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A Response to the Falconer Panel’s Final Report On School Safety

What follows is the first draft of Education Action: Toronto’s response to the School Community Advisory Panel’s final report on school safety for the Toronto District School Board. The panel was chaired by civil rights lawyer Julian Falconer. Its report is entitled The Road to Health, and was published in January 2008. The report can be found in its complete form at School Safety Panel

We hope you will find the time to criticize this response to Falconer and add your suggestions for improving it. You can reach us at eatoronto@yahoo.com.

This first draft was done quickly in order to bring our concerns into the discussion going on around Falconer’s recommendations. This discussion is still in its earliest stages. We don’t pretend to have the last word on what the most effective response should be. We really need your help to get it right. Indeed, parts of our response are not complete, as you will see, and await further discussion and contributions from people like yourselves.

Introduction

Our response so far is divided into three sections.

The first section opens up Falconer’s extraordinary emphasis on the external control of poor black children and on increased centralization of school governance in the prevention of school violence. While some of his recommendations may be useful (particularly in the short term), we see this emphasis as moving the TDSB in the wrong direction.

The second section sets out, in outline, what we believe to be a much stronger alternative to that which Falconer recommends. Instead of an emphasis on external control (of children and local authorities), we stress a much deeper integration of school and community and far greater local power for our communities and our teachers. We believe neighbourhood schools can handle the issue of school safety – and the deeper issue of good schools – if they are given the opportunity and resources to do so. We also emphasize a thoroughly engaged and purposeful school experience for all our children – an experience that moves them towards a fulfilling future in personal life, in meaningful work and in active citizenship.

All these points of emphasis put us directly in opposition to current government policies supporting Outcomes Based Education, standardized testing, official profiling, bottom streaming and Ministry micro-managing. These government policies are policies on which Falconer remains silent, and yet they are education’s most destructive factors in alienating students and teachers in poor neighbourhoods (especially in immigrant neighbourhoods of colour); they provide the structural core of the TDSB’s “systemic” racism and classism. When all is said and done, the ruthless cutbacks in resources we have witnessed over the last 11 years at the TDSB take second place to these policies in undercutting our schools as good places for children to learn.

We hope you will pay special attention to this section and add your thoughts on how we should proceed in building a set of policies that not only offer an alternative to Falconer but to the policies of the provincial government itself.

Our third section deals with recommendations in the Falconer Report we think might be useful and could be supported. Again, we would be very grateful for your comments and suggestions here. As in Section I, however, we want to stress it is often not so much individual recommendations that are so disturbing (though some are clearly way off base), it is the entire thrust of the document that puts so much emphasis on external control rather than on engaged local action in building school communities and in developing substantive and caring classroom and extra-curricula experiences. We’ll touch on a few of Falconer’s recommendations that seem helpful. Many others, however, are very dependent on context to determine their usefulness. We’d especially like to hear from you concerning those Falconer recommendations we haven’t included here, but which you think, in your school community, might actually be valuable .

We recognize that the approach we take in this document focuses on what we can do now in the schools themselves. There are, of course, larger issues of growing poverty, widespread social injustice, unemployment, “bad” jobs, limited medical services, the growing reach of corporate media, political powerlessness and environmental degradation that deeply impact our schools and must be met with a far broader alliance of community, union and citizen activists than exists within education.

In solidarity,

George Martell and Faduma Mohamed
Co-chairs, Education Action: Toronto

Section I Falconer’s Wrong Direction: From a Tory to a Liberal “Culture” of Control

The Falconer Report does not lack in rhetoric concerning the welfare of poor, black children in our city and the “health” of their schools.

There is nothing wrong with such rhetoric, nor is there any reason to think the Falconer and his fellow panel members don’t believe it.

Such good intentions, however, should not give us any reason to believe – as some progressive commentators suggest – that the report’s recommendations move the Toronto District School Board in the right direction.

We come to a very different conclusion.

A detailed study of Falconer’s recommendations leads us to think that his report moves the TDSB in exactly the wrong direction in dealing with issues of “school safety.”

Falconer’s main thrust takes school safety out of the hands of people who are really in a position to deal with it – the community and its classroom teachers. These are people who have the capacity to focus on children learning what’s important for growing up rather than learning to do what they are told to do in one way or another. There is a world of difference between the two and a world of difference in how children respond.

The Falconer Report focuses almost entirely on the external control of what it considers “at risk” children at the same time as it sets itself up in opposition to the punitive and oppressive “safe schools culture” of the last Tory government (which was thoroughly integrated into the practices of the TDSB). The Tories, says Falconer, took “an overly narrow approach to safety.”

What Falconer offers us instead is what might be described as the Liberal version of a “safe schools culture,” and it is anything but “narrow.”

Falconer incorporates a much broader more sophisticated range of external control techniques than the Harris-Eves neo cons could ever put their minds around and then wraps it all in deep concern for the “stench of racism” in our schools and the despair of our black communities.

On the control front, Falconer’s range is extraordinary: from “non-intrusive” sniffer dogs to “code red procedures and staff teams”, to student id cards hung around the neck, to more school-focused criminal release procedures, to safe-school transfer teams, to a new Ministry “Violence Prevention Coordinator” and “School Safety and Equity Officer,” a new Standing Education-Justice Committee, a new Police Superintendent for school safety, new court liaison officers, a new inter-agency body to co-ordinate institutional response, a new Well-Being and Equity Department, and a provincially appointed Implementation Task Force to oversee the implementation of this report, to a new large regulatory framework on school violence, to many levels of mandatory reporting, to a new job description and code of conduct for trustees, to violence protection coordinators, to codes of conduct for cyber violence, to classroom management training, to safety education programs for administrators, teachers and students, to safety and equity audits, to an increase in teacher supervision, to school uniforms, to analysis of suspension and expulsion data, to “reinvention of the Equity team … to ensure that equity considerations properly infuse all of the Board’s decision making concerning the discipline and safety of students,” to alternative education measures at A2S sites, and to more sophisticated police records on trends in school safety data.

In this framework of external control measures, it is also important to include the hiring of more social workers, child and youth workers and youth counselors. These are secondary, if helpful, figures in a good school system, where they may genuinely function as caring adults assisting students whose personal lives are under duress. In the present system, however, their main job is to keep the lid on student anger and to press “realistic” acceptance of bottom streaming on “at risk” children, however much responsible individuals among them may work against what their bosses require.

On the centralizing governance front, Falconer’s framework of external control not only reaches down to deal with students, teachers and local school administrators of the TDSB it also impacts the Board of Trustees itself. Falconer’s recommendations significantly enhance the power of external agencies over the TDSB, particularly the Ministry of Education. His report continues the process of hollowing out the decision-making power of an already enfeebled Board.

Adding up Falconer’s focus

A rough breakdown of Falconer’s recommendations has 95 out of 116 dealing with various forms of external control and the administrative and governance structures necessary to implement them.

We’ve left out, for this draft, the 10 recommendations concerning Aboriginal education in the TDSB because we have yet to have substantial enough conversations with our friends in the Aboriginal community.

A breakdown of the 95 recommendations that deal with various forms of external control and the administrative and governance structures necessary to implement them goes as follows:

There are 23 recommendations for more provincial control over the TDSB, new bodies or offices of educational authority beyond the TDSB, and a reduced role for trustees. There are no recommendations to increase the power of local school communities and teachers to deal with the issue of school safety. See Appendix A.

There are 58 recommendations dealing with rules, regulations, programs and administrative structures that should be externally imposed to respond to school violence. See Appendix B.

There are 14 recommendations supporting social/therapeutic services to deal with the impact of school violence. See Appendix C.

The 21 recommendations we judge do not necessarily deal with imposed external controls include recommendations on teacher transfers, teacher recruitment, class size, curriculum, health and safety standards, community outreach, funding, citizen consultation on hiring the TDSB Director and Associate Director, school equity committees, a Board ombudsman, a professional association of African-Canadian educators, and a 5 year commitment from principals in “priority communities.” See Appendix D.

