Focus 1 : Prevention and Treatment
Focus 1 presents the measures and actions intended to support the school system more directly in its responsibility to prevent violence and to deal with it appropriately. It gives school communities the opportunity to unite and improve on the actions they have already taken.
Preventing and dealing with violence are considered on three levels of intervention: universal (primary), targeted (secondary) and clinical (tertiary). These levels take into account the risk and protection factors related to the personal, school, family and social characteristics of the situation.
Objective 1.1: Consolidate and reinforce actions by schools and school boards to prevent and deal with violence in the schools
The Education Act requires schools to have a three-year educational project and a success plan to be reviewed annually. In order to carry out this responsibility, schools must analyze their situation so as to allow all staff members to share a clear understanding of their teaching practices and the school climate. Schools often intervene creatively and already have measures in place to improve the school climate, but it is recognized there are few means to evaluate the initiatives launched and to assess their impact.
Objective 1.1 consists of six measures involving a variety of actions.
Measure 1.1.1: Ensure that each school is aware of the particular challenges it faces with regard to violence, and has devised means of assessing the initiatives in this regard
Measure 1.1.1 offers the school system tools to help them define their situation regarding violence and to evaluate the actions they take to prevent and deal with it. However, it is up to each school to decide which tool to use to analyze or improve its analysis of the situation.
This measure involves two actions:
Report on actions carried out and report on manifestations of violence
Schools are asked to report on the actions they have carried out and the means they have used to prevent and deal with violence. Schools are then asked to complete their report by listing any manifestations of violence observed. This report will allow everyone to share a common vision of the school climate and the practices used in the school community.
Several elementary and secondary schools have used different strategies, either NANS, the Healthy Schools approach or local initiatives, to report on their situation regarding violence in the schools. These steps may replace or complete the report requested by the Minister, which will help schools come up with objectives and determine relevant means to add to their success plan.
In an attempt to explain why some schools and school boards seem to be less affected than others by violence, researchers have suggested that certain factors associated with attitudes, organization, and support and communications systems can affect the general climate of schools. Apart from various intervention programs designed to prevent and deal with violence, a number of elements can contribute to a pleasant, stimulating school environment.
The number of students and staff members, the support and supervision system, reception and support services for students, their participation in school life, collaboration between adults, the code of conduct and the student supervision plan are all aspects to be explored, as they affect the interventions to prevent violence on a daily basis.
The Ministère has given schools a tool to help them report on their situation with respect to violence, and this tool includes some of these aspects. It will help them report on their situation according to factors such as gender, age and rural or urban setting.
Preventative measures can be included in the educational and extracurricular activities already in place and do not necessarily have to be considered as extra activities or projects. For example, a discussion about differences between cultures, belief systems or respect for other people’s choices, either during a History and Citizenship Education class or in Ethics and Religious Culture, could itself constitute a preventive action. Similarly, extracurricular activities allow students to pursue their interests and passions, and contribute to improved self-esteem and a healthy climate within the school.
This is universal prevention, which touches on the growth of personal competencies for all individuals without exception, as well as better organization of the school community's resources.
Measure 1.1.2: Give schools and school boards, on a regional basis, guidance to support their actions to prevent and deal with violence in the schools and suggest strict, structured, coherent procedures from preschool to the secondary level
The action plan is not intended to propose a single universal program to prevent and deal with violence across Québec. The reality schools face varies greatly from one area to another. The action plan is meant to support and guide schools and school boards in order to pursue and improve on the procedures already in place, or to foster change in the way violence is dealt with in the schools.
This measure has three actions.
Hire a regional support officer
The regional support officer's mandate will be to make sure the action plan is implemented properly and to support the sharing of expertise and guidance in the area of preventing and dealing with violence in the schools, while taking into account the reality and the needs of the region. More specifically, this mandate will include:
- Setting up a suitable regional resource group covering the regional office's territory by involving school board representatives and their partners, as well as the services for the English-speaking community and the services for private schools.
