Toronto - The Toronto District School Board today received an Interim Status Report from the School Community Safety Advisory Panel, and reinforced its commitment to ensuring that its schools are safe and welcoming learning environments.

The Board appointed the panel on June 5, 2007, following the shooting death of Jordan Manners at C.W. Jefferys C.I. on May 23, 2007. The panel, lawyer Julian Falconer (Chair); Linda MacKinnon, a retired Superintendent of Education; and Peggy Edwards, who has extensive experience in community development, examined the conditions that existed at the school prior to the incident, and the many issues raised by teachers, students, parents, and the community since.

"Student and school safety has always been extremely important to the TDSB," says Gerry Connelly, Director of Education for the Board. "We are reviewing the panel's findings and recommendations, and will continue to make the changes that will ensure our schools remain safe and welcoming learning environments."

The panel's recommendations are as follows:

  1. The completion of a Building Safety Audit at C.W. Jefferys
    • The audit will be completed by the end of this week.
  2. Additional human resources for North West 2
    • We will be adding senior resources to this area in the near future.
  3. Mediation between the Trustee and Superintendent in North West 2
    • Both parties have agreed to this.
  4. Extension of the Panel's work to other schools in North West 2
    • The proposal is before the Board for consideration.
Three recurring themes that students identified are: students in the hallways that shouldn't be, safe school transfers, and student-teacher relationships. We are going to be focussing our efforts on these concerns as well.

74 per cent of students at C.W. Jefferys still believe that the school is safe. Theft, bullying and weapons are still a concern. And while no one at the school reported seeing a gun, there was at least one gun at the school on May 23. One gun is one too many.

Already, the Board has implemented several improvements across the system and in C.W. Jefferys specifically, effective for the 2007-2008 school year:

  • All schools will continue to have a Safe Schools Accountability Framework which includes implementation and monitoring of specific policies, procedures and programs. This includes mandatory practicing of lockdown and fire drill procedures, local entry and exit protocols, establishment of Safe Schools Committees, development of Safe School Action Plans and Bullying Prevention Plans. This document requires a "sign off" by administrators indicating that they have read them, communicated them to appropriate staff, and implemented them. The Superintendents of Education monitor compliance.
  • All Secondary Schools will participate in the Empowered Student Partnerships (ESP), a student-driven safety program administered jointly with TDSB, Toronto Police Service and the Canadian Safe Schools Network. ESP empowers students to take action towards creating safer schools and communities.
  • All schools with Grades 7 and 9 students and classrooms will participate in PEACE (Public Education and Crime Eradication), a project developed in partnership with the Toronto Police Service. This initiative promotes awareness of gun and gang violence through education, prevention and follow up of inappropriate gang conduct.
  • All schools will engage parents, staff and community partners through the establishment of Safe Schools Committees. This committee will contribute to the development of a school's Safe Schools Action Plan, which includes Bullying Prevention program.
  • All schools will be required to conduct "lockdown" and "fire drill" practices during the month of September.
  • Safe and Caring Schools Weeks in the TDSB this year will be recognized during the period of 10 – 21 September. All schools will highlight and recognize partnership work, student leadership and programs that develop and sustain welcoming and caring learning environments. Further details on in September.

This summer we launched a highly successful Focus on Youth program in 106 schools, engaging 200 youth in high needs neighbourhoods. This included workshops on Peer Mediation, Job Readiness, and dealing with challenging issues.

Gerry Connelly noted that a focus on security and discipline alone isn't enough to generate a safe environment.

"While we must do all we can to eliminate violence and anti-social behaviour from our schools, we're equally committed to making our schools a nurturing, learning environment and to engaging our students," says Connelly. "Students need to feel safe in every sense – physically, academically and emotionally. A caring school with strong parent and community involvement, where there is respect and trust, will create a framework for safety and the best outcomes for our students."