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Safe Schools Review Panel

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June 11, 2021

An open letter on working together to address bullying – Thank you to students, families, staff and community partners

April 6, 2021

The Safe Schools Action Plan was presented to the Program Committee as part of the Positive Culture & Well-Being Priority.

Safe Schools Action Plan 2021-23

January 25, 2021

Final Report and Recommendations (See Final Report Tab)

Media Release – HWDSB Trustees Receive Safe Schools Review Panel’s Final Report

December 7, 2020 

Media Release – Safe Schools Review Panel Releases Draft Recommendations

Safe Schools Review Panel: Draft Recommendations

November 26, 2020

Panel adds Virtual Sessions for community feedback on draft recommendations

November 4, 2020

Bullying Survey Open for Parents/Guardians/Caregivers

October 26, 2020

Safe Schools Review Panel Student Survey Now Available

September 9, 2020

Media Release -New Dates Set for Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel (HTML) or

June 29, 2020 

Letter #3 – Safe Schools Panel Update (HTML) or 

May 25, 2020

Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel Interim Report

April 8, 2020

Letter #2 – Safe Schools Panel Update (HTML) or

March 13, 2020

Letter #1 – Safe Schools Panel Sessions Postponed

February 24, 2020

Flyer – Safe Schools Panel – Punjabi

Flyer – Safe Schools Panel – Urdu

Flyer – Safe Schools Panel – Arabic

Flyer – Safe Schools Panel – Spanish

Flyer – Safe Schools Panel – Serbian

February 5, 2020

Safe Schools Review_Spec Ad

January 31, 2020

Media Release – Dates Set for Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel 

General Flyer – Dates and Locations 

December 16, 2019

Media Release – Update on Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel

November 26, 2019

Media Release – HWDSB Dedicates Learning Day to Bullying Prevention and Intervention

November 15, 2019

Media Release – HWDSB Offers New Supports, Initiatives and Training Leading up to Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week

November 12, 2019

Media Release – HWDSB Trustees Appoint Independent Specialized Panel

The Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel delivered to Trustees its final report and recommendations, which are based on extensive community consultation on how HWDSB can better address and prevent bullying. The final report was approved by the Board of Trustees on January 25, 2021.

Community Report

This community report is a summary of a much longer report, “Building Healthy Relationships and an Inclusive, Caring Learning Environment: Final Report of the HWDSB Safe Schools Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel.” This summary will give you the highlights from the full report.

Building Healthy Relationships and an Inclusive, Caring Learning Environment

Final Report

Following the death of Devan Bracci-Selvey, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) trustees created the Safe Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel (hereafter referred to as the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel or the review panel for short). The review panel’s purpose was to gather qualitative and quantitative community feedback, summarize research and create recommendations for HWDSB, the Hamilton community and government to address bullying.

Building Healthy Relationships and an Inclusive, Caring Learning Environment

Literature Review

In partnership with the University of Ottawa and York University, Tracy Vaillancourt, Ph.D., Debra Peper, Ph. D., and Ann Farrell, Ph. D. summarized the most current research and best practices in a literature review.

Bullying in Childhood and Adolescence

Safe Schools Pop Up Session for Students – Meeting #1 Recording (June 16, 2021)

Safe Schools Pop Up Session for Parents, Guardians Caregivers – Meeting #1 Recording (June 17, 2021)

Safe Schools Pop Up Session for Partners and Community Members – Meeting #1 Recording (June 22, 2021)

The Board of Trustees take student safety and well-being seriously and approved this review in order to engage with the broader community on the critical issue of bullying within our community. The true spirit of engagement is an iterative process that allows flexibility within the process once the consultation begins to ensure voices are heard of victims of bullying, as well as those using bullying behaviour.

This Review Panel will engage and consult with existing HWDSB stakeholder structures (i.e. Student Senate, Parent Involvement Committee) as well as stakeholder voices that are less likely heard (i.e. marginalized students, racialized parents) in order to obtain authentic and constructive recommendations.