- Coordinating, chairing and mobilizing resource groups and guide them as follows:
- Teaching them to prevent and deal with violence in a structured, coherent manner.
- Sharing experiences and expertise in the area of violence in the schools.
- Organizing and following up on training and guidance sessions related to the action plan.
- Doing an inventory of the steps already being taken in the region.
- Acting as a resource person to communicate to the school system any local needs and priorities regarding violence in the schools.
- Working closely with the various members of the regional office to ensure an integrated set of complementary measures for preventing and dealing with violence in schools.
- Carrying out any information and feedback activities required between the resource groups, the regional office and the MELS Coordination des services complémentaires.
- Helping to develop expertise on the subject according to provincial priorities related to the action plan.
- Working with the provincial training team to organize and, when necessary, to conduct training sessions.
- Making sure that all his/her actions foster the autonomy of schools and school boards in the area of preventing and dealing with violence.
- Working with partners to set up mechanisms for following up on and evaluating the action plan.
- Carrying out any other tasks connected to the objectives of the action plan, particularly those relating to behavioural difficulties and promoting health, well-being and prevention.
Create one resource group per region
These groups offer special opportunities to share information, experience and expertise in order to equip schools and school boards to prevent and deal with violence.
These are opportunities for everyone to work together, making it possible to avoid isolated actions. These groups will focus on victims as well as aggressors and witnesses. They will take into account the specific realities of their region, such as street gangs or Aboriginal communities.
Each regional support group, set up by the support officer with the help of the regional office and the school boards, will have the following mandate:
- Ensuring that the members of the regional support group, school boards and their partners in the region have a shared understanding of the phenomenon of violence, taking into account everyone's conceptions and beliefs as well as current research.
- Making sure schools are better equipped to prevent and deal with violence by enabling members to share information, expertise and experiences in this regard and by taking into account the needs, the diversity of the school population and the particular characteristics of the region.
- Encouraging school boards and their partners to engage in a reflective, structured, coherent process to prevent and deal with violence.
The regional support group can also become a forum for determining shared actions in the face of different manifestations of violence (bullying, taxing, racism, homophobia, etc.) and in the different circumstances in which it occurs (school bus, schoolyard, Internet, etc.). The composition of the group can vary from region to region. It can be formed on the basis of an existing committee and enlarged according to the needs and characteristics of the region. The Ministère recommends the following list of members for the group:
Representatives employed in education
- Regional representative for complementary educational services
- Regional support persons for students with behavioural difficulties
- Regional support persons for students with psychopathological disorders
- Healthy Schools support person
- Development officer working in NANS disadvantaged areas
- Person in charge of the educational project at the school board
- School principal (elementary and secondary)
- Teacher (elementary and secondary)
- Professional (psychologist, psychoeducator, at the elementary and secondary levels)
- Support staff (specialized teacher, student supervisor, etc., at the elementary and secondary levels)
- Child care staff
- Parent representatives
- Representatives of community organizations
- Representative of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (Centre de santé et des services sociaux, Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse, etc.)
- Representative of the police force (Sûreté du Québec, municipal police force)
- Representative of student transportation services
Training and guidance sessions
Training sessions are designed for members of the regional support groups and other stakeholders designated by school boards to help and guide others in dealing with school violence. These sessions equip participants with effective approaches to prevent and deal with violence, and address issues relating to the victims, perpetrators and witnesses of violence, as well as the age-specific needs of students and the problems they face (self-control, self-esteem, violence in romantic relationships, etc.). Among other things, the sessions provide opportunities for the following:
- equipping schools and school boards to take an inventory of their actions to prevent and deal with violence in the schools, given the school population, the school climate, enrolment, the environment, etc., and to evaluate the impact of their actions
- informing participants of educational strategies, promising practices and structured prevention programs that are recognized in Québec and elsewhere by health and education specialists
- helping participants adopt a structured, coherent approach to preventing and dealing with violence, covering the different areas of teaching while taking into account the needs of victims, perpetrators and witnesses, as well as the age of the students, and targeting violence among students and between students and teachers.
