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P.O. Box 2064, Suite 1804 20 Eglinton Avenue West Toronto, Ontario M4R 1K8 T. 416.932.9460 F. 416.932.9459 ocsta@ocsta.on.

ca www.ocsta.on.ca Marino Gazzola, President Kathy Burtnik, Vice President Kevin Kobus, Executive Director

June 5, 2012 TO: FROM: RE: Chairpersons & Directors of Education Kevin Kobus, Executive Director Bill 13

Bill 13, including recent amendments, was passed by the Legislature today. The Bill will receive Royal Assent promptly and will therefore become law. The objections that OCSTA has consistently articulated in recent months, including a full presentation before the Standing Committee on Social Policy, remain. However, now that the Bill has become law, we turn our focus to its implementation. OCSTA is providing a response to two questions. 1. Will OCSTA initiate a legal challenge? It is not the intent of OCSTA to initiate a legal challenge at this time. 2. What should a principal of a Catholic secondary school do if a group of students wants to name the group GSA? We are not advising principals to break the law. Where there is a contradiction between the language of the Respecting Difference document and the provisions of Bill 13 with respect to naming the support group, please note that the legislation takes precedence. This does not, however, remove the right of a principal to ensure the appropriateness of materials used in the school. The Respecting Difference Resource created for Catholic schools provides guidelines for ensuring that student-led groups to combat bullying reflect Catholic values and adhere to Ministry guidelines. I would point out that a group of students in a GSA may be a subset of a larger group such as a Respecting Difference or Open Arms group. As there are various names currently being used in Catholic schools, the deliberation will occur at the local level. .

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2/2 Although the dispute over the name is now resolved, it is time to move forward. The general feeling is that students in a few schools may initiate the request soon to identify a group within the school as a GSA. From the outset, the concern has been about the content more so than the name and the name should be accepted by the principal, if requested by the students. The focus has to be on the well-being of the students For your reference, attached are suggested key messaging points to support Boards in answering questions on this issue from their local media.

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PROMOTING AND PROTECTING CATHOLIC EDUCATION

OCSTA Messaging re: Passing of Bill 13 Legislation


When the governments Accepting Schools Act legislation was first announced, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association joined the Minister at Queens Park in support of provincial efforts to eliminate bullying in schools and to provide effective supports for students who are bullied. For decades Ontario governments have called upon Catholic school boards to share our perspectives on the creation of legislation that will serve the best interests of all Ontario students. We followed that tradition with the development of this legislation and shared perspectives with this government that offered our distinctive faith-based approach to combating all types of bullying in our schools. It is unfortunate that some of our concerns regarding Bill 13 were not addressed in the final version of this legislation, but as part of Ontarios strong and vibrant publicly funded system Catholic school boards will comply with what will now be law. We will continue to work collaboratively with the government to meet the needs of our students in a manner consistent with the Education Act and the Denominational rights of Catholic schools. It is not the intent of OCSTA to initiate a legal challenge at this time. If a student or students in Catholic schools wish to name a group a GSA this will be allowed as our Catholic school principals will adhere to the law. This does not, however, remove the right of a principal to ensure the appropriateness of materials used in schools. The Respecting Difference Resource created for Catholic schools provides guidelines for ensuring that student-led groups to combat bullying reflect Catholic values and adhere to Ministry guidelines. Where there is a contradiction between language in the guidelines for Respecting Difference Groups and the provisions of Bill 13, with respect to naming a support group, the legislation will take precedence. Ontarios education system is considered one of the best in the world and that is because of the educational innovation, student achievement, and distinctive contributions of students, staff and board leadership teams that comprise the four distinct segments of our system, which include English-Public, English- Catholic, French-Public and French-Catholic school boards.