The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada recently released a resource to help Ontarians better understand the potential implications of Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act. To review the full document, download a copy of Ontario’s Bill 13, The Accepting Schools Act, and Anti-Bullying Initiatives: What You Need To Know, which is a compilation of the most frequently asked questions and their answers on Bill 13. Check out www.theEFC.ca/acceptingschoolsact for more information.
1. What is Bill 13, the Accepting Schools Act?
Bill 13 was introduced in the Ontario Legislature on November 30, 2011 by the Minister of Education Laurel Broten to address the issue of bullying in Ontario schools. In her own words,
2. Does Bill 13 apply to publicly funded schools?
Yes, Bill 13 definitely applies to publicly-funded public schools and denominational separate schools. In Ontario, all denominational schools are Catholic except for the Penetanguishene Protestant Separate School Board.
3. How does Bill 13 apply to private schools?
Under the Education Act, private schools in Ontario are considered distinct from other schools. They are deemed to be businesses or non-profit organizations. For this reason, many of the amendments to the Education Act that Bill 13 proposes would not apply to private schools, as they are not considered schools within the definition found in the Bill. Further, the term “Board” within the Education Act also excludes private schools and boards. Private schools are considered a completely different entity.
It is important to note that a central theme in Bill 13 is the use of the word “schools.” The strongest indication that private schools may be subject to some of the provisions is that certain amendments refer overtly to schools with boards. If the legislature intended to only include schools with boards when it used the word “schools”, it would have done so throughout the whole bill and would not have included some provisions dealing with boards and others simply with schools. It therefore might be presumed to have meant to include all schools when it used the word “schools.”
Based on reading the Act as a whole, because the legislature already defined private schools as distinct from other schools in the definition section of the Act, the legislature should be explicit when it is including private schools in certain provisions, as the presumption is that the word “schools” does not include private schools.
An additional area of interest is if and how an equity policy becomes part of the curriculum in Ontario. The 2010 Inspection Requirements for Private Schools Granting Secondary School Credits (“Inspection Requirements”) sets out that the Ministry of Education’s inspection of a private school is to ascertain whether the instruction in secondary school courses being delivered is in compliance with Ministry of Education Requirements. The delivery of the curriculum expectations must be congruent with certain documents including “applicable Policy/Program Memoranda” (PPM).
This wording gives leeway to the Ministry of Education for incorporating policies into the curriculum which private schools must then, in turn, follow. Given our review of a number of Ministry documents, it appears as if the government of Ontario could decide to include equity policies into PPM required in the curriculum of private schools; however, it does not appear to have done so as of now.
In addition, Bill 13 requires compliance by organizations making use of publicly funded school facilities through rental or other agreements. Private schools that compete in athletics or other competitions that take place in publicly funded school facilities or otherwise access publicly funded school facilities for use of gymnasiums, chemistry labs, language labs or other classrooms would appear to be required to comply with Bill 13 in their operations.