Hamilton school board names anti-bullying panel


On Tuesday (Nov. 12), the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) announced that they have appointed an independent and specialized team to lead an anti-bullying review panel.

The team, the HWDSB says in a press release, is composed of professionals with "diverse backgrounds and significant experience in children's health and well-being, child psychology and research, and an understanding of school board operations."

Last month, the board voted unanimously to establish an independent panel to address the issue of bullying in HWDSB schools in the aftermath of the murder of Sir Winston Churchill Secondary student, 14-year-old Devan Bracci-Selvey on Oct. 7.

In the wake of the tragedy, it emerged that Bracci-Selvey's family had made several complaints about bullying to the school but nothing effective had been done to put an end to the behaviour.

Two former students of Churchill, one 18-years of age and the other, 14, are facing first-degree murder charges in relation to the incident that saw Bracci-Selvey stabbed to death in front of his mother on school property.

The Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention & Intervention Review Panel will be reviewing issues related to prevention, intervention, reporting and responding to incidents of bullying.

The panel is expected to engage with students, front-line staff, administration, parents, community groups and anyone else who feels their voice needs to be heard to collect data on what is happening in schools.

The panel includes three respected community members and an independent consulting firm supported by four advisors and experts in bullying, mental health, and special education.

The panel is expected to provide the Director of Education, Manny Figueiredo, with independent feedback and recommendations on how to prevent, intervene, report and respond to bullying.

The resulting report is expected in May 2020 and will be shared with the Board of Trustees and made public.

"We take the safety and well-being of our students and staff seriously and know that, as the Board of Trustees, we can always do more to help improve the communities where we live and work," said Alex Johnstone, Chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

"The review panel will provide us with guidance and advice on bullying prevention strategies and tactics, so that we have the best practices and tools to make our students and staff feel safe, supported and accepted."

The panel includes:

  • Dr. Jean Clinton, a Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences in the division of Child Psychiatry at McMaster.
  • Brenda Flaherty, former Executive Vice President and COO at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), and currently Assistant Professor at McMaster University's School of Nursing.
  • Dr. Gary Warner, a former professor and administrator at McMaster University, who has more than 45 years of experience with issues related to international development, peace, poverty, human rights, antiracism, immigration and social justice.

The review panel will have access to independent advisors and experts as well as the KOJO Institute, a leading consultancy with subject matter experts in equity and human rights, anti-racism and organizational culture change, among others.

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