Tuesday 22 June 1993

Education Statute Law Amendment Act, 1993, Bill 4


*Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York North/-Nord L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Eddy, Ron (Brant-Haldimand L)

*Carter, Jenny (Peterborough ND)

*Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC)

*Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

McGuinty, Dalton (Ottawa South/-Sud L)

*O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York ND)

*O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Rizzo, Tony (Oakwood ND)

*Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Malkowski, Gary (York East/-Est ND) for Mr Owens

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC) for Mrs Cunningham

Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND) for Mr Hope

Also taking part / Autres participants et participantes:

Goldberg, Deborah, legal counsel, Ministry of Education and Training

Lindhout, Julie, director, legislation branch, Ministry of Education and Training

Riley, Michael, legal counsel, Ministry of Education and Training

Clerks pro tem / Greffières par intérim:

Mellor, Lynn

Pajeska, Donna

Staff / Personnel: Beecroft, Doug, legislative counsel

The committee met at 1622 in committee room 151.


Consideration of Bill 4, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to Education / Loi modifiant certaines lois en ce qui concerne l'éducation.

The Vice-Chair (Mr Ron Eddy): Good afternoon. The standing committee on social development is now in session on Bill 4, An Act to amend certain Acts relating to Education, and we're in clause-by-clause.

Are there any amendments pertaining to sections 1 to 10 at this time? None? Any comments on sections 1 to 10? None? Shall sections 1 to 10 carry? Carried.

Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): Mr Chair, I would like to point out to Mr Malkowski how agreeable I've been so far in the meeting.

The Vice-Chair: Section 11.

Mr Charles Beer (York North): I have an amendment to subsection 11(4) of the bill, subsection 11(5.1) of the Education Act.

I move that section 11 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection:

"(4) Section 11 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Junior kindergarten

"(5.1) The regulations made under subsection (3) shall provide that every board is entitled to be paid a legislative grant sufficient to cover all capital expenditures incurred by the board for the purpose of complying with paragraph 6.2 of subsection 170(1)."'

The Vice-Chair: You've heard the amendment proposed by Mr Beer regarding section 11. Discussion?

Mr Beer: The purpose of this is that we have further amendments that relate to junior kindergarten, but in the event that those don't carry, we wanted it to be clear that if junior kindergartens were mandatory and had to be provided, one of the major concerns expressed by a number of boards, both those that have been before the committee and also those that have been in touch with us, is the problem around capital expenditures. This was to ensure that the province would provide sufficient funds to cover all capital expenditures incurred by the board.

Mr Jim Wilson (Simcoe West): I think the principle of the amendment as proposed by Mr Beer is a good one, because we've long complained, throughout the past eight or nine years, about the downloading that's occurred with respect to junior kindergarten. It seems to me that politicians at Queen's Park have taken a lot of credit for implementing junior kindergarten, for making the announcement that there shall be junior kindergarten throughout the province. Meanwhile, the school boards and the local property ratepayers have been stuck with many of the bills.

We certainly support the principle of the amendment. We have further amendments, as we get into sections 14 etc, with respect to the same principle.

Mr Tony Rizzo (Oakwood): A couple of days ago we were talking about the problem of paying for the capital expenses. Apparently, the member from the Conservative Party was saying, and I think rightly, that the ministry was forcing school boards to pay for capital expenses to accommodate junior kindergartens even if the program was not was not going to be implemented.

It must be somewhere else in the bill where this amendment is covered. In other words, it appears to me, from the discussions we were having, that there is the urgency to have junior kindergarten implemented; therefore, even if some boards were given the opportunity not to go through with it, still they were forced to build the accommodation. Is this the understanding we had? Margaret was talking about it.

Mr Jim Wilson: It's a government member who's speaking, so perhaps we could ask the government side to clarify that point.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): The normal capital expenditure considerations that have applied to JK over the last few years will continue to apply to JK, so there is facility through the normal capital allocations for school boards to apply. In fact, there is a special capital grant set aside for JK; it isn't going to be enough to cover everything everybody would want, but in order to be fair to those who have already gone before and the process that was applied there, it's only fair that we continue in that manner into the future, recognizing again the limitation on our ability to provide. I think the ministry makes every effort to accommodate; within the limitations, we do the best we can.

Mr Beer: I think the point of this, and I want to reiterate, is that this is something where, if the province is mandating a specific program and, as in the case of this one, it has capital implications, then the financial arrangement between the province and the boards at the present time does not cover all capital expenditures incurred by the board. What we're seeking to do here is to make that commitment very clear, because while there is a financial commitment the government currently makes, it is not the commitment that is set out in this proposed amendment.

Mr Martin: There is also a package that went out today before the meeting started from the ministry, a response to Mrs O'Neill's questions re the funding of junior kindergarten that you might want to have a look at as well, which speaks to the funding of various things.

We won't be supporting this amendment.

Mr Jim Wilson: I'd like a clarification from the parliamentary assistant. Though I've read the note provided by the ministry in response to Mrs O'Neill's question, what it doesn't address is, what is the shortfall in terms of capital dollars?

My school board in Simcoe county, the public school board, is having a very difficult time and will continue to have a difficult time implementing what's being mandated here by the government in terms of bringing in junior kindergarten. Part of the problem, I believe, is capital dollars.

The note indicates that treasury has allocated $50 million more in operating grants to the ministry, and goes on and gives all kinds of other figures. What I'd like to know is, capital funds are $95 million, but what is the projected total cost in the province to actually introduce junior kindergarten? That would be my question.


Mr Martin: We don't know, Mr Wilson, but what we're saying is that boards can continue to apply as they have re their capital needs. In this instance particularly, there's still $46.8 million remaining in the pot uncommitted that will go out to boards that will have some need, because they will expand into JK in the next three years because of this legislation.

Mrs Cunningham: One of the great concerns about this bill has been the downloading of the government on to local boards, and this is a perfect example. Ideally, it's fine for the government to ask school boards to be implementing junior kindergarten programs whether they can afford it or not; but I certainly support the intent of this amendment, that if in fact school boards are going to be asked to implement these junior kindergarten programs, the least the government can do is provide the capital funding.

I would ask at this point in time to the parliamentary assistant, if a school board is requiring capital funding this year for a new child care centre, even this year, I'd like to know exactly when it could get that money from the government of the province of Ontario if it were to ask for it this year. When will they get the money and how will they get it?

Ms Julie Lindhout: Most boards have already made their requests for this coming year, because that's through the normal capital forecast. The remaining boards I think are holding off to see what's happening with this bill and its regulations as to how they will apply, but the amount of money that is available for capital expenditures will remain available to them in this fiscal year if they should be applying for it early next year in preparation for next September.

Mrs Cunningham: Two years ago, anybody who asked for any capital dollars for schools or for additions, they would wait; the money would be flowed from the ministry three years down the road. They actually had the permission, but they had to go out and debenture. This year, the funding is changed again. We don't understand whether in fact the school boards will ever get money. They are now being allowed to borrow. My specific question was, if someone had an approval for an addition that included a junior kindergarten classroom, at what point could they expect to get the real dollars from the government of Ontario? It's a simple question.

Mr Martin: Our understanding is that the JK money is in a special pot and will be allocated as it's needed. As soon as people can get application in, then we can get it out.

Mr Beer: May I just have a clarification on this? Even apart from the committee, I think a lot of the discussion we've all had with school boards has been around capital. The overall capital program has been changed to a debenture one, and I want to make sure I understand. What you've said is that the capital dollars for junior kindergarten for this fiscal year are not through any debenture, the new program. But will that change after this year? Are you saying that this year that would come from a special pot, but then capital for junior kindergarten would be dealt with in the same way as the other capital, so it would be through the new corporation?

Mr Martin: Yes. My understanding is that once this $46.8 million runs out, then we're into the usual application for capital. The debenturing hasn't been finalized yet, but that's certainly where the ministry is looking, and I believe there will be some further direction in the not-too-distant future around that.

Mr Beer: Just to make sure it's on the record, what you're saying is the $95 million in capital funds for 1994, there's $46.8 million that remains uncommitted, which is in a separate fund.

Mr Martin: Yes.

Mr Beer: But that amount is not 100% of capital for junior kindergarten. In some instances is the province paying 100% of the capital expenditure, or does that vary from board to board?

Mr Martin: I'm told it varies from board to board.

Mr Beer: What would the basis for that be? Would that relate to the board's assessment base, grant rate and so on? I see some nodding heads.

Ms Lindhout: It depends on the board's capital grant position, which is not exactly the same as the general legislative grant position, and it depends on the plans that they submit. It's based on the standard rating of their plans.

Mr Jim Wilson: Just going back to the response I received from the parliamentary assistant regarding the capital funds, it strikes me as passing strange that the government doesn't know, even though the concept and the urging to implement junior kindergarten has been around for a number of years, what the total cost is of the program.

The parliamentary assistant's assistant indicated on the record that there's $46.8 million left in the pot of the $95 million, and I believe I heard her say that school boards were waiting for this legislation.

