronto Star, it was reported that a Newmarket Grade 1 student visiting the washroom was wipped by belts by two grade 8 students. The principal, upon hearing of the incident failed to inform either the parents and the police. The only action the York Region Catholic District School Board Principal undertook was to suspend the two offending students. The Grade 1 student's older sister ventured home and told her parents of the attack on her younger sibling. The parents, of course, contacted the police who laid charges against the two Grade 8 students. The parents also contacted the local MPP, Frank Klees, about the issue who brought the problem to floor of the Ontario Legislature.

This problem seems to have repeated itself considering that in October 2006 a similar issue occurred involving the gang rape of a female muslim student in a school washroom at C.W. Jeffrey's Secondary school in the Toronto District School Board. This incident on came to light when a panel was investigating the shooting death of Jordan Manners at the school. This resulted in charges being laid against the principal and two vice-principals of the school at the time for failure to report the incident to police. However, in a despicable ruling by the court, the charges were dismissed because, as the Toronto Star reported:

Justice of the Peace Gabriel John said the charges against Charis Newton-Thompson, former principal at the Toronto school, and former vice-principals Stan Gordon and Silvio Tallevi were sworn last December – well after the six-month time limit in the Provincial Offences Act.

The province's Attorney General will most likely appeal this case. But it does send a disturbing message to Ontario parents about those in positions of authority in Ontario schools and the courts.

The main message in the above two instances is that principals do not want to involve the police believing this is a school issue. However, in both instances these are crimes under the criminal code and failure to report a crime, again under the criminal code, is a crime unto itself. But the criminal code, as noted in second case, seems to be slightly in conflict with protecting students considering a judge has ruled that after six monthes, if a crime is not reported, nobody can be charged. So the school boards seems to know this and, in the above two cases, would have said absolutely nothing in hopes that the whole issue would blow over or never be heard about.

What's even worse is the York Region Catholic School Board refuses to disclose which of the schools in Newmarket the assault occurred between the two Grade 8 students and the Grade 1 victim as reported in today's edition of The Era-Banner. The Era-Banner reporter narrowed down the possible schools the attack occurred at from six to three by investigating which schools had female principals. As reported in the newspaper, at one of these schools the attack occurred with contact information included:

St. John Chrysostom Catholic School on Joe Persechini Drive (905-895-7411), St. Nicholas on Keith Avenue (905-895-3777) and St. Paul on William Roe Boulevard (905-895-4122.)

It seems the "culture of secrecy" in terms of reporting crimes to the authorities and parents as reported in the Falconer Report on the death of Jordan Manners also extends to the York Region Catholic District School Board at least in the case as well. Not only does the principal at the school not call the police in on this issue, but also doesn't tell the parents of victim what happenned and what the consequences were of the incident until parent's own child arrives home from school and reports what occurred. Also, in order to keep all York Region Catholic School parents in the dark, the Board refuses to disclose at which school the assault took place. The Board should be telling parents which school this incident occurred as it is every parent's, along with the school's, responsibility to keep their child safe. Parents have every right to know if the staff at their school is following the criminal code as well as board policy in terms of keeping their own children safe. The board has failed to live up to their responsibility in this case in providing open and accountable practices in this particular case.

Frank Klees, the MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, has brought forth a bill to recommend that all assaults between students in schools should be reported to the police. Klees is quite right in ensuring this is enacted in legislation. Students can only learn right from wrong if the consequences are presented and, if needed, enforced under the criminal code. The Ontario Legislature should ensure that not only do assaults in schools, no matter who they are between, be reported to police in a timely manner. If these assaults are not reported there should be dire consequences for the administration of the schools including dismissal, jail time and a fine. Also, there should be no legal loop hole allowed in the criminal code of finding that an assault has failed to be reported to the proper authorities. This would close the legal loop hole that prevented the conviction of the principal and two vice-principals in the Toronto District School Board incident as well as prevent the situation from occurring again.

Children in Ontario, and accross Canada, should have every right to expect to attend schools that are safe and secure. If for any reason an incident of assault occurs, there should proper penalties both at the school level and, if warrented under the criminal code (or Young Offenders Act) and not at the whim of some principal, charges should be laid. Also, school boards must be forced to release details of incidents at schools when called upon by either the media or concerned parents in the name of providing parents with the full disclosure so as to ensure their children's safety is accounted for. Anything less only promotes a culture a silence and possible more violence in our schools and that is totally unacceptable to anyone, including students, parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, trustees and the general public.

1 comment:

  1. Mike I have to admit I skimmed this article I will have to come back to it, but on first glance it seems another example were the law is a secondary option, based on fear of intervention. The atitude that this is our turf and we can handle things is elitism that does not belong in the educational system. Principals need to know where the line is drawn and when action beyond simple expulsion is needed.If it takes charging a principal with neglecting to report a crime then that might be the way to go. I have seen a rise in bullying in my Cub group and among the children at our appartment building. It seems that the culture of intolerance of difference that is on the rise in society is filtering down to children. If you are poor, fat, slow or just different, you don't meet the advertised standard of what a person should be so you are the target of ridicule and this is becoming accepted. The problem is childeren don't know the reason behind the ridicule and just learn that ridicule and subsequent abusive behavior is acceptable, then the schools in refusing to use effective means to deal with the issue justify the behavior in the childrens eyes. To expel a child that bullies is not a good punishment the child doesn't want to be at school in the first place (likely for bullies) and all it does is remove them from the teachers class so they don't have to deal with them.

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