The main thrust of all these recommendations has been highlighted in the appendices.

What’s Missing in the Falconer Report?

At public meetings, Falconer frames his version of a control culture – what he calls a “shift in culture” – as a new emphasis in “delivering social services through the schools.” What actually goes on in the minds of students and teachers is almost entirely outside his concerns.

In some ways, Falconer is quite clear in his understanding that his report isn’t really about education. He entitles its final version “The Road to Health” not “The Road to a Good Education,” which is only road (we will argue) that will actually produce safe schools. In his executive summary, he tells us, “the underlying premise of the Panel’s work is that ‘school safety’ is synonymous with ‘school health.’” And what he means by school health is a “healthy learning environment,” which turns out to be a tight system of hard and soft controls, which he assures us will be benign, and in which he imagines violence and racism will rarely show their heads.

It is, of course, perfectly reasonable, in the very short run, to agree with some of Falconer’s proposals. We will turn to some of these in Section III. In the very short run, some schools are desperate for some immediate “peace, order and good government,” and some external controls are required. But Falconer’s large, all-encompassing, framework of external controls is no long-term solution to anything, because it neglects what’s really necessary to build a good education, not only for poor racialized students, but for all our children.

What we are left with in the Panel’s report is a hollowed out vision of a school system, fixated on violence, with no sense of what makes children’s lives genuinely peaceful.

What Falconer doesn’t seem to understand is what Yolisa Dalamba calls “the spirit injury” our schools have inflicted on so many of their students and what a genuinely loving response should be.

Ms Dalamba argues that Falconer “did not even attempt to articulate what racialized families experience when dealing with the TDSB and offer community-based solutions.”

Falconer focuses instead, she says, on the violence of Afrikan/Black children, rather than on the violence of the school system and the society at large in dealing with them – the systemic physical and psychological violence that has been going on since the beginnings of settlement in Ontario. He doesn’t see, for example, that “Afrikan/Black codes of silence” have emerged out of the need for silence – and solidarity — in the face of imperialist aggression, slavery, Canada’s version of Jim Crow, both conservative and liberal racism, and ever-constant police brutality.

Falconer entirely neglects the punitive labeling and bottom-streaming experienced by these children and the “psychological testing, behaviour modification drugs, anger management, social skills tests, literacy testing and programs that stigmatize them, sometimes for their entire schooling careers.” He doesn’t recognize “the violence of a curriculum that makes heroes of their colonizers while ignoring their cultures’ contributions to civilization.” And he fails to grasp the extent to which this experience “often leads to “internalized anger, depression, loss of self-esteem and ultimately school ‘drop out.’”

Falconer misses the true violence of “40,000 learners from mostly Afrikan and disabled communities” being suspended or expelled from school between 2001 and 2005 via the Safe Schools Act. He can’t put his mind around the impact on young people of a process in which they become a “racialized underclass … positioned to fill the prisons, juvenile detention centres, homeless shelters and mental institutions.”

What Falconer can’t see, Ms Dalamba continues, is that Afrikan/Black children have had to learn to wear “invisible ‘bullet-proof’ vests all their schooling lives to protect them from daily spirit injury because of how they look, talk and where they come from.” Nor can he see that these vests now do double duty in protecting these students “from the deep soul suffering that has turned into unchecked rage – a rage that has manifested itself into real bullets and knives.”

“It is quite telling,” Ms. Dalamba writes, “that Falconer talks about the ‘culture of fear,’ ‘culture of silence,’ the ‘culture of zero tolerance’, the ‘TDSB education culture,’ and “Safe School culture,’ yet consciously neglects the culture of Euro-Canadian middle class male and female power and privilege.”

Ms. Dalamba concludes that while Falconer recognizes the extent of school violence, overall he does not come to grips with the “hostile, cold and alienating environment” of our schools that creates the “space for violence against one another among learners.” This is, perhaps, especially true for engendered violence. Falconer seems to forget, she writes, that “multimedia and popular culture bombard us with the objectification of women and glorification of violence against us, especially those from racialized communities. ‘Newcomers’ and those whose religions are framed negatively by the dominant culture are also vulnerable, and classrooms rarely empower young women to assert themselves and do not protect them from backlash.”

Where is the “positive bond” between students and teachers?

Falconer’s failure to deal with the “spirit injury” of poor African/Black students and a loving, purposeful response is perhaps most evident in Section 3.06.03 “Renewal: Creating a Positive Bond Between Students and Teachers.”

This section of 27 recommendations should be the heart and soul of the report, but what is immediately obvious is that the Panel has no sense at all of what real bonding between students and teachers is actually about – the bonding of those who share common purposes and struggles and who work at supporting each other in developing these purposes and acting in these struggles. The Panel doesn’t grasp that bonding is a two-way street. At best, its approach is like a distant social worker patching up regulations that will allow the schools to be more therapeutic – “doing good” in their relationship to damaged students or rhetorically voicing their concerns for “equity” or “inclusiveness.” At worst, the issue of bonding seems to have moved entirely off the agenda in favour of more external control procedures. The two recommendations that would produce more teachers of colour obviously have the potential to lead to better relations between Black students and their teachers, more of whom will likely be Black, but nowhere are we told what those relations might actually look like.

To get a deeper sense of Falconer’s approach to student-teacher bonding – an approach that lies at the centre of his understanding of “school safety” – we want to look in more detail at these 27 recommendations. More than anything they show Falconer’s unwillingness to take on what happens between teachers and students in classrooms and extra-curricular activities as central to safe schools.

In opening up this section on student-teacher bonding, Falconer lists the reasons for the breakdown he finds in the relationship between students and teachers. They are, he says, real and perceived racism in our schools, a lack of support for troubled youth, an increase in delinquent behaviour by youth, a lack of teacher classroom management training, a lack of engagement of ‘at risk’ students and a lack of engagement by some teachers at ‘at risk’ schools.

Let’s take these issues one by one:

What do we do about teacher racism?

The Falconer Panel’s main worry about teacher racism is that “school discipline disproportionately impacts racialized students and students with disabilities.” In response, Recommendation #30 has the Board analyze expulsion and suspension data to see if this is true, and #31 looks to more staff development to deal with making discipline non-racist.

In the area of diversity and equity in recruitment practices, the Panel has two recommendations to undercut racism. Recommendation #39 encourages specific targets and timeframes for achieving more diversity and equity in recruitment practices (especially among teachers). Recommendation #40 recommends reducing class sizes in the city’s neediest schools to create vacancies to be filled with new staff, which in turn will create vacancies across the system. Hopefully, this process will produce more cultural and racial diversity among teachers.

There is nothing here about the racism in the everyday interrelationship of students and teachers and how it works it way into curriculum and extra-curricular activities.

The next two questions — What do we do about lack of support for troubled youth? and What do we do about increase in delinquent behaviour by youth? – tend to be dealt with in tandem in the report.

The context for answering these two questions is what the report understands as “complex needs communities” or “complex needs students.” Its response is a therapeutic response to what it sees as hurt people, hurt communities – hurt materially and hurt psychologically. It does not assume that those described by the report are equal to its writers and share a common goal in working together to stop injustice. The report’s recommendations are, instead, understood as “doing good” for those weaker than themselves in the social order as it now stands. It is the problems of others that schools have to deal with – the problem people and the problem communities. Teachers have to be prepared to handle these problems. Thus Recommendation #32 lets teachers get out of problem schools they don’t like or can’t handle. Recommendation #33 gives teachers an “orientation” about these problems before they have to face them or just at the beginning of their work in a problem school. Finally, Recommendation #34 encourages the development school teams to access “mental health services” to assist further with the problems of hurt people and communities and to use a “variety of treatment techniques.”

What do we do about “classroom management training?