It strikes me that the reason there's money in the pot is school boards have been very hesitant to move ahead with junior kindergarten. They've not taken the government up on the money to date because of the uncertainty out there, and what this legislation does is put a gun to their head and say "You have to do it." Now, there is a provision for an extension of three years if they don't do it right away which the bill mandates under special circumstances, I gather, but I think it's a misrepresentation to say that school boards are out there waiting for this legislation to actually fire the bullet in their heads.

I still want to know. I can't understand in this day and age of budget restraints how anyone could download a program and not know the cost of it. That's unconscionable and I can't understand why the government would do that. That's the crux of the problem that we deal with when we visit our school boards. They think we live in La-La Land up here. If they don't have a total handle on what the cost is, then we shouldn't be moving forward with this part of this legislation.

Mr Martin: It's important to note that not all boards need new spaces to accommodate this reality. The original $95 million was calculated on what we approximated it would cost to introduce junior kindergarten across the board in Ontario, and it's playing out.

Mrs Cunningham: Whatever that means. All I know is that on April 23, the Treasurer announced that $635.6 million would be cut from the Ministry of Education and Training budget, including a $130-million deferment of operating grants and, I'll underline, the cancellation of $69.6 million in transition funding for school boards. That's the position of the government.

If we think for one minute that the government is going to cough up money for junior kindergarten programs -- we've never heard anybody come forward and say thank you yet, except in new schools, and I'm not even sure that policy is still in effect. You could respond in that regard if you want to.

The point of the matter is, many boards have chosen not to introduce junior kindergarten programs. My colleague is trying to say, if you're going to force them into it by this bill, then you'd better give them the money, because one of the reason they're not doing it is they haven't got the money, including capital.

I should also add that I don't think school boards down the road will ever see any real money in capital dollars after the recent actions of the government in the budget with regard to their new process for capital funding. We do not know, just because you have given school boards the right to borrow money, even from the government, if we will ever see them get it back. It may be interest-free money, but somebody is going to be paying in this province. I'm saying the local boards will pay, because that's been the position of the government, to download, time after time. This effort, on behalf of my colleague, is to make certain that the school boards get the capital dollars they need if in fact they're being forced to put forward junior kindergarten programs.


I don't think the answers from the parliamentary assistant are appropriate, and I think that I would ask him to take a look at the questions and come back, perhaps at another time, with the appropriate answers because I don't think they've been correct.

I challenge the parliamentary assistant with regard to the answers to the questions around whether or not anybody will see real dollars out of any special pot for junior kindergarten. I'd like him to check back with the deputy minister or with the finance department or with, in fact, the capital -- I forget the name of the department --

Interjection: Capital corporation.

Mrs Cunningham: Well, the capital corporation, we don't know how it's going to work because I've asked the question. But there is a department within the ministry that deals with capital allocations. It's not my understanding that there is a special pot for that. We've got experts here. Maybe we could ask them, but I don't think that's a correct answer.

Mr Martin: It's an interesting political statement, Mrs Cunningham. What I've said is that there's $46.8 million still in an account in the ministry targeted to junior kindergarten capital needs. That's as clear as I can put it. I don't know what you want me to say.

Mrs Cunningham: Well, I think it's interesting. We'll see what happens. I'm just saying I would like to see it allocated. My question to the department that's responsible for capital allocations will be -- and maybe we'll even ask you in the House: How much of that will be flowed before the end of this fiscal year?

Mr Martin: We have to wait to see. As I said, some boards already have spaces sitting there; others don't.

Mrs Cunningham: You could check with the Premier in his own riding. How much money has that board asked for and how much money has been flowed? Check with the Premier of this province.

Mr Martin: All I can say is there's $46.8 million left in a fund targeted to junior kindergarten and it will be there when these boards go ahead with implementing this once this legislation goes through.

Mr Jim Wilson: I'd like an explanation on this point from the parliamentary assistant with respect to the new capital corporation that is being set up to essentially borrow money on behalf of the taxpayers of Ontario to lend to schools for capital projects. How will that work? It has an implication with respect to the amendment we're now dealing with, with respect to capital funding for junior kindergarten.

An explanation from the parliamentary assistant on that point and the new system for funding that'll be put in place would be appropriate at this time.

Mr Martin: I can't respond to that whole issue. How it will roll out is still under discussion and has not been finalized as of yet.

Mr Jim Wilson: That simply isn't good enough. We're dealing with a bill that's spending taxpayers' dollars and we can't seem to get answers. The point here is that -- I'm the Health critic and we get the same answers from the Ministry of Health in terms of: They have a pot of money for new hospital capital projects. Same scenario here: There's a pot of money for junior kindergarten capital. It's $46.8 million.

We don't know what the shortfall will be in terms of when all the boards are forced to implement junior kindergarten. I suspect there will be a shortfall. I suspect the original $95 million doesn't cover the complete implementation of the program with respect to capital costs. If there's a shortfall, I imagine you call upon the capital corporation. I don't think the $46.8 million goes directly to school boards. It will be a payback, I would think, to the new capital corporation, which is going to go out on the money markets and borrow more money, get us into new debt which won't show up on Mr Laughren's books.

So, I think it's important that we know how the money's going to flow. Mr Martin may be under the impression that this $46.8 million is going to go directly to school boards; I doubt that, given the setup in the new capital corporation. If the parliamentary assistant can't respond to this, I think we should stand down this amendment, if that's appropriate, until we can get a full response on how the new capital corporation will flow dollars to capital projects and school boards, because there's the same problem in the Ministry of Health and the same problem in other ministries.

It's rather fundamental because taxpayers, at the end of the day, are responsible both for the debts of the province of Ontario, the borrowing of the province of Ontario and any borrowing by the new capital corporation.

Mr Martin: Again, it's an interesting political statement that the member makes, but it's not relevant in my mind to this --

Mr Jim Wilson: It's not a political statement.

The Vice-Chair: One speaker at a time, please, for Hansard. Would you complete, Mr Martin.

Mr Martin: Just it's an interesting political statement. There's work being done to try to manage the finances of the province in front of some tremendous demand and changes that we need to make for the betterment of children and people and we're going to be responsible. We have, as I said, $46.8 million in an account that is targeted to this initiative and we feel that it will go a long way to alleviating some of the pressure that this will cause.

Mr Beer: I think with all of the discussion we've had on this amendment I feel even more strongly the need to have it put forward and voted on. I thought yesterday that Mr Middleton from the York region board put it very well when he said that from his perspective as somebody who was in favour of junior kindergarten for his board the major problem was a financial one and particularly capital.

I think that is the problem facing a number of those boards, and therefore we need to make very sure, especially in this new context where moneys are scarce and, as my colleague for London North set out, with all of the cutbacks, that those capital expenditures are covered. I think the arguments have been made but I think this motion should be supported.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Wilson, had you completed?

Mr Jim Wilson: Oh no, Mr Chairman; I'm just getting started.

I just want to express that I'm disappointed in the responses from the government. I don't think that my questions were a political statement. I think what we got from the parliamentary assistant was clearly a political statement when he talked about the children of the province. These children are going to be adults some day, and the fact is, they're going to be stuck with some pretty large bills for some social theories that they didn't get an opportunity to comment on and we're not getting answers for at this committee.

None the less, I agree with Mr Beer that this should be voted on to indicate that certainly the PC Party will be supporting this amendment.

We will be revisiting this issue when we get to section 14, and perhaps Mr Martin, if he wants to have this committee flow with relative ease, might be able to provide us with some information by that point with respect to how we are going to be funding school projects in the future. I didn't make the political statement and I didn't introduce the legislation setting up the new capital corporations and I can't understand that members of the government don't seem to know what their treasury is doing, what their Premier is doing.

Mr Beer: Mr Chair, I'd like a recorded vote.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Beer has requested a recorded vote on his amendment to section 11 of the bill. All in favour?


Beer, Cunningham, O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Wilson (Simcoe West).

The Vice-Chair: All opposed?


Hope, Carter, Martin, Malkowski, O'Connor, Rizzo.

The Vice-Chair: The amendment is defeated.

Shall section 11 carry? All in favour? Opposed? Section 11 is carried.


Mrs Cunningham: We have a number of amendments to section 12.

With regard to subsection 12(1) of the bill, which is subsection 23(1.1) of the Education Act, I would move that subsection 23(1.1) of the Education Act, as set out in subsection 12(1) of the bill, be struck out and the following substituted:

"Period of suspension

"(1.1) A suspension under subsection (1) shall be for a period fixed by the principal, not exceeding such period as may be established by the board as the maximum period for suspensions under subsection (1)."

The intent of this amendment is that it revises the subsection to ensure that the length of suspension is at the discretion of the local school board.

I think that all of us, when we represent our constituents, are extremely concerned about local autonomy, and certainly I haven't met anybody who isn't. It's certainly a very large part of anybody's election platform when they're representing their own constituents within their own ridings. I think this is a non-partisan political statement to make Mr Martin happy, actually, because he doesn't like political statements, so I'm speaking on his behalf as well at this moment.

