Monthly Archives: April 2011

Special Education Workshop on Bullying and Bill 212 in Ontario Public Schools

Good day students!  Anyone who is interested in presenting a workshop about bullying and cyber bullying of both heterosexual and LGBT students might find the following link to a PREZI presentation useful. If you haven’t used Prezi before it’s very simple:

  1. when you click on the link you will find yourself watching my digital animation video about bullying and cyberbullying.
  2. The screen is close-up. To minimize the picture click on the minus side on the right icon
  3. To fast forward the presentation to the next section click the forward arrow.
  4. There are PDFs, videos, documents, polls, essays and more embedded into all of the links in the presentation.

I hope you find it useful.

Copy of Workshop/Special Education Part III: Safe Schools Act and Anti-Bullying in Ontario Education on Prezi


Zero Tolerance in Ontario Schools … Extremist or Justifiable?

The public knows Bill 212, or the School Safety Act as Zero Tolerance, however the Bill itself does not mention the term zero tolerance anywhere in its legislation, nor was it meant to be used in an extreme manner. It was introduced in Ontario by the Ministry of Education in 2000 in response to the growing concerns of educators, students and families about incidents of bullying, violence, threatening and other criminal acts committed at both the elementary and secondary school levels.

The SSA’s premise was that the Ministry was cracking down on children with severely dysfunctional behaviours at school, particularly those who were victimizing educators and peers. The Bill gave educators rights they had not previously held:

  1. Administrators had the right to expel students
  2. Teachers had the right to suspend students for one day

The first year Bill 212 was enacted very few school boards saw an increase in student suspensions, however between 2002 – 2003 suspensions grew exponentially with a 7.2% increase province wide. There were cases when suspensions and expulsions were enacted for the slightest of reasons, making a mockery of the Bill and hence evoking the label zero tolerance. Generally however most schools in Ontario used the Bill as a reaction to harmful student behaviours such as bringing illegal weapons to school, threatening students with a weapon, physical and sexual assaults and so on. video: zero tolerance in schools

One unfair aspect of the Bill however was that some schools had only a very slight increase in suspensions while others increased suspensions in significant numbers. Usually this was due to a school’s location: rural schools did not suspend as frequently as urban schools and urban schools in needy communities experienced significantly more suspensions than urban schools in upscale neighbourhoods. In response to these imbalances the Ontario Human Rights Commission conducted informal interviews with a number of students and parents, one social worker, one lawyer and one teacher. What they discovered was that in addition to the difference in suspension stats between rural and urban schools, more black students than white students were being suspended, and children with behavioural disorders including those on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for these disorders were frequent targets of suspensions and expulsions. video: what was the problem with zero tolerance?

The Liberal government conducted a 5-year review of the Bill as recommended by the previous government and along with the OHRC report, they amended the Bill in an attempt to eradicate these issues. Mitigating Factors were introduced in 2005 and they were to be investigated and applied to all cases of student suspension and expulsion. Mitigating Factors included:

  1. if the student comprehended the long term consequences of her/his actions
  2. if the student comphrended the damages caused by her/his actions
  3. if the student was on an IEP for behaviour
  4. if the student was under significant duress eg, divorce or death in the family
  5. if the student was remorseful and made an attempt to right the wrong she/he had caused

and a number of other considerations. However MFs did not excuse intolerable student behaviour, nor did they always result in an alternative to suspension or expulsion. video: e-safety in schools

The extreme application of Bill 212 emphasized administrators’ differences in how the Bill was meant to be applied. However it also dealt harshly with students whose behaviour was unacceptable in a public school. Above all, victims’ rights were considered first and foremost which was the original intent of Bill 212. Is isuspension and expulsion extremist in cases of one incident of student misbehavior? It depends on the student’s actions. One school I knew of when I was still teaching in the elementary panel experienced a very distressing incident that involved what a student’s parents perceived as zero tolerance. A male student beat up his girlfriend on school premises. The administrator had him expelled but his parents appeal to the OHRC who had the boy instated into the same school as the victim. On his first day back at school the male student located the victim and beat her up again. Zero tolerance? I fail to see why the OHRC was successful in returning this student to school. Quite frankly I have never regarded OHRC with respect since that case, and for other reasons. OHRC is an extremist group, as are many human rights groups worldwide and this case is a strong argument as to why their legal power must be monitored closely by other associations, and by government. video: first grader with camping utensils suspended

In Ontario, Zero Tolerance appears to be a thing of the past, but issues dealing with student safety are an ongoing concern in both the elementary and secondary panels. The Federal Election has begun in Canada yet none of the government parties campaigning for the majority of seats in the House have even mentioned the SSA. Sweeping these issues under the rug however is not going to eliminate them.  Safe Schools and Zero Tolerance: Policy Program and Practice in Ontario

It Gets Better



Fact:  2% of all teens in Canada commit suicide annually.