In dealing with this question, the Panel emphasizes a more direct (as opposed to therapeutic) control of students. It focuses on specialized classroom management training and mentorship for younger teachers in “at risk community” schools. Recommendation #35, with this focus in mind, asks the Ministry to “review and enhance mandatory classroom management training for all secondary school teachers” Recommendation #36, with the same focus, encourages TDSB staff development in classroom management skills, made mandatory for those in “complex needs communities.” Recommendation #37 says teachers, who have been teaching for less than 5 years, should be mentored in this area by senior teachers. And Recommendation #38 recommends mandatory senior staff development on “best practices,” presumably, in this context, in classroom management training.

What’s happened, you may ask, to the question of student-teacher bonding?

So far in this section on “creating a positive bond between teachers and students” there is not yet one word about student-teacher relationships of any sort.

There is also not one word about what teachers and students do together in class or in extra-curriculum activities, where one would expect serious bounding to take place.

So far, poor black students are understood entirely as problems to be handled rather than human beings engaged in learning about the world around them and looking forward to taking their place with dignity and meaning within it.

We haven’t, of course, finished with all the questions.

We now come to the first question where a deeper response to the humanity of poor black students should be obvious.

What do we do about the lack of engagement of “at risk” youth?

Falconer opens up the section on “student engagement” by recognizing the statistics that show “the achievement gap for students from racialized communities” in standardized test scores, absenteeism, dropout rates and bottom streams.

His response is to quote the research on Black students “yearning” for their schools to reflect their communities and for their curriculum to engage them in learning about their cultures.

This point is true enough, as far as it goes.

But it is nowhere near enough to an explanation for “the truancy, questioning of authority and other rebellions acts” the Panel sees as a product of this lack of school-community interaction.

Falconer really misses the point of what a good school experience for poor black children – all working class children, in fact – has to be about.

The truancy, questioning of authority and rebelliousness that upset the Panel is the product of oppressive authority in our schools. You have to deal with this authority if you are to deal these issues. Falconer does not.

Questioning authority, truancy and rebelliousness are an objectively reasonable or understandable response to such oppression. This kind of reaction goes on all the time in working-class communities. It goes on in racialized communities. It goes on among those oppressed through their gender and sexual orientation and their disabilities. People fight back in whatever way they can, even if it sometimes does them in and might be described as self-destructive. It’s how we are as human beings. To put this another way, we struggle to make a home for ourselves and those we love here on earth, and when someone stands in our way – as the school system now does for so many of our children – we don’t take it lying down. We resist in a wide variety of subtle and not so subtle ways, and much of the time we don’t make much difference in changing how authorities behave towards us. We often walk away in disgust or despair. And in our schools, working-class kids (especially poor Black kids) – facing what they experience as an empty present and an empty future – often hassle teachers, skip classes, drop out, join gangs. They may lose a better job – even a better life – in the process. They may regret it as adults. But at the time, it seems the only path to some kind of dignity and genuine freedom.

This understanding is a million miles away from the Falconer Report.

Falconer notes here individual teacher stereotyping and “limited expectations” for Black students, but he comes nowhere near the systemic racism and classism of the school system as whole – the racism and classism that make the rhetoric of school-community integration and cultural inclusion a bad joke. His focus remains on the personal hurt – the “complex needs” of individual students – to be fixed up somehow, rather than on the ongoing community, social class, racial, cultural, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities struggle that can be built upon for real change – not only to make schools safer, but to make them better. The report thus opts for a “pedagogy” that “works” for “complex needs” students and, in this context, it offers us Recommendation #41, which says that “thorough curriculum reform should be implemented pursuant to the Equity Foundation Statement. There should be an action plan with specific time frames and accountabilities.”

Recommendation #41 is simply not serious in the present context, even though the Equity Foundation Statement is serious in terms of its concern for those who are oppressed within the TDSB and for establishing a new “equity” profile for the Board. The Equity Statement is unequivocal: Every child in the Board – whatever their social class, racial or cultural background, gender, sexual orientation or disability should be treated equally. Unfair profiling and over-representation in bottom streams is always wrong, etc. There is not a line in it most of us would want to disagree with. The problem is that it’s equity demands are disassociated from any specific struggle going on within the TDSB. There is a kind of detachment in the document that allows for official rhetoric to refer to it without having to deliver the goods on the ground.

Take, for example, the Equity Statement’s position on developing a curriculum initiative in “anti-classism and socio-economic equity.” The Statement tells us that a “curriculum that strives for socio-economic equity provides a balance of perspectives … enabling all students from working-class and socio-economically marginalized communities to see themselves reflected in the curriculum and … provid[ing] each student with the knowledge skills, attitudes, and behaviours needed to live in a complex and diverse world.” The curriculum perspective for “anti-racism and ethnocultural equity” is pretty much the same. This curriculum should strive “for racial and ethnocultural equity [that] provides a balance of perspectives … enabling all students from Aboriginal, racial, ethnocultural, and faith communities to see themselves reflected in the curriculum … provid[ing] each student with the knowledge skills, attitudes, and behaviours needed to live in a complex and diverse world.” There is no mention in either case of a curriculum moving forward alongside the struggle by working-class and racialized communities for a better world. There is no sense that teachers should know whose side they’re on in this struggle. Indeed, the world is taken for granted as it is. We are to have a “balance of perspectives” and students are to learn to get on in “a complex and diverse world.” There is nothing in this curriculum thrust about students and teachers and communities going out and actually changing this world for themselves. It is almost as if those who govern our schools are being asked – as politely as possible – to please not be so oppressive with our children. We’d appreciate it, we really would, the document seems to say.

This is not a curriculum framework, needless to say, that leads to serious bonding between poor black students and their teachers. The kids have to know their teachers are on side. The kids have to know their teachers are there to help them actually make a better world rather than moralizing to those in power – most especially to the Equity Statement’s “corporate partners” – who have a vested interest in keeping the schools as they now are.

Linked to Recommendation #41 is Recommendation #45, which says the TDSB should “develop an inclusive curriculum that will allow students to examine their own cultural and historical experiences and the experiences of living in their communities. Specifically, the TDSB should explore ways to incorporate African-centred perspectives and other forms of cultural knowledge in the education of youth.”

The same arguments against Recommendation #41 apply here. In the real world of the TDSB, “inclusiveness” is every bit as dissociated a concept as “equity” or, indeed, “anti-racist” or “anti-classist.” These are all mostly moralizing concepts, more often than not used to make teachers feel guilty over systemic conditions over which they have little control. In the practice of the Board administration, these concepts remain unattached to the struggle to make a better world and there are no plans to change this position. The official “equitable,” “inclusive,” “anti-racist”, “anti-classist” curriculum remains entirely comfortable with the low-level “human capital” curriculum package imposed by the provincial government. This package is composed of fragmented (and fragmenting) curriculum “expectations” or “outcomes” policed by standardized tests along with an official process of profiling and bottom streaming that institutionalize these expectations or outcomes. It is a curriculum package that is thoroughly inequitable, non-inclusive, racist and classist.

Furthermore, we see no argument in Falconer that says all students have a right to actively explore the world and to grow in power and human purpose within it and there is no description of what that practice might look like in our classrooms. There is nothing here that links the classroom work of poor racialized students with the goal of making a just and caring world for all. Finally, there is no insistence that all students must leave school prepared for engaged and purposeful activity in how they earn a living – as opposed to becoming low-level “human capital” at the bottom of the social and economic order.

“Inclusiveness,” for Falconer, ends up being mostly just a word.

This “inclusiveness” recommendation is the last we see of recommendations that deal with the “bonding” of students and teachers in classroom or extra-curricular activities.

What is, perhaps, especially noticeable at the point is that there is no special sub-section dealing with the last of Falconer’s stated concerns – the “lack of engagement by some teachers at ‘at risk’ schools.” Presumably, he thinks the topic has been covered in recommendations that offer a way out of or orientation to problem schools or that provide techniques for dealing with mental health, classroom management, hallway supervision and conflict training. There’s not a hint of how teachers can strengthen their program to honestly engage not only their students but also themselves.