I should say that we had a couple of presentations, probably more than that -- but I think when you have people who are working on the front lines with students -- and suspensions, I think everyone would agree, are probably more prevalent at the secondary school level, although unfortunately I'm told that this is a clause that's now being used in our elementary schools to a greater degree than it has been in the past. We certainly did have, I think, some compelling input before the committee from the Ontario Public School Boards Association as well as the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, and we're supporting them in their concerns as they raise them to the members of the committee.

The Ontario Public School Boards Association does not support the amendment limiting the maximum time for suspension to 20 school days regardless of the reason for suspension. In certain circumstances, they point out, and given the seriousness of the offence, a suspension of 20 days is not sufficient. Length of suspension should be at the discretion of the local board. I really feel in this regard that I would like to hear the comments of the parliamentary assistant on behalf of the government.

This was not one of those amendments that received a lot of public discussion. I would guess that if anybody had anything to say about the government's intent in this regard, they would probably use, appropriately, the word "meddling." Teaching in our secondary and elementary schools in the province of Ontario in these times has become increasingly demanding, and we have to give as many tools to our local school boards as we can in order that they can deal with, I think, one of the greatest challenges of all, and that is the behaviour management problems and challenges that principals and teachers are facing in the schools. I am very surprised at this government with regard to this amendment.

Also in a non-partisan, non-political statement, because I really don't want to be accused of this, I will read again some comments from the Ontario secondary school teachers. I think all of us here should be listening to the input that comes before this committee. Otherwise, why do we bother having public hearings? Why do we bother asking professionals to come forward?

They say, with regard to the limit on school suspension, that in fact it does place the 20 days on the suspension of a pupil -- I would argue, who would know the right number anyway? They tell us that the amendment limits the discretion of all boards in this matter -- are we surprised? -- because of concern with the practices of a very few boards that issue suspensions longer than the target limit.

So here we go changing legislation once again because we have a few culprits who can't be dealt with appropriately through guidance, through some kinds of discussions management-wise. I can remember, actually, when I was first elected to the school board in 1973, that in those days in the province of Ontario principals strapped kids. That's what they did -- the strap -- and parents came forward. I see Mr Hope laughing. I'm afraid to ask him the question that I'd love to ask him, but I won't.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): I was a good kid.

Mrs Cunningham: If I ask you, you can ask me.

At any rate, I would just like to say that I can remember being very concerned as a parent and a representative of the public that this was taking place. We in the London board at the time were in the process of moving our principals around from school to school, and it was interesting how, in neighbourhoods where children had not received the strap, if you moved a principal into that community and he liked to use the strap, all of a sudden the kids were bad enough to deserve it. We had to do a lot of counselling of our secondary and elementary school principals with regard to behaviour management. I think this is a behaviour management issue and I think there should be some counselling and a lot of support given to schools. I don't think this is the time in our society to be taking away one of the tools they have. I thought their comments were worth repeating and I'm going to read them into the record.

They say that "the application of suspensions longer than 20 days is restricted to serious offenses, sometimes involving violence to students or teachers. The suspension is long enough in some cases to remove the student until the end of the term." That's sad because we want our young people in school, there's no doubt. But "the longer suspension is an alternative to expulsion, with its quasi-judicial formality. At the end of a suspension the pupil can be readmitted by the principal of the school without the necessity of a board hearing."

Mr Chairman, you were very much involved in local government and you know, when we get into any kind of board hearings, how expensive they are. So really, I think the teachers have brought forward a very real, valid concern with regard to this amendment.

They go on to say that "expulsion is a more serious form of discipline than suspension. The suspension can be imposed for conduct `injurious to the physical or mental wellbeing of others in the school.' `Others' can include pupils, teachers, or support employees."

They go on to say that "expulsion is restricted to the sanction of conduct `so refractory that the pupil's presence is injurious to other pupils."' They're actually quoting the act here and regulations.

"In this time of sometimes stressful relationships" -- this is a quote from the teachers -- "within the school setting, wherein assaults by pupils against teachers are a not-infrequent occurrence, it would be advisable to include a reference to them and to other board employees in the section on expulsion."

All I can say is that we have offered an alternative to this in our amendment, and I would be interested to hear the remarks of my colleagues around this table, because I don't really believe that the government is satisfied with this amendment the way it stands right now. We've offered something for them to consider.

Mrs Yvonne O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau): I'm quite confused by this amendment as well. I have had quite a bit of experience in this area and actually in making decisions in this area, both as a teacher and as a trustee.

If anyone at this table thinks that suspension is done or taken lightly, they're mistaken. I have very, very recent experience where suspension is the last resort. It's the last resort of a principal. The principal makes a decision on a suspension and he does it with a very, very limited set of guidelines or framework from the board of education or the separate school board, because policy is developed on suspensions locally, and the Education Act is the guide for that. That's the way many decisions regarding student behaviour are guided in many other areas of a student's life.

What I find, if we put a 20-day -- first of all, as my colleague has said, where does the number come from? Secondly, the 20 days then removes any discretion that people may have and, if I may even say, a sense of responsibility to try to either shorten or, in some cases, indeed lengthen the suspension; in other words, to review and to assess the suspension.

Those of you who have not sat on school boards likely don't realize that trustees review all suspensions. They review the suspension, the reason for it, the length of it, and they often review the suspensions every meeting to see just whether the status has changed, whether there's been an appeal.

So this is not an item that is taken lightly, either by the teacher, the principal, the administration of the school or certainly the administration of the board and the political representatives of the board.


What I find -- and I think the teachers are the ones who brought it to us -- is, this is very irrational. The school year is not defined in 20-day segments. So if we have this 20 days, it could mean that a student would have to be brought back the day before either the March break began or the day before a professional development day for one day. As a former teacher, I just don't feel that would be very useful. We know that the students who are suspended have problems. They have severe problems usually, and they know how, I'm sorry to say, to interfere with the system.

What we need for them are the things that are mentioned in our amendment. We need to ensure that the boards that are not bringing in extra resources are the boards that are going to have to do that and include that in their policy.

This amendment does nothing to serve the students and I think that's what this whole amendment to the Education Act should have as its bottom line: Is this going to make the learning environment better for students? I don't think this amendment does that.

Mr Jim Wilson: I'll perhaps begin my comments by just indicating a question to the parliamentary assistant, which would be: How did the government decide in its amendment here to the Education Act on the 20-day maximum? I'd be interested in that.

My comments would be that although we're dealing with the time period of suspensions -- and it's obvious that the PC amendment feels that we should stick to essentially what's in the Education Act now and not amend it to any great degree. In terms of the current Education Act, I just want to read the sentence. It says, "A principal may suspend a pupil for a fixed period, not in excess of a period determined by the board," and it goes on to list the reasons. That's subsection 23(1) of the current Education Act.

It goes to the question of why we have school boards in the first place. I thought the reason we had school boards and the reason we spend all this administrative money on school boards and why we have so many school boards, is that -- and we often heard this from the NDP in opposition -- each community is different and that we have boards out there to reflect community values and standards throughout the province. That, it seems to me, was the crux of why we have decentralized decision-making.

This particular government bill and this amendment dealing with a set time period for suspension is another little nail, I think, in the autonomy coffin of school boards. Once again, Queen's Park, Big Brother, is deciding and taking away discretionary powers of the school board. There may be, in high crime areas like Metro Toronto, good reason to suspend a pupil well beyond 20 days. There may be good reason to do that, and currently the act allows some flexibility, gives autonomy and respect to our trustees who are elected. I just, on really a philosophical basis, object to these types of amendments that once again pretend that Queen's Park has all the answers.

If you want to discuss about eliminating school boards, I'd be happy to have that discussion because it seems to me more and more, junior kindergarten -- we just had that discussion. Again, that decision's made at Queen's Park, and school boards, when it was voluntary to some extent under the Liberals, didn't play ball because they didn't have the money. So now we're going to force them to do it and now in a small way we're taking away some school board autonomy with respect to flexibility in terms of the period of time of suspension. So I'd appreciate the parliamentary assistant's comments on my comments.

Mr Martin: I want it to be noted that I didn't say we should do away with school boards; it was Mr Wilson.

Mr Jim Wilson: I'd be prepared to discuss that at any moment.

Mr Chairman, on a point of order: I didn't say we should either; I just think if you're going to strip their powers and their autonomy, then we'd better have a discussion of the crux of the matter.

The Vice-Chair: Thank you for the clarification.

Mr Martin: This amendment to the Education Act was in fact a request to provide some safeguards for students. I don't think there are any of us around here who don't know of cases where students have been suspended almost eternally as they went through their high school years. It was put in place so that there would be some pressure on boards to provide the kinds of services they need to turn the behaviour around that was causing the suspension in the first place.

The 20 days was a time period arrived at in discussion with some of these boards who indicated that was about the time they felt they would need to get the special services in place to deal with some of these students. Of course, the 20 days is a maximum. Any period less than that is still at the discretion of principals and boards, and if a student comes back and is disruptive again, he can be suspended for another 20 days. It just gives us points of contact with students more regularly than perhaps has happened in some instances.

This amendment is clearly done to protect kids and students and we feel is necessary as we try to serve, in more proactive and positive ways, some of those kids who at this point in time are not completing their high school.