Fact:  30% of all teen suicides in Canada are committed by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) youth.

Fact: LGBT teens do not commit suicide because of sexual their orientation; they commit suicide due to discrimination against their sexual orientation.

Fact: Most teen suicides are entirely preventable when adults watch for and respond to the signs.

Fact: Teens who commit suicide do not really want to die.

Fact:  LGBT teens live in terror that someone will “oust” them during their high school years.

Fact:  Sexual orientation is not a choice.

Fact:  Unless they are portrayed as abhorrent or tragic, there are no high school novels or literature that deal directly with LGBT relationships.  Suggested reading for the Ontario Ministry of Education curriculum to fight discrimination against LGBT teens:
10 LGBT teen novels that tackle teen suicide and bullying.

Yes Roman Catholic schools should use the above novels aimed at the emotional challenges of LGBT teens. Examination is not acceptance. It is learning, as much as working with a bunsen burner in a science lab (except you’re less likely to blow up the lab). Above all, Catholics, Jesus said it first and best:  judge not lest ye be judged. (Did you hear that, Damian Goddard?).

High school is the worst time to be an LGBT person. But high school truly is just a blip in time in your life… you will never see most of the bullies and other jerks who didn’t get you again (they’ll be in prison or fired for harrassment at their work place, probably). After high school your life begins and usually it rocks.  In other words, it gets better.

Don’t believe me? Here are some very cool people who are on your side: An Anti-Bullying Message from the NOH8 Campaign.

If you are considering coming out to your family try these steps:

  1. Is your family physically/verbally abusive? It may be best not to come out to them until you are older, graduated, working and living independently.
  2. Assuming your family isn’t physically/verbally abusive, approach your parents first and do so one at a time. Whichever parent you are closest to is a good place to start. There may be shock (or not), anger, sadness, a number of emotions. .
  3. If you are thrown out of the house you need shelter and protection.  The best person to approach is……..
  4.  …..your guidance counsellor. Ask for assistance in finding a temporary and then permanent home.  n.b.  If you live in a tiny, rural, extremely moralist community this may be a bad idea.  It may be wise to inform a counsellor at your post-secondary school instead.
  5. Forgive your parents and friends for not understanding.  Some people need time to process this information and will discriminate against you.  Even if your parents temporarily throw you out, when they are ready to accept you as a LGBT teen, forgive them and go home.
  6. Understand some of the uninformed reasons people may be prejudiced against you.  Put their fears to rest when you come out to them. Invite them to ask you questions (within reasons) to understand you better.
  7. Inform your family about PFLAG – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays a non-profit support group. If your family likes this organization, join it.
  8. Join a supportive gay club in your school (refer to #3 for further info).   Even Roman Catholic schools have clubs that deal with the challenges of homophobia.  That Catholic Bishops acknowledge LGBT students in the RC school system, and want to stop the discrimination  against these students is phenomenal….this goes against thousands of years  of RC history.
  9. Join  Download your own video and watch other people’s life stories.
  10. When it feels like no one understands or accepts you, remember that someone very powerful does: He died on the cross for you. That’s about as accepting as it gets.

When it gets dark, remember this little ode:

One day a LGBT teenager spoke to Jesus and said “Lord I am suffering so much in my life, will You walk with me during my life and never abaondon me?”
The Lord replied, “My dear child I will always walk with you and never abandon you.”
The LGBT teen walked along a long beach that reflected her life journey. When she finished her jorney, she looked back on the beach where she had been walking and saw that where she had suffered the most in her life there was only one set of footprints. She was greatly saddened by this and spoke to the Lord.
Lord you told me that you would walk with me during my life and would never abandon me, but when I was suffering the most there are only one set of footsteps in the sand. Why did You abandon me?”
The Lord looked at His child gently and said, “My dear child I love you very much and I would never abandon you.  Those times in your life where you see only one set of footsteps, when you suffered the most in your life, it was then that I carried you.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May…it’s not easy being Green


Good morning students. Let’s pick up from where we left off about an ambiguous platform regarding education during the General Election 2011 (Jack Layton). The Green Party as it turns out isn’t doing any better, in fact it sounds even more confused and confusing than the NDP. Check this painful interview with a Green Rep in B.C.
video: Isn’t the Green Party a 1 Issue Party?  

