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District School Board of Niagara
Policy School Operations

G-28 Student Discipline

Date Nov 2020
Review Nov 2025

The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) is committed to building and sustaining a positive school climate that is safe, inclusive, and accepting for all students in order to support their education so that all students reach their full potential. A positive school climate means everyone – students, parents, staff, and community members – feels safe, welcome, and respected. Everyone has a role to play in promoting healthy relationships and a school climate which encourages appropriate student behaviour. A whole-school approach involving all education and community partners is needed to foster a culture of dignity, mutual respect, and care. DSBN’s approach to making schools safe and accepting involves the whole school and focuses on:

  • collaboratively promoting positive student behaviour through a code of conduct
  • promoting mutual well-being affirming healthy and respectful relationships throughout the whole school community
  • preventing inappropriate behaviour through initiatives like bullying prevention programs
  • addressing inappropriate behaviour through progressive discipline.

Progressive Discipline

Progressive discipline is an approach that makes use of a continuum of interventions, supports, and consequences, building upon strategies that promote positive behaviours. The range of interventions, supports, and consequences used by the DSBN and all schools must be clear, developmentally appropriate, and individually and must include learning opportunities for students in order to reinforce positive behaviours, and help students make good choices. Accountability, restoration and reconciliation should occur during all stages of discipline and include support for both victims and offenders involved in any school-based incident. For students with special education and/or disability related needs, interventions, supports and consequences must be consistent with the expectations in the student’s IEP and/or his/her demonstrated abilities.

Through progressive discipline, administrators determine appropriate consequences and/ or supports to help students improve their behaviour, while considering their individual circumstances. The goal is to help prevent inappropriate student behaviour from happening again.

When schools use progressive discipline, the following is taken into consideration:

  • the students' stage of growth and development
  • the nature and severity of the behaviour
  • the impact of the behaviour on the school climate.

A progressive discipline approach is about building and sustaining a positive school climate that involves:

Building Relationships

  • Educators play a vital role in forming positive relationships and creating conditions where students feel valued and safe and have a sense of belonging to the school community.
  • It is important to always maintain student dignity and in doing so, increases trust, builds relationships, and makes problems easier to solve.
  • Building strong relationships within the school amongst students, staff, and families.
  • Creating conditions where students feel valued and safe and have a sense of well being and belonging to the school community.

Proactive Actions

  • Collaborating and engaging with members of the school community by sharing information to develop an awareness of factors that have an impact on the school climate
  • Review and reflect on the effectiveness of prevention and intervention strategies, practices, and programs in school.

Restorative Practices & Support

  • Recognize and repair how the offender, victim, witnesses, and guiding adults are all impacted by the harm that occurred, and all benefit from the support to feel safe again in the school environment.
  • When harm is done, students should have an opportunity to understand the full impact of their actions, to take responsibility for those actions, to do what is necessary to make it right.
  • Investing in harm reduction and healing for the student(s) impacted by the behaviour.
  • Ensure strategies are in place to help the victim(s) and those impacted by the behaviour feel supported and safe in the school environment.

Suspension/Expulsion

  • The DSBN also uses suspension and expulsion as part of progressive discipline.

Suspension

A suspension means students are removed from school temporarily for a specific period of time. Students may be suspended for a period of time ranging from one school day up to twenty (20) school days. Students cannot go to school or take part in regular school activities or events while on suspension but are provided with homework packages to complete while on suspension.

Activities Leading to Suspension

The administrator must consider suspension if a student from grade 4 to grade 12 has engaged in any of the activities listed below, which are outlined in subsection 306(1) of the Education Act. As of September 1, 2020, students in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 can no longer be suspended for these activities:

  • uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person
  • possessing alcohol, illegal and/or restricted drugs, or, unless the pupil is a medical cannabis user, cannabis
  • being under the influence of alcohol or, unless the pupil is a medical cannabis user, cannabis
  • swearing at a teacher or at any person in a position of authority
  • committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to Board property or to property located on the premises
  • Bullying or cyber-bullying
  • Any act considered by the principal to be injurious to the moral tone of the school
  • Any act considered by the principal to be injurious to the physical or mental well-being of members of the school community
  • Any act considered by the principal to be contrary to the DSBN’s Code of Student Behaviour or school Code of Conduct.
  • Any other activity that is an activity for which a principal may suspend a student under a policy of the DSBN.

* It should be noted that “bullying” and cyber-bullying are defined in the Education Act as follows: “bullying” means aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a student where, the behaviour is intended by the student to have the effect of, or the student ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,

  • causing harm, fear, or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social, or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property, or
  • creating a negative environment at a school for another individual
    and
  • the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the student and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, disability or the receipt of special education; (“intimidation”).

The definition of bullying behaviours includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written, or other means. In addition, the definition of bullying includes bullying by electronic means (commonly known as cyber-bullying) including:

  • creating a web page or a blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
  • impersonating another person as the author of content or messages posted on the internet; and
  • communicating material electronically to more than one individual or posting material on a website that may be accessed by one or more individuals.