On the one hand, the sessions must ensure the development of a comprehensive, systemic and concerted vision by fostering discussion of the values, priorities and needs of a region and, on the other hand, they must ensure that members of the regional support groups understand this vision and are able to explain it to the education community as a whole.
The goal of the sessions is to integrate expertise in preventing and dealing with violence by taking into account the three forms of intervention (universal, targeted and clinical) and the four systems that make up the school milieu (the school as a whole, its environment, the classroom and the student).
Measure 1.1.3: Equip schools to intervene in different issues, such as cyberbullying, taxing, racism, homophobia and violence on school buses
Violence may require specific means of intervention, depending on the problems involved. Measure 1.1.3 proposes reference tools (booklets on specific subjects) that allow stakeholders and parents to better intervene in new situations that may arise, such as bullying and cyberbullying, taxing, homophobia and violence on school buses or elsewhere. The reference tool outlines the characteristics and explanatory factors, manifestations and consequences, as well as suggested actions that could improve the situation. In addition, it provides schools with a list of resources they may draw on during the process of developing and implementing their own local intervention strategy.
For example, some of these resources include Police Presence in Educational Institutions: Frame of Reference (sample agreement between the police and schools), a list of the services offered by the Sûreté du Québec, including a kit, Objectif: Cyberbranché (cyberbullying) and the Programme de réponse pour une école sécuritaire (emergency plan), the Resource Kit on Sexual Orientation for Educators and Youth Workers (homophobia) developed by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, as well as documents produced by unions, community groups and research groups, such as the Trousse de sensibilisation à l’agression indirecte (indirect aggression).
Measure 1.1.4: Foster the implementation of effective means, especially at the preschool and elementary levels, in order to act early
The fourth measure of Focus 1 allows schools, especially at the preschool and elementary levels, to develop effective actions or to implement tested programs, including measures for students who are victims or witnesses, as well as for perpetrators. An annual allocation of $2.3 million will be given to the school boards to enable them to implement this measure. It encourages and supports the school system’s initiatives to prevent and deal with violence early in a child’s development.
Québec’s research community supports the idea of implementing effective actions when students are most vulnerable (Vitaro, 2008; Paquin, 2006), and the transitions from preschool to elementary school and from elementary to secondary school are specifically targeted.
Measure 1.1.5: Make sure every school develops a strategy to prevent and deal with violence as part of its educational project and its success plan
Measure 1.1.5 is designed to ensure that every school develops a local intervention strategy to prevent and deal with violence in the schools. Using this strategy, the school community must be able to set up the conditions and measures to guide and support the victims and witnesses of violent acts, as well as the perpetrators. Immediate assistance that respects certain basic principals can only reduce the risk of severe, lasting trauma for victims and witnesses.
Each school must adopt such a strategy, based on its success plan, taking into account the characteristics of its population and elements such as the following:
- a profile of the situation including actions carried out to prevent and deal with violence and means to evaluate their impact in the school
- a profile of the manifestations of violence occurring between fellow students, between students and adults , or involving school partners, and a description of the circumstances
- safety and emergency measures
- measures to assist personnel and students who are victims
- the role of school stakeholders (administrators, teachers, complementary services personnel, support service staff and all partners concerned, including parents
- the school code
- information about rights and responsibilities
- legislative frameworks
- occurrence report
- protection of personnel and students who are victims
- dealing with complaints
- a clearly announced school policy on violence that takes into account the characteristics of the school population, etc.
However, given the work that schools have already done to prevent and deal with violence, the measures set out in the action plan may be used to complement what is being done or to review the success plan in light of new information revealed in the profile of their situation.
