Safe & Caring School Communities – Independent Schools

Date came into force or revised

November 2019

Status

Current

Policy statement

This policy is intended to guide independent school authorities in their efforts to create safe and inclusive learning environments and to develop prevention and intervention strategies for addressing worrisome student behaviours such as threats or risks of violence.

Rationale or purpose of policy

Every child deserves an education that is free from bullying, harassment, intimidation and other forms of personal discrimination and violence. Student safety is paramount and is fostered by independent school authorities through an ongoing focus on developing safe and caring school communities and by ensuring schools have appropriate prevention and intervention strategies in place.

Authority

  • Harassment and Bullying Prevention Inspector’s Order
  • Independent School Act - Preamble, section 4 (1) (c) 

Related legislation includes:

  • The Constitution Act (1982)
    • Part 1 - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
    • Part 2 - Rights of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
    • Official Languages Act
  • The Multiculturalism Act (RSBC 1996) 
  • The Human Rights Code (RSBC 1996, c. 210)

Policy in full

Independent schools in British Columbia are expected to develop positive and inclusive school cultures and foster optimal environments for learning. A key part of this work includes enabling school connectedness and developing protocols for preventing and intervening in instances of bullying and other worrisome behaviours.

Members of school communities share a commitment to maintaining safe and caring schools. They should:

  • Protect students’ physical safety, social connectedness, inclusiveness and protection from all form of bullying, regardless of gender, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression
  • Work together to better understand issues such as bullying, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, and other worrisome behaviours and to learn new skills to respond effectively to them
  • Develop positive school cultures and focus on the prevention of bullying and harassment
  • Use school-wide efforts to build communities that foster respect and inclusion
  • Encourage positive student behaviour by being sensitive to and aware of the effects of trauma (trauma sensitive schools)
  • Set, communicate and consistently reinforce clear expectations regarding conduct
  • Teach, model and encourage positive social behaviours that contribute to the school community by supporting peaceful problem solving, celebrating diversity, and defending human rights
  • Assume responsibility, in partnership with the wider community, for resolving critical safety concerns
  • Develop multi-agency community protocols for violence threat or risk assessment, in collaboration with the local school district and community partners
  • Respond consistently to incidents in a fair and reasoned manner, using interventions that repair harm, strengthen relationships and restore a sense of belonging
  • Participate in the development of policies, procedures and practices that promote school safety, including emergency preparedness
  • Engage in continuous learning and professional development to foster safe and caring school communities and address emerging safety concerns
  • Monitor and evaluate school culture for evidence of continuous improvement
  • Recognize and celebrate achievements, while acknowledging areas that need improvement

Independent school authorities should use the following tools to achieve safe and caring schools: 

  1. Harassment and Bullying Prevention Policy
  2. Safe School Coordinators (and teams) and erase training
  3. Student Safety Communication Protocols
  4. erase Report It Tool (anonymous online reporting tool)
  5. Violence Threat Risk Assessment community protocols (in collaboration with public school districts and community agencies)

These are described under the section below “procedures related to policy.”

Procedures related to policy

1. Harassment and Bullying Prevention Policy

Independent school authorities must ensure that each independent school operated by that authority establishes and implements a harassment and bullying prevention policy. Please see the Harassment and Bullying Prevention Order for specific elements that must be included in the policy.

See “resources” section below for links to resources to assist schools in developing their policies.

2. Safe School Coordinators and erase training requirements (as per the Independent School Inspection process)

  1. Independent schools must have a Primary Safe School Coordinator, who is the person with primary responsibility for the day-to-day operation of a single school/campus. In most independent schools, this will be the school Principal or whomever is named as such on the Ministry of Education’s Master Contact list – see Section 3 for further clarification on Ministry contact lists. For schools that have a Head of School or a Superintendent who oversees a group of schools/campuses, the on-site principal(s) shall hold the role of Primary Safe School Coordinator(s). For schools with a Head of School with responsibility for day-to-day operations of that school, the Head of School will be the Primary Safe School Coordinator.
     