Mr Beer: Just briefly, Mr Chair, there are two points I want to make on this one. The first, which I think reflects what some of my colleagues have said, does relate to what it is that we want school boards to do, the authorities that they have, and really I think allowing them to make some decisions. Quite frankly, I think if one were to look at what school boards do currently, what their own rules and approaches are within a ballpark, it is more effective not to put the period of time in, leave that to the boards and let them determine their own local situation.

The other point that I'd want to make, and I guess this really stems from my experience when I was Minister of Community and Social Services, is simply that clearly this is a whole area that is becoming much more difficult. We do have the two things we're trying to protect. On the one side, the children, the young people, have rights and those deserve to be protected. By the same token, the society has a right to certain protections, and I suppose the other kids in the classroom, where we're perhaps looking at having another student expelled or suspended.

I think at this point then we combine those two, where we're saying, "Look, at the local level, the board, and through the board the principal and the staff" -- I think in a way that was reflected when Mrs Cunningham was reading the OSSTF submission. If we really want this to work, I think it's best that we put that to the board and the board, together with the staff -- I mean, all of these groups that are now meeting around the safe school, there's a lot of very good work being done at that level and I think we should leave it there. I believe therefore that we shouldn't be putting the emphasis on 20 school days but rather leaving that to the discretion of the board.

Mrs O'Neill: Good point.

Mr Hope: First of all, just to reflect on some of Ms Cunningham's comments, yes, those who received straps could probably become politicians back in those days. I notice she mentioned that the OSSTF is opposed. Well, I must make sure that the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario is in support of the 20 days.

I'm going to speak on a more personal level, from the community perspective and the parent, dealing with parents and students and their rights. A lot of people don't pay attention to what goes on in school boards, and it's unfortunate at times of this nature, but I believe there has to be a mechanism which allows a governing, which allows a principal to carry out the duties and which will allow a consistent mechanism throughout the province around suspensions.


If we're dealing with expulsion, I'm sure the legal people could really deal with the expulsion aspect of it. But when we're dealing with a suspension, in the nature of a suspension, if you're talking about criminal activity I'm sure the expulsion rule would probably apply to that nature.

I'm not sure if the legal people would like to comment on the difference between suspension and expulsion in those terms, but if you don't, that's fine. I would just like to let the record know that I support what the legislation has proposed, not to exceed the 20 days, and if a period can be shorter, so be it. I just want to make sure the record knows that the Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario is also in support of that process.

Mr Jim Wilson: I guess what I find problematic with the parliamentary assistant's response to my earlier comments is that when we're talking about school board autonomy, we're also talking about trust, and what I gathered from his remarks is that somehow, once again, only Queen's Park knows what's good for the kids.

We elect and we pay school board trustees, directors of education and a whole slew of other good people to protect kids. That's their mandate, and to operate our schools. This amendment is perhaps a small amendment in the overall scheme of things, but I think it's important in the sense that once again Queen's Park is saying: "School boards, you're not doing your jobs. Trustees, you're not doing your jobs. We don't trust you. Hence, we have to put in a 20-day check period on your suspension decisions." I just find that problematic and, if I were a school board trustee, I might find it a bit offensive in terms of Queen's Park once again telling trustees how to do their jobs.

They're closest to the parents. They have to sit many nights a week at the school board meetings where parents and teachers and kids, children, come forward and make presentations on these topics. I think that if you're going to have local government, you should trust local government. Certainly, the PC amendment tries to respect local government, and I think the parliamentary assistant -- I hope the government would consider it a reasonable amendment.

Mr Martin: I think the member makes some valuable contributions there and statements. Certainly, school boards out there -- and I was a trustee before I arrived at this job -- do their best to provide a quality education for the children they represent or the families they represent. However, no system is perfect and there seems to be a rising momentum out there for -- even though everybody's trying to do his best for some standards to be set that we can measure movement on and activity on. In this instance, we will be setting somewhat of a standard across the province that will be set re the issue of expelling young people.

It's parents actually who have brought this issue to the attention of the ministry very clearly on behalf of the children they see not being served effectively and efficiently by the boards which their kids attend. It's in response to that that we feel to put in place a mechanism that creates a contact at least after 20 days between the student who's expelled -- so that it's no more sort of, as it is in some instances, out of sight, out of mind.

Interjection: Suspended.

Mr Martin: Suspended -- yes, I'm sorry. And that they come back and check in. The board knows the student's coming back and that there will be some things in place to hopefully correct some of the difficulty so the student can get on with life and the school can.

I also wanted to comment on the issue of violence in school. Again, it's in fact in recognition of that, in no way taking away from the reality that's out there, that schools are becoming in some instances a very difficult place in which to operate, that we do this as well. This clearly puts some onus on schools and boards to put in place special services for students who find themselves in difficulty, and hopefully it will go a long way to assist those students who, if they're not helped, can become a real problem for a board and a community.

I believe legal counsel Ms Goldberg was prepared to speak to the issue of expulsion versus suspension.

Ms Deborah Goldberg: If pupils are suspended, they still have a right to be pupils of the board, so there can't be any conditions imposed on their return to school. They still have a right to come back after the suspension has been completed. But there is nothing in here that would prevent the board from applying a series of suspensions to cover a greater period of time than 20 days. If pupils are expelled, then they have to reapply to the board to be readmitted to the school, and if they do that, then at that point the board can impose certain conditions on the pupils before it readmits the pupils.

Mrs Cunningham: I just want to remark on one of the observations that was made, I think by my friend and colleague from Chatham-Kent, with regard to the position of the women teachers. Basically they're talking about elementary students, and I can understand their concern.

Yes, I would agree with them. I would think that what we would be looking at here is flexibility for both elementary and secondary school principals. It would be pretty serious stuff in fact for an elementary student to be suspended for that amount of time, and I'm sure it hasn't happened frequently.

I would like to ask a question of Ms Goldberg. If in fact the boards now have the power, and this act doesn't change it with regards to a series of suspensions, what in your opinion is the purpose of setting a limit at all?

Ms Goldberg: The limit can function as a guideline for the boards, as an outer limit of what perhaps could be reasonable as a one-time suspension.

Mrs Cunningham: Thank you very much. If in fact this is to set the guideline, sometimes guidelines backfire on us and we use 20 days as the norm rather than the exception, and we all know about that. I think an interesting question would be, what is the track record of school boards in the last two or three years with regard to suspensions otherwise? How many suspensions have exceeded 20 days in both our secondary and elementary schools?

I'm sure the parliamentary assistant could get a quick answer to that. Otherwise there'd be no purpose in changing the legislation unless we have a problem, I would expect. So I would like the answer to that question.

Mr Beer: Mr Chair, while she's preparing to respond, if I could just make the comment that I think Mrs Cunningham made and should be underlined. It's that point about the 20 days, that one is not saying that does become necessarily the norm and that in particular what we're looking at is that the board might have a different approach with respect to elementary and secondary. But the point would be that it would be the locally elected body that would be making that decision, and I think that's an important point to make and an important distinction to make in terms of what happens sometimes when a number gets put into legislation.

Mrs O'Neill: I'm very saddened by the statements of the parliamentary assistant. I held his position, and I told you that I'd been involved in education for 22 years in administration and six years as a teacher. That's a long time. To have a parliamentary assistant of this province say that a student who is on suspension is out of sight and out of mind is despicable. That is saying so much about the teaching profession and so much about the boards in this province that it disgusts me.

I have made my statements more quietly before because I know what goes on. I've been in positions where students have been suspended because I have had difficulty in the classroom, and I've been on the other end of it where I have had to make the decision about extending a suspension or not.

These are not light decisions taken by responsible people, whether they're professionals or whether they're elected. The boards already have a lot of guidelines; I've said that. If you look at the conditions under which suspensions may take place, they are very stringent. They are conditions that involve a great deal of intervention on the part of a pupil to the disruption of the educational environment. To talk about 20 days is being a standard without any real, good reason -- I'm sorry, I haven't heard one yet.

If the government wants to help in this situation, there are ways: professional development for special education teachers, supporting the things my colleague Mr Beer has mentioned; the safety-in-the-schools project; thirdly, making sure the students have the supports in special education that they need. With budget 1993, the cutbacks are coming in special education. That may be a political statement, but it's a fact.


The boards in 1993 are having more difficulty. We all know of the breakdown of the family, and suspensions are often a result of that. The 20 days often does not give the school board the opportunity to build up the supports, whether they be from the local health community or whether they be within the school board operation itself. Sometimes you need more than 20 days to build up supports.

I cannot believe we are being so intransigent in this amendment that all that has been said from personal experience is being discounted and 20 days is the new magic number that every board in this province has to abide by. It's illogical, it's unreasonable and it's not going to help the students of Ontario.

Mr Hope: I find it interesting, listening to some of the comments --

Mrs Cunningham: How many times were you suspended?

Mr Hope: Why don't you just ask my school board? I'm sure they'll be willing to give it to you. I'm surprised it isn't out yet. It's amazing how you can become a politician.

As I've had the opportunity to look at the guilty till proven innocent process -- I raise that very clearly -- I'm glad we are putting protection in here, because we're talking about a maximum of 20 days. I looked at the appeal process with subsection (2.1), and it says that even though you may have served it, now it's just a determination of whether or not it stays on your record. I'm glad there is a limitation in there, because how many times does it actually get dealt with right away?