In October, 2019, the Board passed a motion that a Bullying Prevention and Intervention Review Panel be created with a focus on bullying prevention, intervention, reporting, and responding in order to provide independent feedback and recommendations to the Director of Education and shared with the Board no later than May 31, 2020. The final report will be submitted to the Board no later than September 30, 2020.

The Review Panel’s scope is to review and consult with stakeholders (students, parents/guardians/caregivers, staff, union partners, community partners) on HWDSB Bullying Prevention, Intervention, Reporting, and Responding practices as per the HWDSB policy and procedure. The expectation is that an equity focus will be used throughout the process.

Roles and Responsibilities

Review Panel Consulting Firm Advisors/Experts
  • Attentiveness to systemic issues and root causes and critical analysis of consultation information and data to inform recommendations
  • Ensure consultation sessions involve all stakeholders (students, parents/guardians/caregivers, staff, union partners, community partners)
  • Final approval of consultation questions
  • 2 of the 3 panel members be present at each community engagement session
  • Participation (active listening), at community consultation sessions
  • Critical review of consultation information and data to inform recommendations
  • Author Reports with contribution from consulting firm and advisors/experts
  • Strategic advisor to panel and Director
  • Facilitate Consultations with her team
  • Develop consultation questions for approval by panel members and provide advice on the on-line questions (survey portion)
  • Develop the Communications Strategy
  • Analysis of consultation and report writing
  • Provide the latest research on bullying prevention and intervention
  • Provide advice on consultation questions
  • Facilitate and analyze the on-line survey portion of the consultation
  • Review report and recommendations provided

HWDSB Staff will provide the following supports and services where required such as access to interpreters, translations, facility rentals, data sharing agreement and safe school processes as well as a list of community partners and contact information.

Consultation and Methodology

The public participation method will be consultation in order to obtain public feedback input and feedback on recommendations. Panel will listen and acknowledge concerns and provide feedback on how public input influenced recommendations. The Review Panel will have one or two meeting(s) with the HWDSB staff to enable the panel to understand the processes and their rationale and to provide an opportunity for the critical assessment of the data.

The Review Panel and Kojo Institute will meet with the Student Senate for advice on the consultation plan and process prior to commencing engagement sessions.
The Consultation (Interim) Report will be shared with stakeholders for feedback prior to completion of final report. The expectation is that there will always be 2 of the 3 Review Panel members present at each consultation session.

The members of the review panel were named by Trustees at the November 12, 2019, board meeting, and will consist of the following respected community members who, combined have several decades of experience, knowledge and skills:

Panel Members

Dr Jean Clinton1 Dr. Jean Clinton is a Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster, division of Child Psychiatry. She is on staff at McMaster Children’s Hospital with cross appointments in Pediatrics and Family Medicine, and an Associate in the Department of Child Psychiatry, University of Toronto and Sick Children’s Hospital. She is a Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy, as well as a Zero to Three Academy Fellow since 2013. She has been a consultant to children and youth mental health programs, child welfare, and primary care for over 30 years. Dr. Clinton was appointed as an education advisor to the Premier of Ontario and the Minister of Education 2014 – 2018. Dr. Clinton is renowned nationally and internationally as an advocate for children’s issues. Her special interest lies in brain development, and the crucial role relationships and connectedness play therein. Jean champions the development of a national, comprehensive child well-being strategy including a system of early learning and care for all young children and their families. She is equally committed to ensuring that children’s and youths’ needs and voices are heard and respected. Dr Clinton has lived and worked in Hamilton since 1965. She has been honoured with several awards and nominations including YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (2010), Hamilton Gallery of Distinction (2018) and nominated for Citizen of the year (2005). She attended McMaster University for both her undergraduate and medical degrees and received the McMaster Alumni Hamilton Community Impact Award in 2012. She lives in Hamilton with her partner Jim – they have 5 children and 4 grandchildren.
Brenda Flaherty Brenda Flaherty has retired from her role as the Executive Vice President and COO at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS). She is an Assistant Professor at McMaster University’s School of Nursing and is a past part-time instructor in McMaster’s MBA program. She currently serves on the national board of YMCA Canada as Past Chair and was the former Chair of the Hamilton/ Burlington/ Brantford YMCA, and the former Chair of the North Hamilton Community Health Centre. Brenda led the development of the ground breaking “Live Well” partnership between the YMCA, HHS and McMaster University, which collaboratively links acute care hospital health services with community health and wellness programs. Brenda is the past Chair of The Change Foundation (TCF) and is currently a member of TCF Board Working Group on Evaluation and Strategy. She serves on the Ontario Brain Institute Outreach Advisory Committee. In addition to being a Registered Nurse from Mohawk College, Brenda holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from McMaster University and a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University. She was recently recognized by McMaster University, Faculty of Health Sciences with an Honorary Degree, Doctor of Science. Brenda is married, has three daughters and Hamilton is her life long home.
Dr Gary Warner Dr. Gary Warner taught courses at McMaster University on Francophone Literature and on peace and international development and held various administrative roles including Department Chair, Associate Dean, co-Director of the Theme School on International Justice and Human Rights, founding Director of McMaster International and Director of the Arts & Science Program. He served as Director of the CUSO Program in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and later as Chair of CUSO’s international Board of Directors. He is a former Vice-Chair of the Ontario Council on University Affairs. He has been active in the Hamilton community for over 45 years on issues related to international development, peace, poverty, human rights, antiracism, immigration and social justice, including having served as Chair of the Working Committee of Strengthening Hamilton Community Initiative, member of the Governing Council of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, the Steering Committee of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council, co-Chair of the Advisory Committee of the exhibit, “and still I Rise: A history of African-Canadian Workers in Ontario, 1900 to present”, and Chair of the Board of the Hamilton Community Foundation. He is a recipient of several awards, including the Hamilton Black History Month J.C. Holland Award, Professional Category (1998), the 2002 World Citizenship Award from the Hamilton Mundialization Committee jointly with his wife, the McMaster Student Union Lifetime Achievement Award (2004), the Order of Canada (2005), Hamilton Citizen of the Year (2006), Hamilton Gallery of Distinction (2006), St. Mary’s College (Trinidad) Hall of Fame (2007) and Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). He lives with his wife, Joy, in Hamilton – they have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.

Consulting Firm

Kike Ojo Thompson Kike Ojo-Thompson is the founder and principal consultant of Kojo Institute. An award-winning expert on equity, inclusion and diversity, Kike specializes in developing, facilitating and implementing innovative solutions for creating equity at an institutional level. A dynamic speaker and educator who artfully balances tact and honesty, Kike has over 20 years of experience leading engaging and effective workshops, lectures, mediations, and trainings for a broad range of organizations eager to create equitable outcomes for their staff and clients. In addition to her equity work with Kojo Institute, Kike is a member of the Ontario Human Rights Community Advisory Committee, was formerly the senior facilitator for the province of Ontario’s carding review team, and formerly the project lead for One Vision One Voice, a first-of-its-kind initiative tasked with addressing anti-Black racism in the child welfare system. Of particular note, Kike is a former secondary school teacher and has since supported a number of Boards of Education throughout Ontario.