Ouch. Elizabeth needs to reconsider her media reps. Then again she probably couldn’t have answered issues about education any better than her young protege (ever noticed how many young and naive ecologists there are that comprise Green?). How does technology support education and the environment at the same time? I believe the party missed that point. How are they budgeting for education? Leaving 20 % is the least defined financial statement of most of the political parties in the election. And taking taxes off what they like and putting them onto things they don’t like is the most inane political statement I’ve heard since Sarah Palin said she would make a good President where foreign policy is concerned because she can see Russia from her home state of Alaska (groan).
video: Sarah Palin, Barbara Walters: Good Morning America Interview

Never mind, students. Rest assured Green won’t see the House any time soon.

NDP General Canada Election 2011 – Education Platform

Good afternoon students. Poor Jack. He hasn’t had the opportunity to be especially vocal about where the NDP stands on Canadian education. He seems awfully quiet about school. In fact for all my surfing the only tidbit I have pulled up about the NDP’s education platform is rather disturbing: teachers will be allowed to go on strike again. Yep. Strike.

Once I was a teacher who went on strike. I was entering the teaching profession in 1996 during the Mike Harris reign of terror and approximately 90% of the teachers I knew weren’t working after their unions advised us to walk out. Pretty hard to go against that kind of tide and work peacefully with colleagues when the strike is over.

Don’t get me wrong. There were many issues in education under the Tory government with which I didn’t agree but taking classroom time away from children, making kids into pawns if you will, is not the way to handle negotiations. Indeed when teachers returned to the classrooms our particular union advised us not to offer extra-curricular activities to children until further notice. What? Our staff went about reinstating the extra-curriculars on day one. And our union never did follow up. In other words, for another eight years until McGuinty took the throne we would still have waited on the go-ahead to continue children’s valuable after-school activities. Yeesh.

Layton suggests something along the lines of tax breaks for student loans but he hasn’t said it very loudly. Perhaps he’d change his mind if his party was voted in, which we know won’t happen. Meh. Save your vote for a party that has real power and that party is not the NDP.

video: Jack Layton Discusses NDP Education Platform 2011

Harper vs Ignatieff – Education Platform – Elections Canada 2011

Good afternoon students.

40% of Canadian voters have indicated their support for the Conservative government. Yikes. Heaven forbid you be misled and think the other 60% is for Ignatieff. Heck, no. There are those voters who haven’t responded, those who like Layton, those who want to go green and those who will likely spoil their ballot entirely.

This is not good. There are certain campaign promises of Harper’s that sound pretty good. I’m thinking specifically of Pathways to Education for elementary and secondary students but most of Harper’s promises are made on the wind anyway.

Ignatieff impresses me even less. He hasn’t really presented a campaign, at least not one that he’s broken down the numbers on and he hasn’t stated explicitly where the money is coming from. He has suggested big business naturally but I doubt every penny of the 8 billion he proposes for education and day care will come strictly from corporate taxes. Somebody somewhere else is going to take the hit for that. Anyhow he’s bringing back grants for post-secondary students and as wonderful as that sounds, we know students have to be in particularly difficult circumstances to receive them.

Visit the tongue-in-cheek debate if you will, a digital animation penned by yours truly.

video: Harper vs Ignatieff –  Canada General Election 2011 – Education

Canada’s General Election 2011 and Education – Details, Gentlemen, Details

Alright students.

1.       Let’s take a look at Harper’s engaging platform about Canadian education. In Harper’s case adult education is a major focus as a response to the recession his leadership helped to exacerbate across our nation. No he didn’t cause it, in all fairness we know it began south of the border with a little problem brought on by American mortgage loans, however Harper’s response to thousands of unemployed people was rather ambiguous, I thought.

This is the current Conservative platform for adult education in Canada: Support for Apprentices and Tradespersons

• Introduce the Apprenticeship Incentive Grant, a taxable cash grant of $1,000 per year (to a maximum of $2,000 per person) to help apprentices pay for the first two years of education and training.  Let me interrupt here. $1,000.00 a year to re-educate an adult in an apprenticeship?  Is Harper serious?  How many courses will that pay for? Maybe 2 courses and a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee during breaks? 