If they're saying and Ms Cunningham is saying, dealing with maximum suspension -- I notice she doesn't have an amendment put forward saying that guilt must be proven before penalties are applied.

I think the schools are looking for an effective way of dealing with the situation, and I agree with dealing with it. It gives the principals a mechanism to work with, but at the same time it allows protection.

I listened to some of the comments. In my own community, they were being taught about nudity in art class, and a child actually did that and was suspended. Then there were the family effects of suspension, and the family came to me and asked, "What are our rights?" I support the avenue of making sure that parents have a limitation, that there is a process in place that parents can go to.

You say that some boards don't take it lightly. I question some of our board members, and I'm not afraid to say that. I've questioned them many a time on their actions.

Mrs Cunningham: Did you hear that, Mr Martin?

Mr Hope: Well, I agree with some of the comments about getting rid of the board of trustees. Get rid of trustees, as far as I'm concerned.

The Vice-Chair: Please continue, Mr Hope.

Mr Hope: I'm looking at the process, because I look not only at the section but the whole process. The whole process talks about the conditions of suspension, the period of suspension and the appeals process. If there were no limitation, then you'd really have to seriously ask the question, does it make a mockery of the whole system? I'm glad there is a limit and I believe there really should be a limit to deal effectively, because you could be putting a person out there for a lengthy period of time, which is determined by the board, yet the person could be innocent. Where is the repercussion? How are you going to make up those days the child's been out of the school system? I ask that question.

Mrs Cunningham: I'm really impressed with this dissertation. If Mr Hope is correct in his observations, I share his concerns. We've got very big problems in our school system if we are having young people suspended who are not guilty of an offence. If that's something that he's observed or that has been brought to his attention, that's a whole different issue, I feel.

Mr Hope: It's the process --


Mrs Cunningham: Well, 20 days doesn't solve the problem.

The Vice-Chair: Please, one speaker at a time.

Mrs Cunningham: Mr Chairman, I asked a question with regard to statistics and I'd like to have the response to that now.

Mr Martin: We don't have those statistics, Ms Cunningham, but there are a number of boards that have a limit on the length of time for suspension that is less than 20 days, and we have lots of boards with no limits whatsoever. There is no guideline in terms of the time.

Mrs Cunningham: I would say that this amendment is about sameness and everything being the same, the total disregard for local autonomy. I think it certainly meets the criteria and the thinking of this government, and it has nothing to do with the needs in the system.

As a matter of fact, in response to my question, I think it was either yourself or the member for Chatham-Kent who talked about the fact that there's a rising momentum for standards; I can't remember which of you said it, but it was certainly one of you. If you're really serious about standards, let's fold this stuff right now and get talking about things that are really important in education; that is, core curriculum, testing of core curriculum, marks on report cards. Parents are crying out, and so are students, for standards, and young people in our universities and our colleges and our secondary schools now are saying they've been gypped because we are lacking in standards in our school system.

If that's what you want to talk about, that's what I thought I was elected to talk about, but to talk about it this way, wasting all this time on this omnibus bill on things that were neither asked for or necessary -- nobody's asking for it. You can't even give the statistics, and I have to say I'm not surprised. I'd like to say I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised.

If local boards have chosen to put a maximum of 15 or 10 days, that's their business. That's called local autonomy, and I don't think it's up to governments to interfere, and that's what's happening in this regard.

I have put forward an amendment that is supported both by the secondary school teachers and supported by trustees who are duly elected in their local constituencies to represent parents and students. I understand the concerns of the FWTAO. I haven't read it, but I do understand their concerns with regard to elementary school students. I think the fact that they've even raised it tells us that in society today we are facing more problems in discipline within our schools. I like to use that word, Mr Chairman; I know you approve of that word. All I can say is that taking away local decision-making and local methods for dealing with students who are discipline problems is not giving the support to our school boards and our teachers that they're looking for and require.

I'm not at all pleased that we haven't got answers to our questions, but I'm not surprised.

The Vice-Chair: Any other discussion? If not, shall the amendment proposed by Ms Cunningham to section 12(1) --

Mr Jim Wilson: Recorded vote.

The Vice-Chair: Shall the motion carry? All in favour of the amendment?


Beer, Cunningham, O'Neill (Ottawa-Rideau), Wilson.

The Vice-Chair: Opposed?


Carter, Hope, Malkowski, Martin, O'Connor, Rizzo.

The Vice-Chair: The amendment is lost.

Are there further amendments to section 12 at this time? Ms Cunningham.

Mrs Cunningham: This is a little more complicated. My colleague is going to read this one into the record.

Mr Jim Wilson: I move that subsection --

The Vice-Chair: Just a moment, please. Mr Hope, did you have a question?


Mr Hope: I'm just asking whether this motion is in order. Is the motion that's being put forward in order?

Mr Jim Wilson: If I haven't read it in, you can't rule on it. It doesn't exist until I read it.

Mr Hope: I'll let him read it and then I'll ask the question.

Mr Jim Wilson: It doesn't exist until I read it in, Mr Chairman. It's hard to rule on something that hasn't been read into the record.

I move that subsection 12(2) of the bill be struck out and the following substituted:

"(2) Section 23 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Effect of appeal

"(2.1) An appeal under subsection (2) does not stay the suspension and, if the suspension expires before the appeal is determined, the board shall determine whether the suspension should be confirmed or whether the record of the suspension should be removed or modified.

"(3) Subsection 23(3) of the act is amended by striking out the portion before clause (a) and substituting the following:

"Expulsion of pupil

"(3) A board may expel a pupil from its schools on the ground that the pupil's conduct is so refractory that the pupil's presence is injurious to other pupils or to teachers or board employees, if,

"(4) Section 23 of the act is amended by adding the following subsection:

"Committee to perform board functions

"(6) The board, by resolution, may direct that the powers and duties of the board under subsections (2) to (5) shall be exercised and performed by a committee of at least three members of the board named in the resolution or designated from time to time in accordance with the resolution."

Mrs Cunningham: Mr Chairman, I want to talk about the intent, that subsection 23(3) of the Education Act be amended by the addition of the words "or teachers or board employees" following the word "pupils." This amendment is intended to clarify the expulsion section of the act.

In this time of sometimes stressful relationships within a school setting, wherein assaults by pupils against teachers are a not infrequent occurrence, I'm sorry to observe, I think it would be advisable to include a reference to them and to other board employees in the section on expulsion. We're just adding a clarification here, for the parliamentary assistant.

That is the concern and certainly the recommendation of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, once again. I think everyone should pay close attention to this. They released a report that indicated that there was a 150% increase in assaults in schools between 1987 and 1989. That's of tremendous concern. Of the 881 schools surveyed across the province, about 20% of all schools in the province reported 441 major incidents ranging from biting, kicking and punching to the use of knives and firearms -- did we ever think we'd see this? -- and 6,300 minor incidents described as swearing, insubordination, threatening, crank or obscene phone calls and damage to teachers' cars or homes during the two schools years.

This is an extremely important piece of research that was done by the teachers and had, I think, rather important implications for the deliberations within school boards, and certainly with the Liberal government of the day, with regard to how they could deal with the rising incidence of assaults in schools and the discipline problems that have been brought to our attention by the teachers.

The victims of these assaults were very often students, but teachers and other school staff were also targets. We know we're not having assaults only on other students by students, but sometimes teachers, custodians and certainly administrative staff. That's why we're talking about adding the words "or teachers or board employees" following the word "pupils."

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation set up the Safe Schools Task Force in 1990, just at the time that this new government was elected, actually. They wanted to address the growing rate of school violence. The task force has made a number of recommendations to make our schools safer, and in light of the OSSTF's work on this matter, I feel the committee should accept its recommendation for amendment to subsection 23(3). I expect the government to give this particular amendment some consideration. In fact, I was surprised they didn't come back with an amendment of their own in this regard, because I think it would show serious support for the work of the teachers in a very important report over two school years in which more than 800 schools participated.

Mr Chairman, if it's appropriate, I would like the parliamentary assistant to respond here because this is one of the few opportunities we do have to give recognition to the teachers for their work, and this amendment was based on their work.

Mr Hope: Mine is of a technical nature, because I understand where Mrs Cunningham is coming from and I respect where she's coming from. My technical question to the legal people would be reform schools, or whatever they're now known as.

Mrs Cunningham: You, of all people, don't know the name of those, Mr Hope?

Mr Hope: Are you insinuating something?

Mrs Cunningham: Nothing.

Mr Hope: My first question would be, do they fall under this act, the Education Act, and if so, what implications could this clause have to that effect?

Mr Michael Riley: No, they're not operated by boards. Those would not be schools operated by boards.

Mr Hope: Then my question is, dealing with the expulsion of pupils in classes, because they do go to school, what implications would this clause have to that effect?

Mr Riley: I don't think it would extend to that situation at all. If a board were, for instance, offering services in, let's say, a correctional facility or some other type of facility, then this provision would not reach that at all, it not being a school of the board. It simply wouldn't extend to that, wouldn't affect it.

