For over a decade I have listened to horror stories by parents. Stories of how their school boards were either too casual or completely in denial over issues of bullying. Parents whose credibility was attacked simply for pushing the issue of keeping their child safe while at school; children who were re-victimized by those in authority by being blamed for their own victimization.
Over the years, these same parents have often taken the position that their school board knew when a student was being aggressively victimized (either physically or verbally) by a peer(s), yet failed to take action by protecting that student.
For many years whenever I read about an incident of bullying in the media, the standard school board response was that they were taking the matter seriously and that it was an isolated incident. For over a decade parents have contacted me with countless examples of these isolated incidents. They all had one common denominator…..their child was not being kept safe while at school. Yet the Ontario Ombudsman’s office does not consider this to be a systemic issue and continues to encourage parents to resolve issues at the front lines.
On May 24th of this year Vania Karam and her son changed things thereby validating what every family before them experienced at the hands of our publicly funded education system. This matter has garnered global attention and has found its way into Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_bullying#Legislation_and_court_rulings
In this litigation, the Plaintiffs had to prove that on a balance of probabilities the Defendant breached the standard of care as set out in Patrick v. St. Clair Catholic District School Board. In that decision the Court stated “the standard of care to be exercised by school authorities in providing for the supervision and protection of students for whom they are responsible is that of the careful and prudent parent.”
You can read the full story here: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/07/21/his-ottawa-school-failed-stop-racist-bullying-then-they-blamed-him
In his Reasons for Decision, the Honourable Judge Bansie stated, among other things:
1. 1. This court finds that the staff of Broadview Public School breached the standard of care owed to Winston Karam;
2. 2. The Ottawa Carleton District School Board is liable for the inaction of the Broadview staff.
After the Karam Reasons were released, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board put out a statement of their own:
"The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has a very strong commitment to providing safe and caring learning environments for all students. Across the district, our schools are engaged in a number of initiatives to prevent bullying and discrimination. We believe this work is making a difference.”
Again, a standardized comment, one of which I have read many times before. I, along with the approximate 140,000 other families in the Province of Ontario, maintain this work of which they speak will only make a difference if those within our publicly funded educational system are held to account. The Karam family did just that, for which I thank them.