Independent Advisors

Barry Finlay has over 40 years experience in public education. Formerly, the Director of Special Education for the Province of Ontario, he was responsible for all areas of special education including policy development and implementation, corporate administration, strategic planning and funding. As Provincial Director, he managed the development of the special education funding portfolio involving the annual allocation of approximately 2.7 billion dollars to the Province’s 72 district school boards to meet the special education needs of approximately 335,000 students. Among major initiatives undertaken during his nine-year tenure in the role was responsibility for the Ministry of Education’s contribution to the Province of Ontario’s Mental Health Strategy in conjunction with multiple inter-ministerial partners. Prior to joining the Ministry of Education, Barry served in multiple roles in public education ranging from Special Education Teacher to Associate Director of Education in a public school board. Upon personal reflection, his most meaningful experience was as the founding principal of a high school that developed and incorporated structures and processes that by today’s definition would be recognized as those integral to a mentally healthy school. Barry has consulted broadly in the Province of Ontario as well as in the United States and Britain on the transformation of public education. From his early days in the classroom to his role as a Provincial Director, he has understood the relationship between mental health and learning and championed the development of mentally healthy learning environments for all students.

Dr. Debra J. Pepler is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University. For 35 years, she has led research on aggression, bullying, and victimization among children and adolescents. From 2004 to 2012, she was a member of the Safe Schools Action Team for the Ontario Minister of Education. Her programs of research on peer and family relationships have been embedded in educational, clinical, and community programs including: the Toronto Board of Education Bullying Prevention Program, SNAP (Stop Now and Plan) program for aggressive children at the Child Development Institute, Breaking the Cycle – a program for substance using mothers and their young children, Pine River Institute for youth with addictions and mental health problems, and the Canadian Red Cross community mobilization and wellness programming in Indigenous communities. She is currently involved in programs and research within over 15 Indigenous communities through grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, National Crime Prevention, and Public Health Agency of Canada. She recently participated on the Respect and Culture Committee in conducting a systemic review at St. Michael’s College School. Dr. Pepler co-founded and co-led a federally funded national network, PREVNet (Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network) to promote healthy relationships and prevent bullying for children and youth (www.prevnet.ca). Her research has informed practice and policy related to children and youths’ relationships and violence prevention. In this capacity, she served as a Senior Research Fellow at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre and she is currently working to support Canada’s participation in the Global Initiative to End Violence Against Children aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal 16.2.

Dr. Kathy Short is a Clinical Child Psychologist (University of British Columbia, 1995) with research and practice interests that focus on school mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention services. She is the Executive Director for School Mental Health Ontario, a provincial team that helps Ontario school boards to support student mental health using evidence-based approaches. She was a member of the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (2015-2017) and chaired the Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention Work Group for the Council. Dr. Short also served on the Ontario Education Research Panel (2009-2012) and the Student Well-Being Advisory Committee (2016-2018) for the Ministry of Education. In addition to provincial leadership in school mental health, Dr. Short is engaged in several national and international projects in this area. For example, she led the Knowledge Translation and Exchange Team for the School-Based Mental Health and Substance Abuse Consortium (Mental Health Commission of Canada), and is currently working with several partners to create a cross-provincial knowledge hub in school mental health. She also co-chairs the School Mental Health International Leadership Exchange (SMHILE), a network of global leaders focused on key themes in student mental health promotion and prevention services. SMHILE has recently become the lead school mental health voice within the International Initiative on Mental Health Leadership.

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in School-Based Mental Health and Violence Prevention at the University of Ottawa where she is cross-appointed as a full professor in Counselling Psychology, Faculty of Education and the School of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences. She is also an elected member of The College of the Royal Society of Canada. Dr. Vaillancourt’s research examines the links between bullying and mental health, with a particular focus on social neuroscience. She is currently funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Virtual Panel Session Date Time
Virtual Session on Draft Recommendations – day one December 8, 2020 6:30-8 p.m.
Virtual Session on Draft Recommendations – day two December 10, 2020 6:30-8 p.m.
Virtual Racialized Community Session September 29, 2020 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Virtual Indigenous Community Session October 15, 2020 6:30-8:30 p.m.


