Ontario Introduces Anti-Bullying Legislation
On November 30, 2011, the Ontario government tabled Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act, 2011, legislation intended to address the issue of bullying in schools. This Bill, if passed, would amend the Education Act to include, among other things:
- a definition of bullying;
- a requirement that school boards implement policies promoting positive school environments that are inclusive and accepting of all pupils, and promoting the prevention of bullying;
- the designation of the third week in November as “Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week”;
- the prevention of bullying in schools in the provincial code of conduct;
- a requirement that agreements between school boards and other persons or entities regarding the use of a school operated by the board adhere to standards consistent with the provincial code of conduct; and
- a provision to support pupils who want to establish or lead activities that promote gender equity, anti-racism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
The legislation would also authorize the Minister to establish policies and guidelines with respect to disciplining pupils who engage in bullying, sexual assault, gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia, among other things. It would further authorize the Minister to establish policies and guidelines with respect to bullying prevention and intervention in schools.
On the same day, the Progressive Conservative Party tabled Bill 14, the Anti-Bullying Act, 2011, legislation that would, if passed, amend the Education Act, in part to:
- define bullying, including cyber-bullying;
- designate the third week in November as “Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week” in schools;
- add provisions to deal with bullying on school property or within 50 metres of a school site, during an activity conducted for a school purpose, or through the use of technology;
- require school boards to provide instruction on bullying prevention;
- require the Minister to develop a model bullying prevention plan to assist school boards; and
- require a principal to take certain steps once the principal is advised that bullying has occurred.
Under a majority government, a government Bill receives priority in the House over private member Bills; generally, government Bills pass, whereas private member Bills do not. In the current minority situation, more than one Bill on the same issue has been introduced to the House, and it remains to be seen whether Bill 13, as introduced, will pass, or whether it will be modified to garner the support of the House.
The progression of these two bills will be monitored closely, and updates will appear on a regular basis in this blog.