In the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN), we believe that all students can learn and our mission is to enable every student to learn effectively, to reduce achievement gaps and to improve learning outcomes for all, regardless of race, class, gender, gender identity and gender expression, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination1.
The DSBN upholds the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Constitution Act, 1982 and confirmed in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the OHRC). The DSBN and its staff are also committed to the elimination of all types of discrimination as outlined in Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy, 2014 (the Strategy) and the Ontario Ministry of Education (the Ministry) Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119. The DSBN recognizes that equity of opportunity and equity of access to the full range of programs, the delivery of services, and resources are critical to the achievement of successful educational and social outcomes for those served by the school system as well as those who serve the system.
The DSBN is therefore committed to an equitable education system that upholds and reflects the principles of fair and inclusive education and employment which should permeate all policies, programs, practices, and operations.
The following definitions (as per Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119) are included for the purposes of this policy only.
Diversity: The presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes within a group, organization, or society. The dimensions of diversity include, but are not limited to, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, language, physical and intellectual ability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.
Equity: A condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.
Inclusive Education: Education that is based on the principles of acceptance and inclusion of all students. Students see themselves reflected in their curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, in which diversity is honoured and all individuals are respected.
The three goals of the equity and inclusive education strategy are as follows:
Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation (2014), Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (2014) and Policy/Program Memorandum No. 119 (2013) “Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools” identify eight areas of focus for implementing equity and inclusive education.
The following areas of focus will serve to guide the actions of the DSBN and its schools, in honouring its commitments to equity and inclusive education policy development, implementation, monitoring and reporting:
Through cyclical policy reviews, the DSBN will embed the principles of equity and inclusive education, the requirements of the OHRC, Policy/Program No. 119 and the Strategy into all DSBN policies, programs, procedures, and practices. Equity and inclusive education is an integral part of DSBN’s operations and will be reflected in all areas of the teaching, learning and administrative culture. Every effort will be made to identify and remove discriminatory biases and systemic barriers that may limit access to, and opportunity for, effective student engagement and achievement. The goal is to ensure that school and work environments are inclusive and welcoming and reflect the makeup of their diverse communities.It is the Policy of the Board to:
Serve staff, students, and families in diverse communities by incorporating the principles of equity and inclusive education into all aspects of its operations, structures, policies, programs, procedures, guidelines, and practices, consistent with the principles of the Code.
The DSBN subscribes to an informed leadership philosophy that advocates, inspires, empowers, and supports all stakeholders to join together to implement institutional practices and behaviours that cultivate equity and inclusive education.
The DSBN is committed to providing informed shared leadership and mentoring to improve student achievement and to close achievement gaps for students by identifying, addressing, and removing discriminatory biases and systemic barriers to learning. Specifically, the DSBN will identify a contact person to liaise with the ministry and other boards to share challenges, promising practices and resources.
The DSBN recognizes the critical connection between student leadership and improved student achievement and will strive to include the student, parent/guardian, and community voice in the implementation of equity and inclusive education.
In accordance with the Ministry’s Ontario Leadership Strategy, the DSBN will encourage and promote the development of collaborative environments in which participants share a commitment to equity and inclusive education principles and practices. This collaborative approach includes and supports the active engagement of students, parents/guardians, unions, colleges and universities, service organizations and other diverse community partners.
The DSBN will establish and maintain collaborative shared leadership relationships with diverse communities so that the perspectives and experiences of all students are recognized to help meet their needs.
The DSBN recognizes that the effective review, development, implementation and monitoring of equity and inclusive education policies and practices requires the involvement of all members of the entire school community.
The DSBN values the assets that all stakeholders can bring to enable each and every student to learn effectively and enhance educational opportunities for all.
The DSBN is committed to the maintenance, development, expansion, and review of partnerships, structures & committees to help ensure that they reflect the principles of equity and inclusive education. The DSBN will continue to foster new partnerships that engage a cross-section of diverse students, parents/guardians, staff, community members and organizations. The DSBN will draw upon the expertise of their partners to explore innovative ways of sharing resources that can help them meet the diverse needs of their students and provide new and relevant learning opportunities.
The DSBN will undertake to identify, examine, and remove barriers that exist which may inhibit full participatory school-community relations.
The DSBN will establish, maintain, and strengthen collaborative relationships with diverse communities so that the perspectives and experiences of all students, families, and employees are recognized and addressed.
Students need to feel engaged in and empowered by what they are learning, supported by teachers and staff, and welcome in their learning environment. To this end, the DSBN will use inclusive curriculum and assessment practices and effective instructional strategies that reflect the diverse needs of all students and the learning pathways that they are taking. The DSBN will provide students and staff with authentic and relevant opportunities to learn about diverse histories, cultures and perspectives. Students will also be able to see themselves represented in curriculum, programs, and culture of the school.
