Hamilton school board votes to establish anti-bullying panel

 

Three weeks from the day that Devan Bracci-Selvey was murdered outside of his East Hamilton highschool, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) voted unanimously to establish an independent panel to address the issue of bullying in HWDSB schools.

At a board meeting Monday (Oct. 28) night, attended by members of Bracci-Selvey’s family, board trustees voted to establish the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel.

The 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.

They will be working with qualitative and quantitative information, said Manny Figueiredo, Director of Education, to develop an actionable approach to the issue of bullying in schools.

The panel “will consist of three respected community members with the following knowledge and skills: equity, mental health, and school board operations,” says a report to the board. “In addition, the panel will also have access to independent experts on bullying research.”

Figueiredo estimates that the cost of the panel will range from $100,000 to $150,000 and will be drawn from the Board’s contingency budget which allows for one-time expenditures.

The panel is expected to be formed and get underway by next month with a report expected by May 31, 2020.

However, some trustees were hesitant to put such a tight timeline on the project for fear that it would limit engagement from the community so an amendment allows for the panel to request more time in the event the deadline can’t be met.

I don’t care about the cost,” said trustee Ray Mulholland. “We need to get it done and get it done right.”

In the meantime, some trustees were concerned that for those dealing with bullying in HWDSB schools right now, they may not have the resources to get the help they need in the interim.

A member of the board pointed out that since Selvey’s murder, there has been increased awareness and an uptick in the number of reports of bullying and there is a handbook available to parents, students and staff to help them navigate the resources available to them.

There is also a tool through which reports of bullying can be made anonymously, the board member added.

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