The next set of recommendations in the “bonding” section of the report – and still in the sub-section on “student engagement” – shifts us back to treating students as individual problems (as students “at risk”) to be fixed up so they can fit in better to the school system as it now stands. We can now put the “equity” and “inclusive” issues to one side, and get on with keeping the kids in school and doing their assigned work. Recommendation # 42 presses the TDSB to establish procedures to improve attendance for “at risk” students. Recommendation #43 has guidance teachers organizing students to obtain lost credits. Recommendation #44 offers WRAPAROUND programming for possible dropouts.

Another recommendation (#46) thinks students will be “more engaged and empowered” if they “develop, initiate and implement school safety programs.” We aren’t told how this will improve student-teacher bonding, unless the argument is that if students control themselves under oppressive circumstances, this will relieve the pressure on teachers to do it for them and teachers will be grateful.

Falconer’s student-teacher bonding recommendations now turn to “hallway supervision.” Falconer wants more teachers in the halls to deal with “hallway wanderers” and to build up better relations with students in this informal situation. It’s not a bad suggestion – more adult presence is needed in the schools – only Falconer completely misunderstands the work situation teachers now face in which they have less and less time to deal with students and prepare substantive lessons. Recommendation #47 asks for an increase in “teacher supervision duties with an appropriate review in remuneration to reflect the additional teacher workload.” More money, however, isn’t the answer. What teachers need, if they are to do more supervision, is a smaller teaching load, not to mention getting out from under the draining and demoralizing “expectations”/standardized testing curriculum regime. Recommendation #48 wants more visual adult supervision (by teachers and hall monitors presumably) during class breaks and during arrival and dismissal.

In preparing teachers and hall monitors for this out-of-class interaction, we are back to dealing with problem students, not how to relate to them as equal partners in their education. Recommendation #49 emphasizes “conflict resolution, crisis intervention, and self-esteem building.” Recommendation #50 provides “crisis intervention training” for teachers and Recommendation #51 requires “a code red procedure” and a school staff team “to provide crisis management until paramedics, police or firefighters arrive.”

In the absence of an increase in teacher supervision, Recommendation #52 increases the number and remuneration of school safety monitors. Another recommendation here, which doesn’t seem to be numbered, restores attendance counselors to at least their pre-April 2002 numbers.

Over the last 12 recommendations we have come some distance from the subject of student-teacher bonding. It is hard not to wonder just how detached – even dissociated – this Panel was in considering the issues they had to face in dealing with this subject.

The final 3 recommendations under this “bonding” section go even further afield in setting up the “school as community hub.” These recommendations (#53-55) are ones we broadly support though with reservations and suggestions for changes. We will deal with these in Section III.

Does school violence, racism, classism, sexism make sense?

Another large missing piece in the Falconer Report is that we are offered no explanation of why we have increasing levels of the violence, racism, classism and sexism that Falconer chronicles in working-class schools (especially in poor, immigrant neighbourhoods of colour).

Falconer makes no attempt to figure out any kind of internal school system logic that results in these problems. He completely neglects what is now a vast literature on the corporate/neo-liberal thrust in education that has become increasingly dominant since the early 1970s. It is this thrust that has produced the top-down, fragmented, shallow, breathless “multi-tasking” approach of “Outcomes Based Education” that has been so destructive of real learning over these years, especially for poor children, who are increasing denied the opportunity to think for themselves. In Ontario we experience this approach as the integrated package, which we touched on earlier, of provincially imposed curriculum “expectations,” policed by standardized tests, and institutionally hardened by widespread profiling and bottom streaming.

However destructive this approach may be for real learning, our corporations have made it very clear to our governments and to the public at large through their media outlets that they want this approach to continue. They understand it – as does the premier and his key education consultant, Michael Fullan – as essential to the production of effective “human capital,” especially low-level human capital coming from poor neighbourhoods. This, they tell us, is necessary to help Canada and Ontario cope with the fierce competition of global capitalism. Corporate profits depend on young workers coming into our growing sector of “bad” jobs. These workers, they insist, don’t need to think for themselves and have to learn to do what they are told to do, as quickly and cheerfully as possible.

Alongside the corporate long-term “human capital” curriculum thrust, there is a parallel, and sometimes contradictory, logic of short-term profits. This logic demands tax cuts for corporations and high-income earners and the privatization of social services. In the schools, it is a logic that ends up in major financial cutbacks. It is significant that Falconer recognizes such cutbacks, proposes some major restoration in funding, and then completely neglects where the money might come from. He uses Hugh Mackenzie’s work for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to help show the weaknesses in the provincial funding formula but doesn’t include Mackenzie’s proposals to increase the taxes on corporations and the incomes of the well-to-do and the very rich.

Because he neglects this corporate logic in our schools, Falconer ends up focusing on the violence of the children rather than on the violence of the system in dealing with them – not just suspensions and expulsions, but the whole neo-liberal experiential package that denies poor children a real education and a decent future.

One of our correspondents wrote to ask: Why are they so frightened of our children? That question has a long history in Ontario. It takes us back to the 19th century, when authorities worried about the subversive potential of
the “street arabs” (whom they saw running wild in our early industrial cities)
and argued that such children needed strictly controlled public schooling to
keep them in line. Corporate and government thinking hasn’t changed much
from that time. And, it appears, it has continued to inform the underlying assumptions of the Falconer Report, however much its corporate inspiration has remained below the radar and, perhaps, even out of consciousness.

The destructive use of the Falconer Report

There are two areas in which this report makes the TDSB especially vulnerable to destructive policies and practices.

With the report’s overkill on violence protection and its lack of on-the-ground solutions, it can’t help but drive more middle-class children into private schools. For members of the government and the Ministry, who support increased privatization of the social sector, including our schools, this impact will be welcome.

With the report’s overwhelming emphasis on legislative and bureaucratic restructuring for the external control of children, teachers and local authorities, it offers up many new avenues for provincial and bureaucratic manipulation, for continued reduction of Board power and responsibilities, and for increased staff and teacher overload at work.

Where do we go from here?

Overall, Falconer neglects three major areas for positive action on school safety (and its ground in better schooling).

Falconer doesn’t take into account the deep integration of school and community that’s required to make schools homes away home from for all their participants and the locally controlled community organizing that is necessary to make this a reality.

He doesn’t recognize the power needed by school community councils and local teachers to do the job their students require of them.

Finally, his report offers no picture of an engaging and purposeful curriculum that offers working-class students (especially those in poor, racialized communities) a real future and a reason to support school authorities.

We will now deal with all three points in Section II.

Section II h4. What We Need Right Now

This section has been worked out through a number of community and Education Action: Toronto meetings. It is still, however, far from complete and requires much more discussion and input from community and staff activists in our local schools. Please take the time to contribute to this section by sending in your comments and suggestions to gmartell@yorku.ca and fmohamed@labourcommunityservices.ca.

What we need right now:

1. We need deep integration of school and community to make schools homes away home from for all their participants, and we need a very substantial degree of locally-controlled community organizing to implement this initiative.

a. We have to deal with all of the kids in our local schools and regular classrooms, not farm out the more disruptive ones to neighbouring schools or special programs or special schools.

We have to stop suspending and expelling students, except in the gravest circumstances – a specific point on which Falconer agrees.

Overall, the buck for a calm and welcoming school order has to stop with our local administrators, teachers, school-board workers, parents and communities.

We also have to provide easy-access adult education for students who have dropped out and need a way back to school.

These adult programs might well be placed in local schools with declining enrolment problems alongside an expanded childcare program.

b. Parents and other concerned members of the community, who have time during the day, have to become a real presence in the school.

They have to be there in numbers (not as cops but as adults), just being in hallways and school yards and gyms, engaged in school administration, worked into classrooms, and regularly being in touch with the teachers on what’s being taught and why.