Ms Lindhout: I'd like to clarify the question, because there are the schools that come under the provincial schools authority which do not come under the boards. But there are classes taught by boards in correctional facilities, and this amendment would apply to those particular classes. It would have an impact on that, and it would have an impact on classes in care and treatment facilities and some of those institutions.

Mr Riley: If you come up with a definition of a school as being a class, that formed a class, yes. All right; that's right.

Mr Hope: Now that I've posed the question, because I understand where Mrs Cunningham is coming from, can it be reworded in order to accommodate the school system that Mrs Cunningham refers to?

Mrs Cunningham: I appreciate the question. I hadn't really thought about the section 27 schools within the corrections. I guess we're both asking the same question now. I didn't think this would be a problem, because within those schools there are still teachers, with regard to any definition of a teacher, and there are still board employees. If there weren't board employees, then I wouldn't think the words would be of concern to anybody. If we're looking at a corrections facility, where the section 27 schools exist, then "board employees" isn't a problem; it would just be the same person, the teacher or the supervisory officer. I can't see where this would be a problem with regard to the question that's been raised, but if it is, I'd appreciate hearing it.

Mr Hope: I would like to try to accommodate Mrs Cunningham. I would only suggest that maybe we could make a small deferral of this section to look at the legal complications that might be there and work it out.

Mrs Cunningham: I would agree with that.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Hope moves that the amendments to subsections 12(2), (3) and (4) be deferred at this time. Is that correct?

Mr Hope: Well, (2) and (6) or whatever, (2) and (4). It's just the one section of it.

The Vice-Chair: We're looking at it as one amendment, I think, if you wouldn't mind treating the one amendment at this time. All in favour?

Mr Hope: Of standing down?

The Vice-Chair: Yes. All in favour? Carried.


Mr Beer: We have an amendment to subsection 12(2) of the bill. I move that subsection 12(2) of the bill be amended by adding the following subsection to section 23 of the act:

"Review of suspensions

"(2.2) If a pupil is suspended more than once during a school year, the board shall ensure that a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person reviews the circumstances of the suspensions and informs the pupil and the pupil's parent or guardian of services that are available from the board or elsewhere in the community to assist the pupil."

Mr Chair, we've put this forward because I think it arises out of a number of issues that have come up. I appreciate that some might say that in effect that's probably what happens, but if you take into account the report Children First, which I think is a significant document, it talked about how we make sure that appropriate resources in the community, whether the health system, the social services system or elsewhere, are used to deal with and help pupils. When we're talking about suspensions, I don't think anyone here wants to lose sight of the fact that what we want to try to do is to help that pupil. We have to make it very clear that whatever kinds of suspensions or authorities we have and that we have to have to deal with a variety of situations, our focus is in getting appropriate resources to help that child or that pupil.

That's the intent of this amendment we're putting forward, because we think that it both speaks to a real need but also, within a legislative framework, I think may partly deal with some of the concerns that Mr Hope mentioned earlier. Clearly here, while a child is suspended, there is a legislative commitment, if you like, that we're going to provide the sort of supports and resources that young person needs.

Mr Hope: I understand where Mr Beer is coming from with this and I would agree, but it just bothers me a bit. Let's say I get two days' suspension here and two days' suspension there. Then you're going to tell me I'm under review, or that guidance counselling would be necessary. I would say that if there is a first suspension of a maximum period, then you should seriously look at counselling or guidance at that time, not wait until it's the second or third time. Let's try to prevent problems. I'm saying that if a suspension of a severe nature, of a maximum time frame, is put on a pupil, then there should be the opportunities to review at that time. Don't wait until the second or third time.

I only raise this question because there are quite a few suicide attempts by youth. Let's don't deal with the one- and two-day suspensions; let's look at the more severe aspects of suspensions and let's cope with the problems at that end. I only pose that question.

As it stands, I couldn't support it, but I would look at a way of reforming it so that it would accompany that problem that deals with the more severe suspensions.

Mr Larry O'Connor (Durham-York): Maybe we can have a little discussion on this. Actually, I tend not to agree with my colleague on this. I think that a discussion should take place early on so that the parents are well aware of the situation that is taking place within the school, and I think that's the intent behind Mr Beer's motion. It's not once we've got to the severe end of it and it's a real problem, and we're talking about somebody that's received the maximum suspension more than once. I think it would be far better if the counselling could take place long before we have maximum suspensions.

I think this motion as put forward certainly does deal with the severe problems that face parents and children and people in the teaching fields.

Mr Malkowski: I appreciate the amendments from Charles Beer, some very interesting points, but I need clarification from Mr Beer. Are you talking about providing appropriate resources to any number of students in the suspension depending on the seriousness or the gravity? There are different kinds. What kinds of things are you looking for? What's the range we're looking for? Could you clarify that for me?

Mr Beer: I appreciate both Mr Malkowski's question and also the comments from Mr Hope and Mr O'Connor.

Let me start by responding to all three. The intent of this was not to stop this from happening after the first suspension; it is to say that if nothing had been done, then most certainly after the second.

I think the suggestions that have been made are helpful. If Mr Hope was suggesting a friendly amendment, I'd be happy to accept it; something like, "If a pupil is suspended, the board shall ensure..."

With respect to Mr Malkowski, the point here is that the appropriate resources necessary would be brought to bear, and that would vary, obviously, depending on what the reason for the suspension was. I think the point was just to underline that there's a responsibility to deal with the problems that the young person is having, really leaving it up to the board, working with the parents, with other people in the community, who can bring support to bear in working out what's the best program to help that young person.

It would clearly depend on the circumstances, but I would be happy to revise the amendment so that it would read, "If a pupil is suspended, the board shall..." if that meets with the comments made by my colleagues opposite.

Mr Malkowski: You're talking about using appropriate resources. From where? The school boards only, or are you going to use outside of school board resources? Where are you looking?

Mr Beer: That clearly is a critical question. I think one of the interesting points in the Children First document was, "Let us find those resources where they may be." I think increasingly we're going to be looking at finding those resources in the community, whether they are with specific health-based or social and community-based organizations. In some cases they may be within the school board. One of the points of Children First was to indicate that there are other resources in the community that are not necessarily funded by the education system which we ought to make better use of because those resources can be of real help. I think we're going to be looking, in a number of cases, at supports for schools and supports for pupils where the funding and the program are not necessarily education's. The obligation on the board in this amendment is simply to in effect work out a plan, work out an approach that can best help the pupil.

Mr Malkowski: If I might make a suggestion, could we stand this down so we can see if a friendly amendment can come forward?

Mr Beer: I'm always prepared to accept a friendly amendment.

Ms Goldberg: There are a couple of legal considerations that I just wanted to raise about this section.

The section speaks about informing the pupil and the pupil's parent or guardian. I would assume that "informing" doesn't include requiring the child or the parents to attend counselling, because we cannot, in legislation, do that. We can't force the child or the child and the child's parents to attend counselling. We can inform them of what resources are available if they choose to go to counselling, but we can't make counselling mandatory.

The other thing is, as I said earlier, that we also cannot make counselling a condition of a child returning to school after suspension.

The third thing is that in implementing this section, boards would also have to be sure that they are complying with the strictures of the freedom of information legislation, because we are talking here about transferring personal information among board employees.

I think we can make it a bit easier for the boards to comply with the FOI legislation if we make two small changes to this motion. One change would be in the third line where we're speaking about a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person, to add after that, "employed by the board," so that it's clear that those people who are receiving the personal information must be board employees.

The other change that I would suggest is that where we speak about the pupil and the pupil's parent or guardian, we add after that, "where the pupil is not an adult," so that if the pupil is 18 years old, the parents or guardian need not be informed. That is consistent with the rest of the section dealing with suspensions and expulsions, where parents or guardians are referred to in the context of the child not being an adult.


Mr Beer: I appreciate those comments. I just have one question and then a comment. In wording this, we haven't said, I don't believe, that the pupil or the parents have to accept or be forced to accept that, but that a review is done. Hopefully that, then, is communicated to the parents in some form or other. While one would hope that happens in terms of the written communication and probably in most cases does, again, part of the intent here was just to underline and emphasize it.

One point you make, and I think I understand but it deals with the question that Mr Malkowski put to me, I take it you're saying that the counsellor or appropriate resource person has to be employed by the board, because under the freedom of information act, that is the only route whereby that person could receive information about the particular pupil. I guess one of the points that I was thinking of as well with this amendment was that it was an opportunity as well to use other resources within the community.

I just wanted to be clear. I may have misunderstood you, but when you say that, I think your wording was "shall ensure that a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person employed by the board," if that person were employed by the hospital or by the children's aid society or by community organizations, are you saying that under the freedom of information there would be then a problem in that person being involved in this? I may have misunderstood but I just want to be clear.

Ms Goldberg: It talks here about transferring information that could be highly personal. It's not entirely clear what information is going to be passed on or who it will be passed on to. The freedom of information act protects private information of children and adults. There are certain exemptions in the freedom of information legislation that permit the transfer of personal information. One of those would be if it's an employee of the board who requires the information in the course of their duties.