A student may be suspended only once for an infraction and may be suspended for a minimum of one (1) school day and a maximum of twenty (20) school days.

An administrator shall consult with the appropriate Superintendent of Education regarding the decision to issue a suspension of more than five (5) days.

Mitigating Factors

Before imposing a suspension, the administrator, as required by the Education Act, must consider any mitigating and other factors as set out in Ontario Regulation 472/07. The DSBN interprets the provisions of the Education Act and Regulations in a broad and liberal manner consistent with the Human Rights Code.

For certainty, these expectations of behaviour apply to pupils whether they are on school property, on school buses or other transportation means supplied by the DSBN, at school-related events or activities (e.g., a field trip) or in any other circumstance that could have an impact on the school climate (like cyber-bullying).

Administrator Notification to Parents

Where a student has been the alleged victim of a serious incident, the administrator or designate is required to provide information, to the parent/guardian of a student who is less than 18 years of age, is not 16 or 17 and withdrawn from parental control and where the administrator is NOT aware that informing the parent/guardian would put the student at risk of harm and would not be in the student’s best interests. The administrator may inform a parent/guardian of a student 18 years or older or who is 16 or 17 and has withdrawn from parental control, if that student consents to the disclosure of information.

Likewise, and under the same parameters and restrictions as above, the administrator is to notify the parent or guardian of any student who the principal believes has engaged in the activity that resulted in the harm.

When students are suspended, the administrator will make every reasonable effort to let their parents know within 24 hours. This will be followed by a letter notifying them about the suspension as well as an invitation to discuss supports that may be offered to their child. The letter will include important information, such as:

  • length of the suspension,
  • reason for the suspension,
  • the supervisory officer's information,
  • information on how and when to appeal the suspension.

Supports for Suspended Students

Students can be suspended for a period of one (1) to twenty (20) school days. Students who are suspended for more than five school days are considered to be on a long-term suspension and are offered a range of programs to support academics and positive behaviour. These programs will be based on the student's needs, length of the suspension, the nature and severity of the behaviour as well as mitigating and other factors.

Appeal

A suspension can be appealed to the school board. Written notice of the request for an appeal must be sent to the Area Superintendent within ten (10) school days of the start of the suspension. The appeal must be heard within fifteen (15) school days of the DSBN receiving the notice of intention to appeal, unless the parents and the DSBN have agreed to an extension. If parents have questions about the appeal, they can contact the Area Superintendent of Schools.

Expulsion

Students who are expelled from school must be provided with opportunities to continue their education and must be offered additional non-academic supports, such as counselling, to help promote positive behaviour. An expulsion is different from a suspension. An expulsion does not have a time limit. Expelled students are removed from school for an indefinite time period. Students are suspended first, while expulsion is being considered.

Students can be expelled from their own school or they can be expelled from all schools in the DSBN. After an investigation, the administrator recommends whether a student should be expelled. Only the Student Discipline Committee of the Board of Trustees can make the decision to expel a student.

What activities can lead to expulsion?

Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3

Pursuant to Ontario Regulation 440/20, a pupil in junior kindergarten, kindergarten or grade 1, 2 or 3 shall not be suspended pending expulsion under section 310 of the Act for engaging in an activity described in subsection 310(1) of the Act unless the principal has conducted an investigation respecting the allegations and even where the principal has conducted an investigation, a pupil in junior kindergarten, kindergarten or grade 1, 2 or 3 cannot be suspended pending expulsion for the condition set out in paragraphs referencing bullying in subsection 310(1) of the Act.

Grade 4 to 12

If a student in grade 4 to grade 12 has engaged in any of the activities listed below, the administrator will immediately suspend the student and investigate the incident in order to determine whether the student should be expelled. Activities described in subsection 310(1) of the Act include:

  • possessing a weapon, including possessing a firearm
  • using a weapon to cause or threaten bodily harm to another person
  • committing physical assault on another person that causes bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner
  • committing sexual assault
  • trafficking in weapons, illegal or restricted drugs
  • committing robbery
  • giving alcohol or cannabis to a minor
  • bullying – if the student (between grade 4 to 12) has previously been suspended for bullying and the student's presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • any activity for which a student can be suspended (see section on suspension) that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other similar factor
  • Any other activity that, under a policy of the DSBN, is an activity for which a principal must suspend a student and, therefore in accordance with this Part, conduct an investigation to determine whether to recommend to the Student Discipline Committee of the Board of Trustees that the student be expelled
  • An act considered by the principal to be significantly injurious to the moral tone of the school and/or to the physical or mental well-being of others
  • A pattern of behaviour that is so inappropriate that the student continued presence is injurious to the effective learning and/or working environment of others
  • Activities engaged in by the student on or off school property that cause the student’s continuing presence in the school to create an unacceptable risk to the physical or mental well-being of other person(s) in the school or DSBN
  • Activities engaged in by the student on or off school property that have caused extensive damage to the property of the DSBN or to goods that are/were on DSBN property
  • The student has demonstrated through a pattern of behaviour that they have not prospered by the instruction available to them and that they are persistently resistant to making changes in behaviour which would enable them to prosper
  • Any act considered by the principal to be a serious violation of the requirements for student behaviour and/or a serious breach of the DSBN’s Code of Student Behaviour or school Code of Conduct
  • Where a student has no history of discipline or behaviour intervention, or no relevant history, a single act, incident or infraction considered by the principal to be a serious violation of the expectations of student behaviour and/or a serious breach of the DSBN or school Code of Conduct

For certainty, these expectations of behaviour apply to pupils and will lead to expulsion whether they are on school property, on school buses or other transportation means supplied by the DSBN, at school-related events or activities (e.g., a field trip) or in any other circumstance that could have an impact on the school climate (like cyber-bullying).