This policy alone makes a great difference in everyday school safety.

c. A major community organizing initiative is required to bring parents and community members into the schools in large numbers and to engage them in the work of the schools.

Each school should have its own school-community organizer, who is hired and fired by the school community council. The community organizer should be provided with a clear mandate to press this increased level of school-community integration.

The school-community council itself must include as many teachers, parents and concerned community members as possible and all must have a vote.

d. Our schools must become community “hubs” for a wide range of services and activities – a recommendation Falconer also makes, which we will return to in Section III.

e. Food, health and sports programs involving the community have to be worked into the school day.

f. We have to find practical ways of helping parents be involved in the school (regular childcare at the school, small honorariums for particular jobs, etc.)

2. We need substantial new powers and responsibilities for school community councils, local teachers and school board workers to do the job our students require of them.

a. School community councils – involving solid participation of parents, older students, teachers and school board workers – have to have the power to implement, as they see fit, the broad outlines of a provincial curriculum rather than the details of the current “expectations” curriculum.

Teachers should be expected, in their professional role, to present councils with their recommendations for the overall school curriculum.

School community councils should be responsible for the general good order of the school as well as for its broader social activities.

b. We have to recover our lost school-board workers – the caretakers, the secretaries, the educational assistants, the lunch room supervisors – who are fundamental to a school’s well being and whose positions have been ruthlessly slashed over the last decade.

These workers not only provide essential school services, but they also add crucial adult connection and support for many students.

Furthermore, they provide a working-class perspective on school policy, which ought to be given much more recognition than it is.

c. We have to treat our teachers with respect. We have to let them be teachers.

We have give our teachers freedom to teach and assess their students, not weigh them down with responsibilities for hundreds of disconnected curriculum “expectations” and batteries of standardized tests to teach to.

We have to relieve our teachers of the many hours of wasted and destructive administrative work focused on student profiling, bottom streaming and meaningless reporting.

We have to give our teachers time to focus on their students as individual human beings – a recommendation which includes significantly smaller classes.

We have to support our teachers in reaching out to their communities.

We have to give teachers the freedom to plan their own professional development and give them the resources they need to do the job.

We have to develop genuine democratic procedures for teachers in school administration, with the principal as a lead teacher, not an aspiring CEO.

We have to insist that our new teachers reflect the social-class, racial and cultural backgrounds of the students they teach.

We also have to make certain our teachers are given the education and the professional development to genuinely engage with their communities. Earnest anti-racist, anti-classist, or anti-sexist rhetoric and moralizing/rules and regulations won’t do the trick. Our teachers have to know our communities well and, as much as possible, be part of them – part of neighbourhood social life, part of neighbourhood politics, and, if they can, come to live in the neighbourhoods in which they teach. Our communities want our teachers to be their brothers and sisters and to help them bridge the human gap that has divided us all in so many ways.

Finally, we have to make certain our teachers get an education and professional development that allows them to understand the history, culture, politics and economics of the communities in which they teach.

3. We need an engaging and purposeful curriculum that offers working-class students (especially those in poor, racialized communities) a real future and a reason to stand up for their school order. This requires a major re-thinking of our current approach to learning.

a. We need to focus on “good” schools not “safe” schools. Good schools are safe schools.

b. Good schools honestly offer their students a future – as developed human beings, as active citizens and as people who should expect a decent job in life. Such a policy, as we noted above, stands directly opposed to the profiling and bottom streaming (inside and outside the regular classroom) that now takes place and to the curriculum thrust of Outcomes Based Education and its standardized tests.

We need a curriculum that builds on the kids’ experience and asks them to honestly explore the world, make real judgments about it, and link their classroom work with what what’s to be loved in the world and what’s to be changed in the interests of social justice and solidarity with nature. Many of the Africentric curriculum ideas move us in this direction, and there are many other progressive sources that can help us build a solid approach to this kind of curriculum.

We also have to make certain that the local school curriculum leads directly to university placement, good community college programs, or a serious trade. This is the only “standard” of practical “success” in the world we want to see operational. Standardized test scores are irrelevant.

The curriculum discussion in our local schools has to be a genuine conversation, not a one-way street, with both parents and teachers talking to each other about how to reach the kids, both academically and socially. It is also important that, at least once a month, teachers meet with the parents of their students to discuss the next month’s curriculum and engage them as much as possible in its delivery at home.

4. Adequate Funding

Falconer makes a good start on proper funding for the TDSB. We will deal with his recommendations on this subject in Section III and how we might build on them.

The TDSB is now entering its 11th year of cutbacks, with the latest Board financial report projecting a deficit of $41.7 million for next year.

We need an immediate campaign to encourage our trustees to resist any more cuts. “Just say No,” might be the right slogan in the short run. And if a supervisor is appointed by the province, we might use this moment to begin serious organizing across the city against the McGuinty government’s financial policies in education. We might also want to encourage other boards across the province to take the same road. Finally, we might want to link up with our city governments, which are experiencing the same disastrous financial squeeze, to bring further pressure to bear on the government for a just financial solution to the needs of our cities and their schools.

We also need to recover the money that has been stolen from the public school system over the last 15 years by a succession of NDP, Conservative and Liberal governments and which has been passed on through a series of tax cuts to the corporations and the rich.

Finally, we should bring pressure to restore the power of school boards to tax their electorate for a substantial portion of their school system’s expenses, with the province’s funding formula making up the rest while insuring equitable and adequate funding across Ontario.

Section III h4. What we can support or build on in the Falconer Report?

Finance

As we noted above, Falconer makes a reasonable start on financial renewal at the Toronto District School Board. On the whole, we agree with the main thrust of the following 6 recommendations on Ministry funding of the TDSB, though there are issues of governance and categorization involved in the recommendations with which we would disagree. While we regret that recommendation #59 is not more precise and while we are not certain whether or not 5% of the Board’s basic funding should be used for Local Priorities or that $400 million is enough of an increase in the Demographic Component of the LOG, it seems to us that these funding recommendations move the TDSB in the right direction

59. The Ministry should increase benchmark costs for all components of the funding formula (Foundations Grant, Special Purpose Grant, Pupil Accomodation Grant) to close gap between funding provided and actual costs of operations.

60. The Ministry, in consultation with school boards and other members of the educational community, should develop mechanisms for annually reviewing and updating benchmarks in the funding formula and for conducting a more comprehensive overall review of the funding formula every five years.

61. The Ministry should increase Demographic Component of the LOG to the level stipulated by the 1997 Expert Panel that studied the creation of the Learning Opportunities Grant — $400 million (adjusted to reflect inflation).

62. The Ministry should “sweater” the Demographic Component of the Learning Opportunities Grant so that the funds received by the Board are used solely for providing programs to mitigate socio-economic factors affecting marginalized students. The new Demographic component should include a built-in accountability process mandating that school boards report annually on the programs and services funded by the grant and on their effectiveness.

63. The Ministry should reconstitute the Local Priorities Amount as 5% of the Basic Amount of school boards’ Pupil Foundation Grant (updated as per above noted recommendation), and that Boards apply the Local Priorities Amount to locally established priorities, programs and services aimed at the continuous improvement of student learning and achievements with particular focus paid to at risk schools.

64. The Ministry should require school boards, through their Directors of Education, to consult with principals and school councils for the purposes of developing a plan for the use of the Local Priorities Amount and to annually review the plans and report publicly to all stakeholders and to the Ministry on the results achieved through the implementation of the plans, in individual schools and in the district as a whole.

Falconer’s analysis of the current financial crisis in education funding is especially valuable. He has paid attention to the serious critics of the Tory/Liberal financial formula and has clearly laid out the basic argument against the structure and implementation of provincial funding. It is worth briefly repeating the argument in which the report “addresses two central themes: (1) the gap between the funding provided by the provincial government and the actual operating costs of the Board; and (2) the failure to ‘sweater’ the Learning Opportunity Grants that were intended for complex-needs or at risk youth.”