New Tradesperson’s Tools Deduction that gives workers an annual tax deduction of up to $500 for expenditures in excess of $1,000 for tools required as a condition of employment. Let me interrupt here. A tax deduction does not necessarily put cash back into one’s pocket. Out of pocket for 1K is still out-of-pocket for 1K. You don’t have the $1,000 for the new tool kit?  Call back when you do, kid.

• Raise the limit on the cost of tools eligible for the 100% capital cost allowance from $200 to $500. Let me interrupt hereWhoop de doo. This is to take place only when the “budget is balanced.”

New Apprenticeship Job Creation Tax Credit that provides employers who hire and train new apprentices a tax credit of up to $2,000 per year for each eligible apprentice. Let me interrupt here. Better a tax credit than a tax debit but notice how Harper slips it to the business enterprises in Canada? It’s all about the bucks with those Conservatives.
video: First Students to Interview Stephen Harper during 2011 election campaign – Harper put his foot in it again …  he actually admitted to the student interviewer that one thing he worried about when he was in university was the double digit unemployment rates that awaited him upon graduation….um, aren’t unemployment rates in the triple digits now, Harper?

2.    Let’s take a look at the Liberal Platform on Education:

*  among the new measures are a slew of proposals on education, including the Canadian Forces Veterans Learning Benefit, which would offer full tuition of up to four years of post-secondary education or trade education, for former soldiers, expected to cost an estimated $120 million over two years. Let me interrupt here. What??  Old soldiers can have free degrees?  What about young, current students who are attempting to enter the work force and add their tax dollars to the Canadian pool?

TUITION UP 200 PER CENT: Tuition fees have more than doubled since the B.C. Liberals took office. Underfunding of trades and apprenticeship training has meant long waiting lists even while there is a looming trades shortage in the province. Colleges and universities across the province have had no choice but to cut programs and staff positions. Let me interrupt here. Once again it’s all about the adults and never mind the kids. The scary thing about B.C. is Harper’s platform speaks directly to those struggling post-secondary students but if they are attentive it won’t escape these students’ notice that Vets get free degrees under Harper’s regime and they, alas, never, ever will.

Article: Liberal Platform Numbers ‘Don’t Add Up’ Harper says – that’s because Ignatieff is going to tax big business rather than the little guy (you know, the traditionally Liberal approach Liberals take to such matters)….that’s what Harper is all in a tizzy over and is in such a hurry to point out to Canadian corporations.
video: Michael Ignatieff on Education – what does China have to do with anything?
video:  Digital animation:  Conservative Party of Canada Follies Episode # 33

3.     Let’s look at the NDP Platform on Education.

*  They don’t have one.  Nothing. Let me interrupt here. Who cares?  They aren’t going to win anyway.

*  oh here’s  a nugget for you:  EDUCATION AS AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE – The platform is silent about the NDP’s plan to let teachers and support workers go on strike.

  • o        Carole James, pre-platform: “I don’t support essential service legislation for teachers.” – source: Vancouver Sun, 16 Jul 04
  • o        Carole James, pre-platform: (Smyth): So you would remove education as an essential service, a designation it has now, and allow teachers to strike.” (James): “I would.” – source: Mike Smyth Show, CKN

Let me interrupt here.  Teachers can strike. Kids can stay home and not learn. Remember the Ontario fiasco? Oh Jack, Jack, Jack. Naturally the NDP are silent about education. Who’s going to vote for that?

Into which ring shall I throw my hat?  Not Conservative.  I don’t like recessions.  Not NDP. I don’t like invisible platforms. I guess I’m stuck with Liberal. Nothing much going on with education except some $4,000.00 grants for post-secondary students, (good), but there are a few promises (ahem) outside of education that sound almost plausible.  I don’t know. When I wake up tomorrow I’ll probably decide to vote green. Or spoil my ballot. That’ll teach them. Class is over.
video:  Jack Layton Responds to Harper Budget – I couldn’t find a YouTube about Layton and education, naturally …  remember he’s keeping that whole teacher strike thing on the down-low.

Article:  Election 2011: Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff – Education and Defence

Dyslexia in the Classroom

Good afternoon students.

