Bill 212 was designed to re-balance the zero tolerance approach taken by many boards in response to the Safe Schools Act (2000), which resulted in high numbers of suspensions and expulsions To increase consistency and accountability, it shifted the authority to expel students from principals back to school boards. Similarly, principals (instead of individual teachers) were given the authority to determine suspensions, which was expected to lead to more consistent application of standards.
Bill 212 required school boards to provide educational programs and supports, such as counselling, to students who have been expelled or are on a long-term suspension (6 or more days). It also removed the requirement to issue immediate suspensions or expulsions for inappropriate behaviour without offering them a program. It included a commitment to progressive discipline and the idea that alternatives to discipline must be considered, such as meetings with parents or referrals to a community agency. One area where school boards’ powers were increased was that they could now discipline students for bullying and other incidents for which suspension or expulsion must be considered, including incidents that happen online or off school property if there was an impact on school climate.
The purpose of Bill 157 was to make schools safer by outlining specific reporting and responding requirements for all staff. Bill 157 required all board employees to report to principals when they became aware that students may have engaged in incidents for which they could be suspended or expelled. Furthermore, it required principals to inform the parents of students harmed as a result of an incident for which a student could be suspended or expelled. Bill 157 required school staff who work directly with students to respond if they observe student behaviour likely to have a negative impact on the school climate. This specific response was to be carried out in accordance with ministry and school board.
Bill 13 came into force on September 1, 2012. Provisions include principals’ duty to investigate all reports submitted by board employees, and to notify parents of students who have engaged in behaviour for when they can be suspended or expelled and that harmed another student. Similar notification provisions exist for parents of students who have been harmed. Bill 13 also requires schools to provide support for students who want to lead activities or organizations that promote positive school climate, including Gay-Straight Alliances. There is also an expanded responsibility for organizations using school property to follow the relevant Provincial Code of Conduct and the requirement to add “to prevent bullying” to board Codes of Conduct. An important provision of Bill 13 is that bullying, in certain circumstances, may be considered for expulsion. Additional requirements include incorporating changes to the definition of bullying, and the requirement to suspend and consider referring the student for an expulsion hearing if the bullying was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. Other requirements include amending multi-year plans around positive school climate and bullying prevention, conducting school climate surveys of students, staff and parents at least every two years, supports for students, awareness raising opportunities for parents, and professions development programs for teachers and other staff.