The funding formula, brought in by the Tories in the 1998-99 school year, was “designed to provide less funding than was actually required to fund the actual costs of the education system.” There wasn’t enough money to fund the salary levels stipulated in teachers’ and school board workers’ collective agreements. There wasn’t enough money to fund school operations and maintenance because the formula understated what most boards spent per square foot and what most boards counted as square feet per student that had to be looked after. There wasn’t enough money to cover board’s actual transportation costs. There wasn’t enough money to take into account school costs that don’t go down as quickly as declining enrolment.

The Liberal government has improved the situation for teacher salaries and fixed costs relative to declining enrolment, but there remain huge education funding gaps in the 2007-2008 provincial budget: “$450 million for school operations; $128 million for adult education; and $232 million for the learning opportunity grant for programs for students at risk.”

Of the additional $677 million the Liberals spent on education in this 2007-2008 budget, $593 million was required to cover the costs of the final year of the provincial labour framework and the primary class size reduction policy. “The remaining $74 million in increased funding for 2007-2008,” says Hugh Mackenzie (quoted in the report), “would be barely sufficient to cover the remaining current year cost pressures, assuming inflation at 2% per year. This leaves no additional funding to deal with the carry-over of prior years’ funding pressures into 2007-2008, and no additional funding to address more fundamental structural problems with the funding formula.”

Falconer continues: “The gap between funding provided and the actual cost of operating a board has a ripple effect that negatively impacts on other areas. With its focus on classroom spending, the formula does not provide adequate funding for other forms of programming … substantial cuts were made to special education … significant cuts were made to programs designed to address local priorities that could not be anticipated by a central funding formula … a great deal of funding provided by the Learning Opportunity Grants was being used for operating costs.”

We now turn to the failure to “sweater” the Learning Opportunity Grants (LOGs) that were intended for “complex-needs or at risk youth.”

Like most grant funding at the TDSB, the LOG doesn’t have to be spent on those it was intended to help. The TDSB is projected to receive approximately $128 million in LOG funding for 2007-2008. This is by no means enough money, the Panel says, but even if it were, the TDSB would be spending a good chunk of it on operational costs rather than on children in poor neighbourhoods. In 2005, for example, the Board spent approximately $74 million of the LOG grant on these costs.

The Local Priorities Grant (LPG), which was often to be used for poor neighbourhoods and which the Liberals eliminated, was also often misused like the LOG Grant and assigned to operational costs.

The recommendations above deal with both the LOG and the LPG – and, again, it seems to us a good beginning.

What Falconer neglects, as we noted earlier, is where the money for fixing up the financial formula is going to come from. We recommend he continue to read Hugh Mackenzie, who, through the Ontario Alternative Budget, has directed our attention to increased taxes on corporate profits and the incomes of the well-to-do and very rich.

Here is Mackenzie’s latest thinking on where the money might come from in his January 2008 pre-budget analysis for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

On the fiscal capacity side, two key areas should be under consideration for rebuilding Ontario’s revenue base.

First, Ontario should follow up on its initiative in reporting on tax expenditures by repealing key tax expenditures that we can no longer afford. For example, the government’s own estimate indicates that the ill-conceived and poorly targeted exemption from the Employers Health Tax for the first $400,000 of payroll will cost the province more than $800 million this year…. And the Harris government’s decision to reduce the tax on capital gains income from 75% of the rate on normal income to 50% is costing Ontario more than $1.2 billion a year in foregone corporate and personal income tax revenue.

Second, Ontario really has no choice but to respond to the Federal Government’s refusal to share its fiscal wealth with provincial and local governments. Rather than increase its transfers to other orders of governments, the Federal Government has chosen to reduce its revenue base by billions of dollars through GST reductions and corporate income tax cuts. While this policy choice has cut off one of Ontario’s options for rebuilding its revenue base, it has opened up substantial tax room from which Ontario could raise badly needed additional revenue….

The current structure of the personal income tax in Canada does not even address the income levels that are the driving force behind this growing gap between the rich and the rest of us. The top Federal tax rate kicks in at $100,000 per year, an income below the level where all of the inequality action really starts.

Introducing a modest degree of progressivity into the tax system at income levels above $100,000 would strengthen the tax system’s response to the growing income gap, and would also raise substantial additional revenue from which public programs could be funded.

At present, Ontario’s progressive income tax system hits a maximum rate of less than $80,000 in annual income. For each 1% of taxable income above $100,000 Ontario would raise $400 million. For each 1% above $150,000, approximately $300 million. And for each 1% above $250 million, more than $200 million.

Community Hubs

The following abbreviated recommendations from the Falconer Report on community hubs move us in the right direction on this matter.

53. Inspections to insure that each school meets standards proscribed by the Fire Code, Electrical Code, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

54. Schools in marginalized communities should be designated as community hubs, incorporating local community organizations and groups.

55. Train administrators and school councils in community development and outreach principles and strategies.

56. Restore community outreach worker position – to gather, coordinate and act as clearing house concerning information about current programs and services provided by the existing community partners and schools.

57. Review level of caretaking staff at each school to determine if it is sufficient for building community hubs.

Our main objection to these recommendations is the limited role assigned to the community outreach worker position. As we argued earlier, this position should be a school-community organizer in each school, hired and fired by the school community council. The organizer’s primary role should be to integrate the community and school on curriculum and extra-curricular activities and in maintaining school safety.

Smaller Classes, More Teachers and School-Community Organizers.

In the short run, some schools may quite legitimately require more social workers, child and youth workers and youth counselors – as Falconer recommends – to help children with short-term issues and to help keep the lid on situations that are growing out of control. But these workers do not offer any long-term solution to the problems of school safety.

In the long run, what we need instead of such workers are smaller classes (which Falconer supports), more teachers and regular school board workers (which Falconer also supports) and locally-rooted and controlled school-community organizers. We recommend a very substantial increase in this form of staff hiring and in class-size reductions.

Rules and Regulations

As we argued earlier, what matters much more than externally imposed rules and regulations to create school safety is a school spirit of law and order that is the product of teachers, parents, students and the wider community working closely together everyday. In every school, however, there have to be some rules and regulations that offer some additional structure for school safety. These rule and regulations should be at a minimum, but they have to be there. We are not in a position to lay out what they should be because we think they should be worked out at the local school level. But we would very much like to hear from you on rules and regulations that genuinely work in your school and are not considered oppressive. We will incorporate your suggestions in a future draft as possible models to be followed.

Curriculum Equity and Inclusiveness

We have argued above that, in the context of on-going social class and racial struggles surrounding the TDSB, these two curriculum recommendations below hold very little weight in the actual practice of Board and provincial curriculum policy. If, however, these recommendations can be linked to real social class and racial struggles at the TDSB, then they may be able to be used progressively, so we include them in this section.

41. Curriculum reform should be implemented pursuant to the Equity Foundation Statement. There should be an action plan with specific time frames and accountabilities established.

45. TDSB should develop inclusive curriculum that will allow students to examine their own cultural and historical experiences and the experiences of living in their communities. Specifically, the TDSB should explore ways to incorporate African-centred perspectives and other forms of cultural knowledge in the education of youth.

Community and Teacher Input on Administrative Hiring

Recommendation #70 opens up discussion of much more teacher and community input into administrative hiring – not just for the Director and Associate Direction but also for local Principals and Vice Principals. As it stands, this “consultation” won’t mean much – there is no power attached to the community representatives in this process – but we leave it here in the hope that those reading this draft might want to suggest a much more democratic process for school board administrative hiring.

70. Community consultations around the qualifications, background and persectives of potential candidates for Director and Associate Director of the TDSB. [Communities will have no actual power in choosing these officials.]

Other Useful Recommendations

The following abbreviated recommendations from the Falconer Report should be supported.