Many people think dyslexia is a simplistic disorder whereby people write letters and numbers backwards. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that was dyslexia’s biggest challenge! Reversed letters and numbers may be a symptom of dyslexia however not every dyslexic person reverses letters, and children in grade school may reverse letters for a number of years and not be dyslexic. Dyslexia is a chronic learning disorder that disrupts a person’s comprehension in being able to read, speak, and spell. There are at least 4 dyslexias that have been identified and lead to significant difficulty with phonological awareness, phonological decoding, orthographic coding, auditory short-term memory.

Got that?  In plainer english dyslexics struggle with reading, reading comprehension and writing. There is also a mathetmatical form of dyslexia known as dyscalculia. These people struggle with comprehending arithmetic, and in number alignment. A dyslexic person might see letters and words move around on a page, or words might change colours. Other dyslexics see text in a highly disjointed manner.

An example of a severely dyslexic grade 2 child’s handwriting.    The story is a copy of the itsy bitsy spider. Click the image to see how much you can read and comprehend the child’s writing. Most dyslexics are highly intelligent. Some are brilliant and lead outstanding lives: Mozart, John F. Kennedy, Leonardo DaVinci, Mohammed Ali, George Clooney, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein,Winston Churchill, the list is endless. It’s hard to argue against a list as impressive as this one.

Where does dyslexia originate? In the left hemisphere in the posterior lobe of the brain. Scientists aren’t entirely certain what is happening in this area. Some science journals simply call it a “glitch” in the brain’s wiring although this doesn’t come close to a true explanation. Dyslexia is either acquired (alexia) or inherited. Often the family of a dyslexic person are very poor readers and writers although they may not be dyslexics. Alexia is due to brain injury or trauma.
video: What is it like to have dyslexia? Animations and illustrations.

Dyslexia is not classified as a learning disability, just as ADHD and ADD are not considered disabilities. They are neurological disorders because they originate in the brain (in the case of ADHD and ADD an imbalance in neurotransmitters seems to be responsible for attention issues). As such the province does not provide funding for dyslexia in the way of assistive technology. Nor does it offer the services of special education teachers who are trained in working with dyslexia. Traditionally schools simply placed dyslexic children into special education programs that were too simplistic for the child’s comphrehension and these children became become bored and frustrated. Lately more school boards are providing special education teachers with training in dyslexia in order to teach dyslexic children techniques in learning how to read and write more fluently. However school boards are not mandated by the Ontario Ministry of Education to provide this service. A shame.
Blog:  The Single Best Time Management Tip Ever

Website:  Discovering Dyslexia  Prezi: The Challenging Gift of Dyslexia

Ontario’s Educational Paradigm – Time for Change?

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Cyberbullying and Safe Schools Act

Good afternoon students.

Although SSA officially became part of the Ontario Ministry of Education Act (Act) in 1990 the ongoing issue of bullying and now cyberbullying has become very serious. Cyberbullying is especially menacing since kids can hide behind an anonymous online identity and send threatening and hurtful messages to each other. Several children across North America have committed suicide over this phenomenon.

An unprecedented case is the Phoebe Prince case, currently ongoing in criminal court in Massachusetts. A number of peers cyberbullied and bullied her relentlessly and even though her mother approach two educators no action was taken. After a particularly difficult day at school, Phoebe committed suicide in her bedroom. I know her mother attempted to stop the bullying but personally I would have pulled my child out of school and contacted the school board, as well as the police, if that was happening to my daughter. I don’t blame the mother. I do believe the poor woman had no idea of her rights, as she was a recent immigrant from Ireland but what a shame on so many levels that young Phoebe felt so isolated and destitute.
video: Phoebe Prince, 15, may have committed suicide because of cyber bullying.

The case is unprecedented because six teenagers have been criminally charged in connection with this case. Two of the teens are being tried in adult court since they are of legal age. Currently Phoebe’s Law is on the books in Massachusetts dealing specifically with cyberbullying and bullying. Prezi: Workshop/Anti-Bullying and Safe Schools Act in Ontario

In Ontario cyberbullying and bullying is a criminal charge and receives an automatic suspension.  On a principal’s request it can lead to expulsion even if the act occurs only once.  That’s the stuff we need here.  This is not a kids’ game. This is not a stage children are going through…it’s brutalization, plain and simple.
video: Cyberbullying’s Got 2 Go Assemblies by Bruce Langford

I will be watching the headlines to see what happens to the bullies responsible for ending Phoebe’s life.  I’m sure a lot of people in the world will be doing the same.

video: Larry King Live Interviews Bullying Expert Dr Debra Pepler of York University
video:  It Gets Better-  LGBT Anti-Bullying Movement