Measure 1.1.6: Provide pedagogical and psychosocial support for suspended or expelled students in order to help them integrate into the school
The Ministère will provide recurrent annual funding in the amount of $1.75 million in order to allow school boards with students in difficulty to organize pedagogical and psychosocial support services to foster the reintegration of suspended or expelled students.
This type of service aims to help students work constructively on the attitudes and behaviours that hinder their social integration and their academic success, and that interrupt the class. It also helps students to keep up with their schoolwork. This service allows effective means to be set up to provide students with every possible alternative before sending them to special classes for those with behavioural disorders, and it helps to prevent them from developing delinquent behaviour.
The development of a guidance service for suspended or expelled students must be carried out as part of an agreement between school boards and schools, and it must follow the school code and the disciplinary rules established with the school staff and approved by the governing board. This measure will allow schools and school boards to provide a range of services through joint coherent actions that are to be taken throughout the disciplinary process and that are integrated into the student’s individualized education plan. However, the school cannot act alone in the face of these issues, and must work closely with parents and partners in order to meet the targeted objectives.
Objective 1.2: Intervene effectively and ensure safety during exceptional situations in the schools
The school community may experience different events that require the development and deployment of an emergency plan. Incidents involving extreme weather conditions, major power failures, exposure to hazardous materials, natural catastrophes, bomb scares, fatal accidents and violence all require a special intervention plan.
In the past few years, schools in different parts of the world have experienced tragic events such as hostage-takings and killings. Until now, Québec elementary and secondary schools have not experienced such events, unlike some of our colleges and universities. However, safety measures must be put in place in order to ensure effective intervention in such exceptional situations. Objective 1.2 of the action plan addresses this concern for school communities and partners. It includes the following measure.
Measure 1.2.1: Make sure that every school board has an emergency intervention plan applicable to itself and its schools, and that it establishes an agreement with police authorities regarding their intervention at the schools
This measure in the action plan applies especially to schools in the prevention of exceptional situations involving injury or death following, for example, the arrival of a gunman, an armed individual, an imminent direct threat or even an accident due to a false move or lack of supervision, not to mention other types of incidents that could be included in an integrated emergency intervention plan. Emergency situations are often complex; they require a well thought-out emergency plan that includes a range of threats from minor to major. The safety of individuals is at stake.
Every school board must develop or update an emergency plan that can be applied to itself and to its schools. It must include the training of a committee responsible for applying emergency measures in each school, a communication plan for the members of the school team, the school board, partners and parents, as well as a kit with a detailed map of the area and specific information about the staff and the students.
Various partners such as school boards, police and the health network have developed expertise in this field, allowing them to intervene in all aspects of a situation and to take its key elements into account. The school community will greatly benefit from their knowledge and, with their help, can establish procedures to respond to any situation. For example:
- Identifying, preventing and reducing the risk of violent events occurring that could affect the school community and property (prevention, preparation, intervention and re-establishment).
- Limiting the physical and psychological consequences on individuals and damages to the environment and the property that could result from a violent event in the school community
- Improving the state of preparation and response of all stakeholders concerned when violent events occur (staff training, effective communication, etc.)
- Establishing a structured emergency plan that takes into account all the elements considered, specifically a protocol for crisis situations.
- Working with the police department, determine when and why the police could be called to the school and the protocol that applies in these situations.
- in the context of prevention and community relations
- in the context of investigation
- in an emergency context
This objective is closely related to the emergency context described in the document Police Presence in Educational Institutions: Frame of Reference , which stipulates that the school and school board staff must work with the police force, public security, community organizations and the municipality to prepare an emergency procedure to be followed in situations that might involve a hostage-taking, a single gunman or a clash between two gangs.
Schools and school boards are asked to make an agreement with the police to determine, when and how the police will visit the school to discuss violence prevention, intervention and emergency situations. The Provincial Consultation Panel on Violence, Youth and the School Environment has produced a sample agreement that conforms to its responsibilities described in the Plan d’intervention québécois sur les gangs de rue (Québec’s intervention plan regarding street gangs).