The Waterloo Region District School Board recognizes that providing students with an opportunity to learn and develop in a safe, caring and respectful society is a shared responsibility in which the Board and schools play an important role. Schools that have a variety of prevention and intervention strategies foster a positive learning and teaching environment that supports academic achievement for all students and helps students reach their full potential. A positive school climate is a crucial component of prevention. Not having appropriate prevention and intervention strategies adversely affects a school’s ability to educate its students, students’ ability to learn, as well as healthy relationships and the school climate.
“Building a safe, caring and inclusive school culture means teaching it minute by minute, day by day, integrating it into discipline practices and curriculum, using instructional models that provide practice in social and relationship skills and, most importantly, modelling it.” – Vicki Mather
Some educators assert that schools with a healthy culture are already successfully “doing” character and citizenship education, even though they may not explicitly identify it as such. Others argue simply that school culture is a necessary component of any kind of school improvement initiative: “In study after study, where culture did not support and encourage reform, it did not happen…if you don’t have a strong and healthy school culture, none of the rest will matter” (Peterson 1998, p. 1). Both positions agree that a successful effort to change what happens in the school environment is directly linked to school culture.
The Waterloo Region District School Board defines a safe, caring and inclusive school culture as “one that is physically, emotionally and psychologically safe and is characterized by:
Before schools begin to make changes to strengthen culture, they need a complete and realistic picture of existing school culture. Assessment can help schools understand and describe current culture while identifying desired changes and results. Assessment needs to be a collaborative process centred in the school environment. It may begin with students, parents, staff and community members identifying values that they believe are inherent to a positive school culture.