32. Make it easy for teachers who want to transfer from “at risk communities” to do so.

39. Reaffirm TDSB initiatives with respect to diversity and equity in its recruitment practices. Furthermore the TDSB should establish specific targets and timeframes for employment equity. The Equity Foundation Statement should be implemented with respect to hiring and HR processes. This would include increasing the total numbers of internationally trained teachers.

40. Lower class sizes in LOI secondary schools to create more vacancies, and thereby, allow for movement of staff into these schools. This in turn will create vacancies across the system, which may ultimately be filled with new hires, who hopefully will enhance the cultural and racial diversity of TDSB teachers.

116. All schools should have a School Equity Committee to develop an equity focus on school improvement planning and identify the policies and practices that act as barriers to inclusion.

117. Develop a professional association of African-Canadian educators.

118. Set up an Ombudsman’s Office (possibly transitional) to vet complaints about school safety and advocate on behalf of students and their families.

126. Principals who accept positions in priority communities must make a 5 year commitment.

Appendix A

Recommendations for more provincial control over the TDSB, new bodies of educational authority beyond the TDSB, and a reduced role for trustees

1. TDSB reports to Provincial School Safety and Equity Officer on implementation of OHRC settlement.

8. Ministry should update, if necessary, teacher education programs in preparing teachers to respond to issues of sexual violence. These programs should be mandatory.

13. New Ministry “Violence Prevention Co-ordinator” responsible for implementing violence prevention programs in schools that are gender-sensitive and predicated on principles of equity and diversity.

15. New Ministry research study of safety issues affecting female students in order to ensure school safety policies appropriately address specific safety risks faced by female students.

19. New Ministry School Safety and Equity Officer as central repository for reporting on serious issues of school safety.

20. New Ministry mandatory reporting obligations for serious issues of school safety.

21. New Ministry mandatory reporting obligations for school staff.

22. New Ministry reporting protection legislation that would apply to all school board employees.

23. TDSB must implement policy that mirrors recommendations 20-22.

35. New Ministry review and enhancement of mandatory classroom management training for all secondary teachers, with special emphasis on the “at risk community.”

65. The TDSB should develop a job description for all trustees, which should detail the description between policy decisions and school operation decisions.

66. The TDSB should design a code of conduct for trustees, which should include, at a minimum: a) No trustee involvement in matters of school discipline b) No trustee engagement in operational decisions of a school c) No trustee conduct intended to embarrass or intimidate other trustees or TDSB staff d) No trustee breach of confidentiality of in-camera discussions in accordance with relevant statutes and Board policies c) No trustee action that usurps authority of the Board of Trustees

67. Mandatory trustee training course (upon election) that details their job description and code of conduct. Trustees should receive refresher training every year.

68. Ministry funding formula should include adequate funding for orientation and training of trustees.

69. Pay Chair of the Board a full-time salary [to strengthen Chair’s work with the administration and increase the Chair’s operative control of the Board’s trustees].

73. A Standing Education-Justice Committee, made up of high-level representatives from all Toronto school boards, Youth Court Judges, Youth Court Justices of the Peace, The Criminal Defense Bar, Crown Attorneys, the Toronto Police Service as well as representative of a court liason officer should be established. To deal with: interplay between youth education and criminal justice system, including safe school transfers.

74. Toronto Police Service should create a position of Staff Superintendent – Executive School Safety, to liaise and work with the Toronto Police Service with respect to policing issues that affect students.

119. The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth should conduct “a systemic review” of the First Nations School of Toronto.

120. The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth should conduct “a systemic review” of Westview Centennial Secondary School.

121. The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and the Implementation Task Force should work together to propose regulatory changes to the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 that would extend advocacy services to the education sector, for children and youth who already have a right of access to advocacy services pursuant to paragraphs for 15 (a)-(e) of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.

123. The Ministry should strike an independent Implementation Task Force to respond to the recommendations of this report, to oversee their implementation and to, where appropriate, apply the principles and recommendations Province-wide. The implementation group will report quaterly to the Ministry of Education.

124. Create an inter-agency body, including representatives from the TDSB and other school boards, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Police Service, the United Way of Greater Toronto, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and the Province of Ontario, be constituted to coordinate the institutional response to marginalized youth and communities.

125. The inter-agency body should develop a Strategic Plan, along with measurable goals, accountabilities and timetables.

Appendix B

1. Rules, regulations, programs and administrative structures imposed to respond to school violence

2. New rules and regulations to respond to sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence.

3. Programs to re-integrate and re-engage students who have carried out repeated acts of gender-based violence and prevent further violence.

5. Posting rules and regulations in schools

6. Revise and broaden TDSB “Online Code of Conduct” and student/parent declaration to address acts of cyber violence.

7 Staff development on causes of gender-based violence, prevention strategies and TDSB policies for responding to gender-based violence.

9. Student program on dynamics of violence against girls and women, healthy relationships, and acceptance of diverse racial and cultural groups.

10. Implement Newcomer Orientation Week to reduce vulnerabilities of newcomer students.

11. A TDSB safety and equity audit process.

12. A “safe space” program for female students and other vulnerable groups

14. Regular evaluation of violence prevention programs.

16. Public awareness campaign on issues of sexual assault and gender-based violence in the schools.

17. Student hotline for student victimization and bullying.

18. Outside management consultant to advice and train pro-active measures to counteract TDSB culture (“culture of fear”).

24. Student and teacher surveys every five years on school violence, racism and the police.

25. Above surveys should be large, random and representative of types of community and schools that make up the TDSB.

26. Anonymous canvassing of school community (students) on safety matters.

27. Create evaluation designs to evaluate programs aimed at reducing violence in schools.

28. Create weekly “Safety Incident Report” to document all incidents – violent and non-violent – related to school safety.

29. Create yearly detailed report on school safety issues based largely on the “Safety Incident Report”

30. Analyze suspension and expulsion data to look for bias against racialized or disabled students.

31. Multicultural, anti-racism staff development (in context of teachers being able to discipline without worrying about racism)

33. Teacher orientation for “complex needs” of “at risk” communities [focused on needs, to which school authorities respond, not rights and community-determined purposes].

34. School based teams to help family caregivers navigate and access the mental health services their children and youth require.

36. Development of classroom management skills, especially in “at risk communities.”

37. Teachers with less than 5 years experience should be mentored by senior teachers [in context of more effective classroom management].

38. Mandatory staff development for administrators on best practices in educational change [in context of more effective classroom management].

42. Identification of “at risk” students (with high absenteeism rates or have less than 7 credits by end of grade 9) for reporting to an attendance counselor. Measures to encourage attendance will include an advocate/mentor program. Suspension is discouraged.

43. Guidance counselors should meet with students with fewer than 7 credits to plan to obtain lost credits.

44. WRAPAROUND programming for potential dropouts.

46. Student Empowerment Programs and Leadership Opportunities for students [to develop, initiate and implement school safety programs].

47. Negotiate an increase in teacher supervision duties with an appropriate increase in remuneration to reflect the additional teacher workload.

48. An enhanced hall presence program that ensures that adult supervision is visual during class breaks and during arrival and dismissal.

49. Staff development for teachers and hall monitors emphasizing conflict resolution, crisis intervention and self-esteem building in student within a racial, cultural, and gender sensitive framework.

50 Crisis intervention for teachers

51. Code red procedures and staff team for all schools to provide crisis management until paramedics, police or firefighters arrive.

52. Increase numbers of school safety monitors and insure appropriate training, qualifications and remuneration.

71. Safe school transfers not be used as an alternative to discipline and only in exceptional circumstances.

72. Regulations restricting student transfers

78. On releasing young person charged with a criminal offense, criminal justice system should consider impact of any restrictions on school attendance.

79. Federal Department of Justice should require courts to consider impact of release conditions on young person’s access to education.