That's not to say that it would be completely impossible to transfer the information to someone outside the board, but you would probably need the person's consent to do so first.

Mrs O'Neill: I'd like to speak in support of the motion. I'd like to read into the record, because we've been talking about this suspension for the afternoon almost, the conditions under which a pupil may be suspended are "persistent truancy, persistent opposition to authority, habitual neglect of duty, the wilful destruction of school property, the use of profane or improper language, or conduct injurious to the moral tone of the school or the physical or mental wellbeing of others in the school." Those are the conditions under which a pupil may be suspended and those are the limitations under which a pupil may be suspended.

We're then dealing with very serious situations. I do feel that there are some boards, some teachers, maybe even some principals and trustees, who may not be fulfilling the letter of the law the way we'd all wish them to because there's that in every kind of system. I think they are few, but they need to be encouraged to reach the maximum potential.

That's why we have this amendment. I like the suggestions because I do think they clarify. What I think we need to say here is that there are many resources and some of them are beyond the school. We all know, particularly in times of limited resources, that partnerships have to be developed, even partnerships between school boards. I have a very good example of that in my own community where in special education there are very deep partnerships. That's what this motion is all about.

Let's not hide under a bushel from parents, who maybe even have limited resources, both physical and financial, the secrets of the community. Let's make sure that the personnel of the board are hired with qualifications to know what the resources are in the community and that they're there to help bring those resources to the people who need them.

I think this is a very helpful amendment to a bill that we're trying to make better for the students.

Mr Hope: I was just listening to some of the comments, because when they go to suspension, everybody in their younger days always has fun with the teacher or something. You put a centrefold on the thing and all that good stuff. That always happens.

Mrs O'Neill: Now you're telling us a bit about your past.

Mr Hope: No, no. I've seen it in a movie where they pulled the screen down and that's what happened, and the person got kicked out of school for that.

Mr Beer: This is a family committee show.

Mr Hope: When we were dealing with the motion, and I notice the changes that were made, the only part I didn't hear clearly was the beginning, and I'm just making this comment: If a pupil receives a maximum suspension or is suspended more than once during a school year, would that meet the first criteria? I'm trying to get the first segment of it.

Mr Beer: Sure. I know you were reviewing other amendments when I spoke, but what I was saying is that I'm quite prepared to accept that. I simply indicated the reason we had worded it this way was just if nothing else had happened after the first time, but I think the suggestions that have been made are most helpful and something along those lines with the other proposed changes that were made would be quite acceptable.

Mr Hope: The only reason I moved to the maximum, like I indicated, the definition of destruction of school property, the use of profanity, you've got to watch the limits around that stuff, because there is one day's or two days' suspension for a slip of the tongue. We all do that every so often. We're not all angels.

Mr Beer: Even in the Legislature.

Mr Hope: Yes, even in the Legislature.

Mrs O'Neill: Has God suspended you yet, Randy? That's what we want to know.

Mrs Cunningham: You survived well.

Mr Hope: Dianne, I talked to your school board and they told me everything.

I'm just careful about how broadly we use it. I listened to the concerns by the opposition, the extra burden on school boards and all that, and I wouldn't want to get into that problem. I'd suggest we deal with the maximum on the first one and then --

Mr Jim Wilson: It's a scary thought here. I actually agree with the latter sentence of Mr Hope.

With respect to my colleagues in the Liberal Party, I appreciate what they're trying to do, but I would agree, as Mr Hope said, that this additional section 2.2 seems to me to put another set of responsibilities on the school boards to in essence solve society's problems.

When I read Bill 4 as presented by the government, there of course is provision as part of the suspension process that immediately the parents or guardian, and the pupil's teachers and the board and appropriate private school attendance counsellors etc are notified in writing of the suspension. I think that suffices. I think this proposed Liberal amendment is problematic. While its intent may be good, I think it's getting the school board itself involved in sorting out what perhaps families do best or guardians do best with their loved ones. Keep the board out of it.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I would think that if a child is suspended more than once, if they have a guardian, a parent or somebody who loves them out there, and that person has been notified by the school, as part of being responsible citizens, somebody would be asking themselves the question why Johnny has been suspended a couple of times and try to work those things out without involving, in a legislative way, the school board itself.


Secondly, I ask the question because, in many of the small schools in my riding, we don't have guidance counsellors or other appropriate resource persons to review these things. You get into the grade schools, and we certainly don't have them. It's the principal, and the principal's already involved in sending out the notice.

Generally, these things are better left without government involvement. Once you tell neighbour how to treat neighbour and counsellor how to treat student, you're erecting barriers, you've got Big Brother in there. All responsible principals, which is every principal I've ever met, takes, as Mrs O'Neill said earlier, a suspension very seriously and tries to look at the root cause.

I don't support the amendment because I don't think we need to put a mandatory provision in here that the school board has to necessarily get involved in the way that's suggested.

Mr Beer: Perhaps I might just respond, because I think if in fact what this were to do was what Mr Wilson has said, I would agree. I think the key words here are simply that the board and that resource person or guidance counsellor -- that can cover anybody, and I quite recognize that in smaller schools it might well be that the appropriate person is the principal. But note that the verbs here are, "reviews the circumstances and informs the pupil and the pupil's parents or guardian."

I think one of the things is that there are a lot of parents today who simply don't know what resources are there, and clearly what is intended here is it may even be the classroom teacher who is simply saying, "Look, here is what we think that Sally or Johnny might need, and are you aware of these resources that are there?"

I appreciate that this is a bit unusual in the sense that, wouldn't this be the sort of thing that would happen, but I think that in some cases it doesn't, and I think is an indication to parents that that sort of support is there.

I'm just struck by the number of parents in our communities who don't know what services are available or how to access them, and this is providing a kind of friend at court who will at least take the time to sit down and talk to them. If they choose not to use those services, there's nothing here that would force them to do so, and I think the board's obligation is simply one of reviewing and informing.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Beer, could you clarify the wording of your amendment, please? Is there any change to the printed form?

Mr Beer: I believe there is now, between the number of people who were scribbling some changes. Let me try this and Mr Hope and others can help out.

"If a pupil is suspended, the board shall," and I think the suggestion was that if -- help me here, Mr Hope -- "if a pupil," you had, "is suspended for the maximum" --

Mr Hope: "If a pupil receives maximum suspension or is suspended more than once during the school year."

Mr Beer: "The board shall ensure that a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person reviews the circumstances" --

Mrs O'Neill: No, it's "employed by the board."

Mr Beer: "That a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person employed by the board," and then would the rest remain the same or was there another --

Mrs O'Neill: You put another one in after "guardian."

Mr Beer: "Where the pupil is an adult."

The Vice-Chair: I thought it was "not an adult."

Mr Hope: "Where the pupil is not an adult."

Mr Beer: Can somebody read that all back?

Mr Doug Beecroft: Can I make an attempt to consolidate all of that?

"If a pupil is suspended for the maximum period allowed under subsection 1.1 or is suspended more than once during a school year, the board shall ensure that a guidance counsellor or other appropriate resource person employed by the board reviews the circumstances of the suspensions and informs the pupil, and if the pupil is less than 18 years of age, the pupil's parent or guardian, of services that are available from the board or elsewhere in the community to assist the pupil."

Is that the gist of it?

Mrs O'Neill: That's it.

The Vice-Chair: Are we agreed that is the wording of the amendment before us?

Ms Goldberg: The rest of the act never refers actually to the age of 18; it only refers to the pupil being an adult or not being an adult.

Mr Beecroft: Under the Age of Majority and Accountability Act, you become an adult at age 18 --

Ms Goldberg: Yes, that's right.

Mr Beecroft: -- and there are references to the age of 18 throughout the Education Act. They're usually in places like whether you can vote in an election, whether you can run as a member of a board and things like that.

The Vice-Chair: Does counsel agree with counsel?

Ms Goldberg: I won't disagree. I would just feel that because the rest of that section, when it speaks about informing the parent of anything that has to do with a suspension or an expulsion, it uses the language, I believe, of where the pupil is -- let me find it -- "where the pupil is an adult" is the language that's used here in the rest of the section.

Mr Beecroft: Can you point to which provision you're looking at?

Ms Goldberg: Well, as an example, I'm looking at subsection 23(2). That talks about the appeal.

The Vice-Chair: Could this be considered as a housekeeping item that we don't need clarified at this time?

Mr Hope: Well, we have the intent.

The Vice-Chair: Yes.

Mrs O'Neill: I think the preference is from the counsel from the ministry.

Mr Jim Wilson: I just wonder if Mr Beer has considered -- if I were a union negotiator, and I saw this -- upon first reading, the first thing that actually came into my mind was, "We may need more people to do this," because "shall" is such a strong word, and given the small school I came from, it's another obligation in a principal's 12-hour day, or whoever's going to do this. Hopefully, suspensions aren't too frequent, but I can see boards saying, "What are the resource implications here?" If it's another obligation on us, you know, there are questions of resources and people's time, and I just wonder if anybody's thought that through.