Panel Session Date  Time Location
General Session February 12, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Westmount Secondary School, 39 Montcalm Dr., Hamilton
Students with Special Needs, their Families and Community February 15, 2020 12:30 to 3 p.m. Hamilton Public Library, 55 York Blvd., Hamilton
Black Community February 18, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Hamilton Public Library (Central), 55 York Blvd., Hamilton
General Session February 19, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Westdale Secondary School, 700 Main St. W., Hamilton
Jewish Community February 20, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Hamilton Jewish Federation, 1605 Main St. W., Hamilton
LGBTQI2S+ Community February 24, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. YWCA Hamilton, 75 MacNab St., Hamilton
Muslim Community March 2, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Mountain Mosque, 1545 Stone Church Rd. E., Hamilton
General Session March 5, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Bernie Custis Secondary School, 1055 King St. E., Hamilton
Alternative Education Community March 7, 2020 12:30 to 3 p.m. Good Shepherd Centre, 15 Ray St. N., Hamilton
General Session March 9, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Saltfleet District High School, 108 Highland Rd. W., Stoney Creek
Indigenous Community March 11, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Regional Indian Centre, 34 Ottawa St. N., Hamilton
School Board Partners March 12, 2020 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Somali Community Centre, 652 Main St. E., Hamilton
Newcomer Community March 12, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Hamilton Public Library (Sherwood), 467 Upper Ottawa St., Hamilton
Racialized Community March 24, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Good Shepherd Centre, 15 Ray St. N., Hamilton
General Session March 25, 2020 6 to 9 p.m. Waterdown District High School, 215 Parkside Dr., Waterdown

SafeSchoolPanel_General Flyer

Please be Advised

The Safe Schools Review Panel welcomes respectful comments and questions on its social media accounts. HWDSB is supporting the Review Panel through communications and engagement.

  • This is not an emergency report service. If you require help discussing a bullying incident or have concerns about your mental health, please contact:
    • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868, or use;
    • HWDSB Helps app
  • The panel is seeking constructive and respectful ideas so that they may provide recommendations based on personal experiences from members of Hamilton and its surrounding communities.
  • If you are unable to attend one of the panels and wish to submit a story about your experience with bullying, please email, [email protected]. Please include the following information to help the panel make an informed decision when creating recommendations:
    • Your Name
    • School Name
    • Contact Information
  • Information about the Safe Schools email:
    • Although this is not a direct email to the three panelists, please consider this email a receipt that your feedback will be shared with them, to be included in their recommendations report.
    • Please be aware that an official online feedback survey created by the panelists is forthcoming in April. We will send out the link to the survey on our social media platforms when it opens.
    • Keep in mind that this is not a reporting service. If you are reporting a bullying incident, please contact your school’s Principal or Superintendent directly. Find your Superintendent here.
    • There is limited access to this email, which may result in delayed responses. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Social Media Guidelines

In order to create a safe space for participation on our Twitter and Facebook pages, the Safe Schools Review Panel has established guidelines for those who engage on our social media channels.

By interacting with the Safe Schools Review Panel online, you agree to:

  • Be respectful towards all users of the social platform.
  • Not post personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or other online contact details relating either to you or others.
  • Not impersonate or falsely claim to represent a person or an organization.
  • Not post or upload content unrelated to the page or post, or content that is offensive, inflammatory or provocative, including swearing, obscene or vulgar comments.
  • Not use language that is discriminatory, hateful, or violent towards identifiable groups or that incites others to discriminate, practice hate or violence.
  • Not post or upload content that breaks the law or encourage others to do so.
  • Not make any commercial endorsement or promotion of any product, service or publication.
  • Abide by the social media platform’s Terms of Use.

Violating these social media guidelines could result in removal of your comment(s) and block your access to our Twitter or Facebook account.

Social Media:

Twitter: @SafeSchoolsRP

Facebook: @SafeSchoolsReviewPanel

Questions about the panel:

[email protected]

Media Contact:

Shawn McKillop, APR
Manager, Communications and Community Engagement
T: 905.527.5092 x2941 C: 905.515.6227
[email protected]

Updated on Monday, May 16, 2022.
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