80. Crown Attorneys, Justices of the Peace, and Judges should be informed of impact of criminal justice system, including judicial interim release and sentencing dispositions, on access to education.

81. If a principal determines a transfer, imposed by police or judicial conditions, is not beneficial, he or she should contact TDSB court liaison officer to assist student in attempt to persuade police or court to change their conditions.

82. TDSB should allocate at least one court liaison officer for each of the three Toronto youth courts, and their role expanded beyond issues of judicial interim release to restorative justice.

83. Where a school has a suspension rate of 10% or higher, the Superintendent for the school must report the school to the “Well-Being and Equity Department”. A Needs Assessment will be conducted and the school provided with an integrated multi-disciplinary support team to address health issues in the school environment. The support team will consider whether it is necessary to conduct anonymous student and teacher surveys to identify safety concerns at the school.

84. Guidance counselors are responsible for ensuring suspended student receives his or her school work during suspension. If student has entered an A2S site, then the teacher at the A2S site should liaise with the guidance counselor.

85. After a student’s second suspension, a multi-disciplinary team will determine whether the student requires alternative education measures and/or counseling. For students who habitually misbehave, the team should consider whether the student should be placed in an A2S site for a full semester or longer on the needs of the student and their programs in the alternative education program.

87. Principals and teachers should be prohibited from sending children home as a form of punishment.

88. Adequate security measures to ensure that all potential storage areas for weapons (including lockers) are the subject of regular non-intrusive searches, including consideration for the random use of TDSB-owned canine units that specialize in firearms detection. Selection of schools must be random and reflect equity considerations.

89. School doors, apart from the front door, should be locked from the outside. Entry and exit from the school doors should be monitored by an adult at all times that the school is in use.

90. School uniforms should be presumed unless School Councils opt out. The uniforms should comply to the Ontario Human Rights code, be affordable, and, where necessary, subsidized.

91. Secondary schools should implement a student identification card (“lanyards”) system, to be worn around the neck.

92. The Toronto police should ensure that its data recording system can categorize incidents by school name to allow for ease of extraction and analysis of trends at individual schools.

111. Dismantle the “Safe School Culture” and the remove the “Safe Schools” moniker for all TDSB policies and deparment designations.

112. Create the Well-Being and Equity Department, incorporating the Safe and Caring Schools Department, and which will represent a partnership with the current equity team at the Board. The purpose of the reorganization is to ensure that equity considerations properly infuse all of the Board’s decision making concerning the discipline and safety of students.

113. Re-unite the various equity specialists in the Board with a view to reinventing the Equity team in a fashion that it is capable of fulfilling he mandate contemplated for the Well-Being and Equity Department.

114. TDSB required to produce an annual report on how it has implemented equity in its school safety actions.

115. Equity personnel should identify best practices in school safety procedures.

122. Encourage participation – and a larger voice — for children and youth in school safety in accordance with Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Appendix C

Recommendations supporting social/therapeutic services to deal with the impact of school violence.

4. Services for women and girls experiencing violence to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.

58. Create a wide range of club programs and recreational activities equally for males and females “to keep them out of trouble.”

75. The TDSB should offer A2S, the Support Program for Expelled Students and Strict Discipline School programs (or the equivalent after Bill 212 comes into force) for all Safe School Transfers irrespective of whether the interim conditions requiring the transfer were a result of conduct that occurred on or off school property.

76. A Safe School Transfer team in each school to determine needs of the transfer student received, including whether the student requires alternative education programming and/or access to a social worker, psychologist, and/or psychiatrist.

77. Orientation for new school for newly transferred student, including an explanation of the rules of the school and plan developed by safe school transfer team.

86. After Feb. 1, 2008, the TDSB, upon a decision to expel a student, should refer the student to a Support Program for Expelled Students site for a transitional period prior to returning to a non-Support Program for Expelled Students site.

93. Schools with high suspension rates, high drop out rates, high absentee rates, and high number of grade 9 students who have achieved less than 9 credits, should be staffed with a full time social worker, a full time child and youth worker (CYW) and a full time child and youth counselor (CYC).

94. The TDSB should hire 20 new full-time social workers.

95. These 20 new social workers should be dedicated to high priority schools determined by data on drop out rates, high absenteeism, suspension/expulsion data, LOI ranking and number of Safety Incident Reports.

96. These new social workers should not be assigned to more than 2 schools each.

97. The TDSB should hire 20 additional child and youth counselors.

98. These 20 new child and youth workers should be dedicated to high priority schools determined by data on drop out rates, high absenteeism, suspension/expulsion data, LOI ranking and number of Safety Incident Reports.

99. These new child and youth workers should not be assigned to more than 2 schools each.

100. The TDSB should hire 24 additional attendance counselors to meet the needs created by the mandatory learning to 18 provisions of Bill 82.

Appendix D

Recommendations not necessarily focused on external control

32. Make it easy for teachers who want to transfer from “at risk communities” to do so.

39. Reaffirms TDSB initiatives with respect to diversity and equity in its recruitment practices. Furthermore TDSB should establish specific targets and timeframes for employment equity. Equity Foundation Statement should be implemented with respect to hiring and HR processes. This would include increasing the total numbers of internationally trained teachers.

40. Lower class sizes in LOI secondary schools to create more vacancies, and thereby, allow for movement of staff into these schools. This in turn will create vacancies across the system which may ultimately be filled with new hires, who hopefully will enhance the cultural and racial diversity of TDSB teachers.

41. Curriculum reform should be implemented pursuant to the Equity Foundation Statement. There should be an action plan with specific time frames and accountabilities established. [There is no suggestion of what an action plan might look like in the report.]

45. TDSB should develop inclusive curriculum that will allow students to examine their own cultural and historical experiences and the experiences of living in their communities. Specifically, the TDSB should explore ways to incorporate African-centred perspectives and other forms of cultural knowledge in the education of youth.

53. Inspections to insure that each school meets standards proscribed by the Fire Code, Electrical Code, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

54. Schools in marginalized communities should be designated as community hubs, incorporating local community organizations and groups.

55. Train administrators and school councils in community development and outreach principles and strategies.

56. Restore community outreach worker position – to gather, coordinate and act as clearing house concerning information about current programs and services provided by the existing community partners and schools.

57. Review level of caretaking staff at each school to determine if it is sufficient for building community hubs.

59. Ministry should increase benchmark costs for all components of the funding formula (Foundations Grant, Special Purpose Grant, Pupil Accomodation Grant) to close gap between funding provided and actual costs of operations.

60. Ministry development of mechanisms for annually reviewing and updating benchmarks in the funding formula and for conducting a more comprehensive overall review of the funding formula every five years.

61. Ministry should increase Demographic Component of the LOG to $400 million (adjusted to reflect inflation).

62. Ministry should “sweater” the Demographic Component of the Learning Opportunities Grant so that the funds received by the Board are used solely for providing programs to mitigate socio-economic factors affecting marginalized students. Boards should report annually on the programs and services funded by the grant and on their effectiveness.

63. Ministry should reconstitute the Local Priorities Amount as 5% of he Basic Amount of (updated) school boards’ Pupil Foundation Grant, and that Boards apply the Local Priorities Amount to locally established priorities, programs and services aimed at the continuous improvement of student learning and achievements with particular focus paid to at risk schools.

64. Ministry should require boards to develop a plan for the use of the Local Priorities Amount and to annually review the plans and report publicly on results achieved in individual schools and in the district as a whole.

70. Community consultations around the qualifications, background and persectives of potential candidates for Director and Associate Director of the TDSB. [Communities will have no actual power in choosing these officials.]

116. All schools should have a School Equity Committee to develop an equity focus on school improvement planning and identify the policies and practices that act as barriers to inclusion.

117. Develop a professional association of African-Canadian educators.

118. An Ombudsman’s Office (possibly transitional) to vet complaints about school safety and advocate on behalf of students and their families.

126. Principals who accept positions in priority communities must make a 5 year commitment.


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