Safe schools in Outaouais
The right to safe schools is enshrined in Quebec law. Bill 56: An Act to Prevent and Stop Bullying and Violence in Schools was adopted in 2012 and includes articles explaining how everyone involved in childhood daytime school activities is made responsible for safe schools.
Most folks who come through the school systems in Outaouais have inspiring stories to share about how their schooling shaped the successful people they are. Teachers are the front-line professionals in this big system and what a gift they are. All the commissioners, administrators, principles, parents, daycare workers, all the volunteers and specialists, the managers and the ombudsman officials; these folks give so much of themselves to creating childhoods fit for our community.
That a provincial law was deemed necessary back in 2012 is telling. It indicates there was a need pressing enough to improve the safety for everyone involved. It is impossible that the need for safety has been completely eradicated since the passing of the law. This is despite the impact of anti-bullying campaigns like Pink Shirt Day that went so far as to inspire a pink wave at the House of Commons during the Jody Wilson-Raybould debate. Check it out on CPAC (cpac.ca).
Knowing that unsafe experiences are ongoing in most school boards across the province, it comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention that violence and disrespectful incidents are a weekly occurence in West Quebec schools. It is heartbreaking and common. This opinion piece is not focused on solutions; it is to acknowledge that there is a system that can be used as a way to rid our school system of this violence. The law provides the means to determine what is actually bullying and what is conflict or disagreement, a necessary part of interpersonal growth and schooling. The law provides for how to coach people following improper behaviour. The act provides for how to apply consequences to proven transgressions.
The police and doctors are part of this system, and so is the DPJ (child protection services). Here is the key, though. Which teacher is advised and consulted about a child who is hurt at school and then what that teacher does with the information only works when the system is actually used. A principle getting involved, the police, the director general of a school board or head teacher - all these steps in the safe school system are insisted upon by Quebec law.
Emotions on the part of any party are important, of course. But the account of events and of steps taken within the roadmap of ensuring safe schools need to be recorded and shared with each of the officials along the path to resolving unsafe situations.
This subject needs to be expressed by the Bulletin at this time because the news teams at the Bulletin and sister papers, the Pontiac Journal and the West Quebec Post are working on stories relating to all local school boards and the level of adherence to the Quebec law on safe schooling. The purpose of this journalism is to provide a public account of the steps the school boards take as they face improvements.