Last week the Ontario Auditor General released its report with respect to the Ontario Governments “Safe Schools initiatives”. The overall report centers on the lack of information relating to the success of programs implemented in the Safe Schools initiatives, and lack of accountability with respect to where the money the province allocated to these programs went when school boards got their hands on it. The full report and recommendations of the Auditor General can be found here. The report offered some insight and has answered a lot of questions I have had with respect to some of my own investigations on this issue. Back in 2009 I contacted the York Region District School Board asking for information relating to:
1) Information on money being spent on bullying programs
2) Any information relating to the success and failure of these programs and how they were tracked
3) York Region District School Boards policy amendments around implementing legislation on safe schools
4) Information on formal training with respect to school staff on bullying issues
I ended up getting a quote back from the Director’s office of $900 for this information claiming it was extensive. I went to local media and the Ministry of Education for further assistance, only to be turned down by both. Even though I had massive difficulties trying to get assistance on this matter, I find the AG’s report vindicating to say the least. Above all this is the best Christmas gift I could ever ask for, because those I sought assistance from were wrong not to follow through! It also alleviates a lot of stress on those advocating for change, and will now put into motion (hopefully) the monitoring and accountability needed to ensure a positive and safe environment for our kids. This is what change is all about, and the reason why I have dedicated a lot of my time on this. It’s now the expectation of those “journalists” to follow through and ensure that change does present itself, and it’s up to us to hold our representatives feet to the fire to ensure a lot of the recommendations are followed through in legislation and monitoring of these programs.
I have read the entire report, but rather than report extensively on the different recommendations and get into analysis of the policy I think the message is clear; start sharing information to the public and within government. I personally would like to recommend to our policy makers that they seriously look at implementing open access policies in legislation towards School Boards. Open Access basically means taking all the information the Auditor General is talking about in this report and throwing it up on the web for the public to see and engage in. I also strongly recommend independent oversight and audit of the current School System as a whole to ensure tax payers money that is being poured into the school boards has proper oversight.
The benefits of open access are clear, and proven to the point where President Obama’s advisory team has made this a major policy towards government in the US. Open Access is also non-partisan with many younger politicians supporting this type of policy at all levels of government. The way freedom of information requests are being handled is archaic and obsolete. It is much, much cheaper to throw information up via web, and have the public engaged in policy making activities than it is to pay someone with a photocopier, and charge an arm and a leg for information that the public has a right to.
From what I have read thus far, the Ontario Opposition parties have come out swinging at the Provincial Liberals on this report, however have failed to put forth platforms of Open Access to ensure accountability in the system, and implement a clear independent overseer to handle complaints of non-compliance within legislation. Had I known after being turned down from the people I was seeking assistance from, that the Auditor General should be contacted, this report would have been released a year ago!
It’s also clear that the checks and balances in Government that the free press is supposed to uphold, are not where they should be. There wouldn’t be a need for wikkileaks if the people in the journalism profession decided to do their jobs once in a while. For more information on Open Access and policies implemented in the US, play the video below.
Safe schools programs should also be looked at as a matter of national security. The United States Secret Service has posted it's own reports on how important it is to have a national safe schools strategy. Their reports can be found here