Expulsion Process

Junior Kindergarten to Grade 3

f the student is in junior kindergarten to Grade 3, the principal must conduct an investigation regarding the allegations to determine if the student should be suspended pending expulsion.

Grade 4 to 12

If the student is in grade 4 to grade 12, they will be suspended immediately. The principal must then investigate the matter in order to determine whether to recommend to the Student Discipline Committee of the Board of Trustees that the student be expelled. As part of the investigation, the administrator must make every reasonable effort to speak to the student who was suspended, their parents, and anyone else who may have relevant information.

Administrator Notification to Parents

Where a student has been the alleged victim of a serious incident, the administrator or designate is required to provide information to the parent/guardian of a student who is less than 18 years of age, is not 16 or 17 and withdrawn from parental control and where the principal is NOT aware that informing the parent/guardian would put the student at risk of harm and would not be in the student’s best interests. The administrator may inform a parent/guardian of a student 18 years or older or who is 16 or 17 and has withdrawn from parental control, if that student consents to the disclosure of information.

Likewise, and under the same parameters and restrictions as above, the administrator is to notify the parent or guardian of any student who the principal believes has engaged in the activity that resulted in the harm. When students are suspended pending a possible expulsion, the administrator will make every reasonable effort to let their parents know within twenty-four (24) hours that the student has been suspended. This will be followed by a letter notifying them about the suspension. The letter will also include important information, such as:

  • reason for the suspension
  • length of the suspension
  • information about the program for suspended students to which the student is assigned
  • information on how and when to appeal the suspension.

Mitigating Factors

To determine the duration of a suspension pending an investigation to determine whether to recommend expulsion, the administrator must consider any mitigating factors as set out in the Regulations under the Education Act.

When the administrator imposes a suspension pending an investigation to determine whether to recommend expulsion, the administrator must consider any mitigating and other factors in determining whether to recommend an expulsion from the student’s school or from all schools of the DSBN, as required by the Education Act. If the administrator determines it is not appropriate to recommend an expulsion, the administrator must consider mitigating and other factors in deciding whether to shorten the length of the suspension.

For the purpose of the student discipline, the DSBN interprets the provisions of the Education Act and Regulations in a broad and liberal manner consistent with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Before recommending an expulsion from the student’s school or from all schools of the DSBN, the administrator must complete an investigation, as required by the Education Act.

Supports for Expelled Students

When students are expelled only from their school and moved to another school of the DSBN, the DSBN will make supports and resources available to the student at that school where necessary. These supports could include anger management or individual/family counselling that are intended to help engage and motivate students and encourage positive behaviour.

When students are expelled from all schools in the DSBN and agree to participate in the program for expelled students, the administrator will hold a planning meeting with school and school board staff, the student, and parents (wherever possible) to identify the objectives of the Student Action Plan.

Student Discipline Committee

The DSBN authorizes the creation of a Student Discipline Committee of at least three (3) Trustees to decide appeals of administrator suspensions and administrator recommendations for expulsion.

In all cases where consequences might be imposed, teachers, principals/vice-principals and the Student Discipline Committee of the Board of Trustees will consider the safety and dignity of all students, and the impact of the activity on the school climate.

The Student Discipline Committee shall have the powers as set out in the Education Act and any other powers to implement any appropriate Order. For these purposes, the Student Discipline Committee will conduct the suspension appeals and expulsion hearings in accordance with the Education Act, it’s regulation and DSBN policies and procedures.

Legislative References

The Provincial Code of Conduct, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) Code of Student Behaviour, the Education Act, Ontario Regulation 472/07, Ontario Regulation 440/20, Policy Program Memorandum (PPM) 128 (Provincial and school board codes of conduct), 141 (programs for long term suspension), 142 (expulsion programs), 144 (bullying prevention) and 145 (progressive discipline), together with the DSBN’s discipline policies create expectations for behaviour for all persons on school property, and outline strategies to be taken to reduce incidents and impose appropriate consequences for students. The Human Rights Code of Ontario has primacy over provincial legislation and school board policies and procedures, such that the Education Act, regulations, Ministry of Education Program Policy Memoranda, and DSBN’s policies and procedures are subject to, and shall be interpreted and applied in accordance with the Human Rights Code of Ontario.

References

  • Policy G-05: Weapons
  • Policy G-07: Vandalism