With the 2020 school year set to start in September, this month’s minefield of usernames, passwords and other identifying information might be enough to set most of us on edge, but the challenge comes when it comes to school that you, as a parent, consider to be your own.
It is in the capacity of school administrators to track and, in some cases, notify parents of possible cases of sexual assault or violence.
There are, to be sure, cases out there where warnings were not sent out, which is understandable but likely not the rule rather than the exception, given the general skepticism that exists about administrators acting swiftly enough and transparently enough in such cases.
That said, the Ontario government earlier this year promised to improve the reporting process – placing more weight on local school boards, which are responsible for approving the response by police, as opposed to police taking over the process and controlling the communication between the various levels of law enforcement.
That said, when the Ontario government began referring to this work as “stingy police”, they were correct.
What they didn’t mention at the time was that such resistance to the review and the notification process can be attributed, to a large extent, to attitudes – as expressed by multiple levels of law enforcement – that school and school-age children are likely to be susceptible to sexual assault on the same grounds that young children may be vulnerable to a variety of things, from bullying to theft.
Faced with an important police review, schools have reacted in different ways. School principals in Erie St. Clair have shifted from in-house responses to external reports and, in some cases, to independent disciplinary process while school administrators in Upper Canada District School Board have taken a more adversarial tack, resulting in court actions being sought against the district.
For reasons that remain unknown, the Ontario government announced a new investment of $12.5 million towards revamping the reporting process across the province and creating an independent agency, but it’s unclear what, if anything, will have been accomplished as of this writing.