Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Education Legislation Blues

Current news reports are fawning over the proposed Education Act, meant to replace the School Act, and hailing it as "sweeping changes". I am not sure what the criteria for changes to be deemed "sweeping" are, but as far as I can tell they are pretty paltry. The new Education bill being introduced in the Alberta legislature makes some pretty big headway on granting school boards new powers and rights, but the proposed bullying legislation is nothing more than some feel-good posturing and finger - shaking.

Kids now have the responsibility to "refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying
behaviour" whether at school or not. Well, towards other students, of course. If a kid has been expelled though, he's fair game, except for behavior as otherwise prohibited by law like, you know, the usual harassment or assault laws. But since those don't sparkle as much it's okay to ignore them for a while to pretend THIS new Act will make a big deal.

Interestingly, parents are not charged with the same responsibility; only to "ensure that the parent’s conduct contributes to a caring, respectful and safe environment". The board, on top of providing a safe and caring environment to learn in, must "establish, implement and maintain a policy
respecting the board’s obligation under subsection (1)(d) to provide a caring, respectful and safe environment that (a) includes addressing bullying behaviour", but all I can think about is that terrible "Zero Tolerance" program that was in effect all through my school years (aaaand DATED). That thing did not make a lick of difference, and considering the new policy still needs to be developed, the fanfare over this bill reminds me of an old "Mission Accomplished" banner that was likely burned after its ignominious appearance. (Or Debt Free if you prefer, but that might be too depressing)

Anyway, to show they are serious about this new Act, teachers are granted the right to suspend students for failure to report bullying or bullying behavior, which is really the incentive these snot nosed kids who keep quiet for fear of having their underpants permanently wedgied into their colon, need to speak up at the risk of their own safety.
But we can protect them!
Why cant you protect them before, then? Or protect the kids originally being bullied? The result of encouraging kids to snitch is sort of like fining prostitutes, it's just going to exacerbate the problem.

Further, should a students behavior become so bad that expulsion is necessary, the board may only expel a student if they have provided an alternative education program elsewhere. The onus is on the board to accommodate the hell raiser.

No matter the hype, it seems legislation underwhelms. The real difference will be from the school's specific policies.

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