The DSBN will draw upon strategies that have been shown by the evidence to support student success and reduce achievement gaps. These include reviewing resources, instruction, and assessment and evaluation practices to identify and eliminate stereotypes, discriminatory biases, and systemic barriers. For example, schools will make use of differentiated instruction, which takes into account the backgrounds and experiences of students in order to respond to their individual interests, aptitudes, and learning needs.
In order to help ensure that assessment and evaluation are valid and reliable and lead to improvement of student learning, teachers must use assessment and evaluation strategies outlined in the assessment and evaluation section of the curriculum policy documents. Assessment tasks must be designed to ensure consistency of standards, and any discriminatory biases in the way students’ work is assessed and evaluated should be identified and addressed.
The DSBN recognizes and values the religious diversity within its community and is committed to providing a safe, respectful and equitable environment for all, free from all forms of discriminatory or harassing behaviour, including those based on religion.
Freedom of religion is an individual right and a collective responsibility. The DSBN and the community it serves must work together to foster an inclusive learning environment that promotes acceptance and protects religious freedom for all individuals. While the DSBN and its staff will take all reasonable steps to ensure freedom of religion and religious practices, it is expected that students, their families, and DSBN staff will help the DSBN to understand their religious needs and will work with the DSBN to determine appropriate and reasonable accommodations.
As part of its equity and inclusive education policy and implementation plan, the DSBN has developed and implemented a religious accommodation guideline in keeping with the OHRC.2 Through cyclical review, The DSBN Religious Accommodation Guidelines are updated in accordance with the OHRC and the requirements stated in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 108, “Opening or Closing Exercises in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”, and in sections 27-29 (“Religion in Schools”) of Regulation 298. Accordingly, the DSBN will use its Religious Accommodation Guidelines when providing religious accommodation for students and staff.
The DSBN is committed to the principle that every person within the school community is entitled to a respectful, positive school climate and learning environment, free from all forms of discrimination and harassment. DSBN mechanisms work towards the eradication of discrimination and harassment with the purpose of enhancing public confidence in the DSBN’s response to claims of discrimination of any kind.
The DSBN’s policy on equity and inclusive education is designed to foster a positive school climate that is free from discriminatory or harassing behavior. A positive and inclusive climate is one where all members of the school community feel safe, included, welcomed, and accepted. The principles of equity and inclusive education support a whole-school approach to foster positive student behavior. These principles must also be applied in progressive discipline, particularly when it is necessary to take into account mitigating and other factors.3 When relationships are founded on mutual respect, a culture of respect becomes the norm. The DSBN has put procedures in place that will enable students and staff to report incidents of discrimination and harassment safely, and that will enable the DSBN to respond in a timely manner.
Regular school and board monitoring of school climate is essential. Monitoring through school climate surveys, as outlined in Policy/Program Memorandum No. 144, “Bullying Prevention and Intervention”, can help identify inappropriate behaviours, barriers, or issues that should be addressed. Questions of equity and inclusive education are included in DSBN school climate surveys. The DSBN conducts anonymous school climate surveys of its students and staff and the parents/guardians of its students at least once every two years, in accordance with subsection 169.1(2.1) of the Education Act.
The DSBN provides professional learning opportunities that are ongoing, evidence-based, and focused on positive outcomes for students, staff and school communities. The DSBN provides administrators, staff, students and other members of the school community with opportunities to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviour needed to identify and eliminate discriminatory biases and systemic barriers under the OHRC. Enhancing individual and collective behavior, as well as organizational and institutional practices, will help ensure that the education system is free from discrimination.
The DSBN acknowledges and assumes the responsibility for its policies, actions, and decisions. In a continued commitment to transparency and accountability, the DSBN, in respectful collaboration and communication with the whole school community, will report on its goals and progress in the areas of policy review, school improvement planning and the implementation of Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy.
The DSBN assesses and monitors DSBN progress in implementing Ontario’s Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy; to embed the principles into all DSBN policies, programs, guidelines and practices; and to communicate these results to the community.
1 The Ontario Human Rights Code identifies the following prohibited discrimination grounds: age, ancestry, citizenship, colour, creed, disability, ethnic origin, marital and family status, place of origin, race, record of offences, sex, and/or sexual orientation.
2 Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, the duty to accommodate requires accommodation to the point of undue hardship. For further details, see Ontario Human Rights Commission, Policy on Preventing Discrimination based on Creed (2015), available at www.ohrc.on.ca.
3 Ontario Regulation 472/07, “Suspension and Expulsion of Pupils”, identifies mitigating factors and other factors that must be taken into account in individual cases.