Mr Beer: It seems to me that again the key thing, Mr Wilson, is with the amendments around the nature of the suspension and also again those verbs "reviews" and "informs," that in a smaller school that person could well be the pupil's own classroom teacher. I think there are a broad range of people who might be asked to do that, and it's simply someone who is in a position to review the circumstances and then inform those most affected. I don't see that it becomes an onerous responsibility in terms of time or employees. I appreciate the point, but I don't see that as being a problem here.

Mr Jim Wilson: What happens if they don't do it? Informing can be onerous, especially when you're talking about community resources. We go through this in the health field, as you know, and I know that's where your intent comes from, from the Children First and that line of thinking. It's hard to disagree with the principle, but the fact of the matter is I just don't like to see legislation where there are more obligations built in than the original intent of the bill. Informing can take some time and it does take resources. Look at the community lists we have in our own riding offices with respect to community services. There are hundreds.

When you have "shall" -- and I think Mr Hope informs me his wording was a little milder than that. I've seen these things, and I'm sure you have, Mr Beer -- you've seen these things start off as a well-intended clause which later becomes a major profession.

I'd like to hear from the parliamentary assistant. I mean, are we just arguing for the sake of arguing here, or is the government serious about adopting something similar to what Mr Beer has proposed? I don't want to hit my head against the wall here. If that's the case, my suggestion would be that we go for the watered-down version rather than the "shall" version, if that's possible.

Mr Martin: My sense is that the government is -- and it's my personal feeling that it's the least we can do for these kids.

Mrs O'Neill: Mr Chairman, I have difficulty with Mr Wilson's concerns now that we have the motion amended by the government because, really, in my experience, a maximum suspension in a board -- and I was with a board that had about 35,000 pupils -- would happen about three times a year.

It's true that I haven't been there since 1986 -- maybe it's up, maybe it's even tripled -- but we're talking about a board of 35,000 pupils. Some boards may never have this. They may never, ever go to maximum suspension, particularly in a small school because there are so many different resources in a small school and it's just much more of a family environment.


I do feel that if schools haven't got the list that you've got in your office and I have in mine, then they're not part of that community the way they should be. If this encourages the odd school out there -- and I would suggest they're very few -- to have a list that every teacher in the school has access to and who invites those people in to speak to the staff and all those other things, then I think there's something wrong with a very important link and I think the school's a hub.

The Vice-Chair: Mr Beecroft, did you wish to respond to the disagreement regarding the wording?

Mr Beecroft: I'm not sure that I understand the point that Ms Goldberg is making.

The Vice-Chair: Do you wish to confer?

Mr Beecroft: If the committee is prepared to stand it down for five minutes, or we can settle it right now.

Mr O'Connor: I was hoping that given the time of day and that there seem to be some difficulties around this, the legalese, maybe we should just stand this one down and then allow counsel from the ministry to consult with legislative counsel to make sure that we get the intent here right without making it too onerous, as Mr Wilson has pointed out. I think the amendment is worthwhile and it's worth pursuing to make sure that we do it in a correct fashion so that we don't make things too onerous.

Mr Malkowski: Can we then agree to stand this down, please?

Mrs O'Neill: May I suggest then that we have come to so much agreement on this -- I think there is almost unanimous agreement -- that the counsel should work on this tonight and should have the wording for us tomorrow as we begin. Then we don't have to go through all the discussions again.

Interjection: Monday.

Mrs O'Neill: I mean Monday, the next time we meet. Really, that's the condition under which I'd like to stand it down. I don't want to go through this whole discussion again with somebody new who may be subbed into the committee that day or whatever. So let's try and get the wording and start with it the next day.

Mr Jim Wilson: I would agree with Mrs O'Neill, and indicate that it is well past 6 of the clock.

The Vice-Chair: Is it agreed that this amendment be stood down at this time? Agreed.

Mr Hope: It's just that there's been so much cooperation that's going on here and we're moving diligently through this piece of legislation. I was just trying to be helpful here. I'm trying to help a Liberal motion go through and a Conservative motion go through.

I would suggest, as you know today is the last day of this committee according to the original motion, that we make a request to the House leaders that this committee resume Monday, whatever the date may be, with the intent -- and I say intent -- to complete clause-by-clause on that Monday.

If I may speak to that, we have to request the House leaders. First of all, we don't know if the House is sitting. If the House is sitting, it has to be through the consent of the House leaders for this committee to continue. I also make sure that the intent to complete this bill is put forward, and I just put that forward and then I would like to speak to the intent aspect.

The Vice-Chair: Moved by Mr Hope. Discussion?

Mr Jim Wilson: Speaking on behalf of my caucus, certainly the intent would be to finish on Monday. That's on the record. I think that while we were off to a bit of a slow start, we did touch, even though they're relatively small amendments, some large areas like capital funding. Then when we get back to the junior kindergarten section, for example, I don't think there will be much need to repeat those arguments.

I would like to say with respect to Monday that it would be helpful if the parliamentary assistant could have a little more information prepared for this committee with respect to capital funding and the new funding system under the crown corporation, because of course it will be raised again on Monday. It would be a lot easier if we had some of our questions answered.

Mr Beer: To respond to Mr Hope, I think we all agree with the intent he has set out. As Mr Wilson has said, while we have taken time on a couple of sections, I think it has been useful and the spirit of cooperation has been evident.

I also understand that in terms of the hard-to-serve provision, the government is trying to look at some possible avenues there, and this would provide more time for perhaps a proposed change. I appreciate that we don't exactly know what our future will be, but the likelihood is that we'll be here Monday, so we could deal with it at that time.

Mr Hope: There are a couple of things. I like it when things move on. Today, we went past 6 of the clock. Would that still be the intent? I guess I raise it to the opposition. Say we've only got one or two clauses left to do, we're going to complete it, right? We're not going to move into Tuesday? I'd hate to go back to the House leaders on Monday and ask for Tuesday. I just pose those questions.

Let's put the cards on the table for the House leaders to deal with of exactly what we need. If it is the intent to complete on Monday but that the possibility exists of sitting late or that Tuesday may be required, then let's put those forward to the House leaders now so they can deal with them appropriately, but I really firmly would like to stick with the intent to finish Monday. I only pose that to you for a word of thought, that's all.

Mr Jim Wilson: Certainly, the intent is to finish at 6 o'clock on Monday. Perhaps the government will tell us: Are we doing votes on Monday that might delay us and we won't get started at 3:30? You may want to, in discussion with your House leader, indicate that we have a good two and a half hours at least of debate to proceed and that we want to get started as soon as orders of the day are called. Hopefully, they will be called shortly after 3 o'clock and then we will get done by 6. I'm fairly confident of that.

Mr Malkowski: I just want to clarify technically on a question to the clerk. Do we need to have a motion to extend Monday into the time? I don't know how we do this with the House leaders.

The Vice-Chair: We do have one on the floor, and it's requesting the House leaders. Do you wish to have it repeated?

Mr Malkowski: No, that's fine.

Mr Beer: There is a motion before the House. We can't extend ourselves without the House deciding to sit beyond Thursday. I think we're working on the assumption that, one way or another, that motion will go forward, and after what will undoubtedly be an interesting and fascinating debate, we could all find ourselves here next Monday finishing this bill.

The Vice-Chair: Shall the motion moved by Mr Hope requesting the House leaders be carried? Do you want it read?

Mr Jim Wilson: Yes.

Clerk pro tem (Ms Lynn Mellor): Mr Hope moves that a request be made to the House leaders that the committee be allowed to sit on Monday with the intent to complete clause-by-clause on Monday.

The Vice-Chair: Shall the motion carry? Carried.

Mrs O'Neill: Mr Chair, I just want to say that as to the part Mr Hope's going to be helpful on, with the corrections, I was distracted at that time. I have worked in Education and in corrections as well, and I think it will be very important to find out from the ministry of corrections the legislation that supersedes the Education Act within correctional institutions, because there is superlegislation that protects the staff, whether they be teachers from a school board or from the institution itself. We have to have both pieces to know what we're talking about here.

Secondly, I am not very happy with the response I've got on the American sign language. I hope we will get more information about what the government's intending to do on "where numbers warrant" and "qualified teachers." I would like to know. When we passed legislation previously "where numbers warrant," we always had an idea whether it was 15, 20, 25. I know that in this case, because we're talking about special education, it might be three, but surely we should get an idea. And as to "qualified teachers," will this subject be offered to the faculties of education? Have there been requests for the faculties to offer this? I guess what I want to know is, can this happen? I don't like false hopes being built up, and I don't like false concerns or fears of parents being out there. That's why I want to know, and I'd like to have a better answer, if we could possibly have it, before this bill is passed.

Mr Malkowski: I just want to respond to Ms O'Neill. Right now within the system we already have resources available at the provincial schools, but the point is that we want to permit school boards, if someone comes forward and if it's appropriate, that they be enabled to do that. That is the intention behind this, that ASL become available as an option as others are options.

Mrs O'Neill: I guess I need to know more about the numbers being warranted. If it's going to be offered now, we have to have more resources to supply what I would consider are new requests from school boards, and definitely from parents. So let's get the faculties involved; let's give teachers the option at the faculties to study ASL. That's the kind of thing I need to know.

The committee adjourned at 1821.