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Hamilton’s public school board considers 7 month review panel to tackle bullying

Hamilton school board meeting to discuss anti-bullying strategy
ABOVE: The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is meeting together to implement a panel focused on bullying following death of student. Morganne Campbell has more.

Bullying and school violence will be front and centre when members of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board gather for its regular meeting on Monday night at Education Court.

Director of Education Manny Figueiredo told Global News the board will look at options to try and get to the root causes of bullying and school violence.

The first plan of action will be a ‘Bullying Prevention & Intervention Review Panel’ expected to provide recommendations no later than May 31, 2020.

“We’re going to bring a report to the board on Monday and there’ll be a panel,” Figueiredo said.

READ MORE: Teens injured in ‘weapons’ fight on the mountain, not at school: Hamilton police

“We’re going to engage in about a six, seven-month process to really bring key people to the table and bring recommendations not just for here, but for the province.”

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Figueiredo says there was no doubt that the complexity of the bullying problem was magnified by the events of Oct. 7 when 14-year-old Devan Selvey was stabbed to death on the grounds of Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.

The most recent numbers available for reported violent incidents at the School District was for 2017-18, when 13 incidents were reported, according to the Ministry of Education.

That number is significantly more than any of the previous five years, during which no incidents were reported to the province between 2012 and 2017.

READ MORE: 2 accused in stabbing death of Hamilton teen Devan Bracci-Selvey make court appearance

However, Figueiredo says the 2017-18 numbers don’t include the number of students involved in a typical altercation.

“So one incident could have resulted in five or six students in the incident,” Figueiredo said.

Meanwhile, district school board Trustee Alex Johnstone said she was to understand that violent incident data has been further skewed by a “glitch” between the school board’s computer system and the province’s computer system.

“Each board across the province uses a different data system and that’s where the discrepancies are created,” said Johnstone, “The data systems do not always speak the same language or speak accurately to each other between the province and the school boards.”

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Johnstone says trustees are reviewing procedures to provide more accurate reporting to the province in the future.

Expectations for the new review panel would include facilitating and gathering feedback from community groups about bullying but not to engage the current police investigation at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary, according to the school district.

Some supports have already been put in place within the board, according to Figueiredo, including social workers, behaviour consultants and 25 child youth workers.

READ MORE: https://globalnews.ca/news/6006193/hwdsb-response-student-death/

The board’s director says the hope is to engage students with intimidation issues to get them the help they need before a situation escalates into violence.

“We need preventative measures that really deal with the root cause of why students are experiencing some of this trauma and what supports we have to put in place,” Figueiredo said, “This is complex. Early intervention is going to be key here.”

Johnstone says the plan is to get a three-person panel to work immediately with a community-driven agenda.

“We want to hear from parents, community organizations, community partners,” said Johnstone, “Ultimately we are looking for everyone to get involved. That’s the only way to address this serious and complex issue, a bully, bullying and violence in our community. The only way to address it is if we all work together. And we owe that to our kids.”

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Hamilton Police charge two teens in murder of 14-year-old Devan Selvey
Hamilton Police charge two teens in murder of 14-year-old Devan Selvey