    One School Organization with

    Ministry Code(s)

    Ministry Master Contact List - Entry for ‘Principal’

    Ministry SSC Contact List – Primary Safe School Coordinator

    Single campus

    One

    Head of the school organization (typically the Principal or Head of School)

    Individual with primary responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the school (typically the Principal)

    Multiple campuses

    Single or multiple

    Head of the school organization (typically a Head of School or Superintendent)

    Principal at each campus


    The Primary Safe School Coordinator plays a key role in the development of school-wide safety initiatives and in responding to student safety incidents. All Primary Safe School Coordinators must have Basic Violence Threat Risk Assessment (Basic VTRA) training.  Other key aspects of the role include:
    • Responding to reported incidents (e.g. submitted via the erase Report It Tool)
    • Overseeing the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process
    • Liaising with community partners as required (e.g. Ministry of Children and Family Development, police/RCMP, hospital/ER)
    • Communicating with the local school district to request to participate in the development of the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Community Protocol​
       
  2. All independent schools must have access to a second person with Basic Violence Threat Risk Assessment (Basic VTRA) training. This individual could be:
    1. An Additional Safe School Coordinator at the school - see below
    2. Another Safe School Coordinator (Primary or Additional) from within the same school authority
    3. An Association Safe School Coordinator (for schools that belong to FISABC) – see below

      Additional Safe School Coordinators are:
      • School-based staff, and work with the Primary Safe School Coordinator on the development of school-wide safety initiatives and in responding to student safety incidents
      • Typically members of the school’s leadership team and can step in and fulfil the role of Primary Safe School Coordinator, if required
      • Required to have Basic Violence Threat Risk Assessment (Basic VTRA) training

        N.B. The Additional Safe School Coordinator role is not in itself a Ministry requirement. Schools that do not have access to additional support from within the same school authority or from an Association SSC (schools that belong to FISA BC) are required to have a second person on staff with Basic VTRA training (i.e. an Additional Safe School Coordinator).​

Association Safe School Coordinators:
Each independent school association must have one or more Association Safe School Coordinators to support the principal in the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process and in the event of an emergency or critical incident.  Responsibilities may also include:

  • Supporting a group of independent schools in their efforts to create safe and inclusive learning environments and developing prevention and intervention strategies for addressing worrisome behaviours including threats or risks of violence
  • Building school capacity to deal with bullying and violence

Association Safe School Coordinators must have the following advanced erase training:

  • Advanced Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA)
  • Advanced Digital Threat Assessment (DTA) 
  1. All independent schools must have support available from an individual with Basic Digital Threat Assessment (DTA).
    This individual could be:
    1. The Primary Safe School Coordinator
    2. An Additional Safe School Coordinator at the school
    3. Another Primary SSC or Additional SSC within the same school authority
    4. The Association SSC (for schools that belong to FISA BC)

N.B. In 2019/20, Gang Reduction Through Informed Practise - Digital Threat Assessment (GRIP DTA), through the K-12 Gun and Gang Violence Prevention Initiative, will be considered equivalent to Basic DTA and will meet this inspection requirement.

  1. Additional notes regarding erase training for independent schools:
    • Schools are encouraged to continue developing their capacity for responding to violence, threats and worrisome behaviours by:
      • Having teaching and non-teaching staff engage in the following erase training: Ensuring Safe and Caring School Communities (formerly Level 1)
      • Designating Additional Safe School Coordinators
      • Having appropriate staff take Advanced erase training options
    • Advanced level certification meets independent school inspection requirements; if a Safe School Coordinator has Advanced level erase training, they are NOT required to recertify in the Basic level(s)
    • erase training is current for a maximum of 3 years. See table below for examples:
 

School Year

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

2019/20

2020/21

erase training (all levels)

Year training was taken

Valid/
current

Valid/
current

Recertification required during this school year

 

 

Year training was taken

Valid/
current

Valid/
current

Recertification required during this school year

  • FISA’s role:
    • Organize erase training sessions hosted by independent schools on behalf of and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education
    • Assist in maintaining a list of current Association Safe School Coordinators

3. Student Safety Communication Protocols​

In the event of a student safety incident (a serious act of  violence or threat-making behaviours that impact students or a school community), please refer to the Student Safety Communications Protocol flowchart, which can be found on the erase website in the secure login area (“Tools for Schools”). Please email the Independent Schools Branch if you require assistance with login details. See below for a summary of the information provided in the Protocol:

  • If an independent school requires immediate critical incident response support, trauma-recovery support for staff, social media monitoring/digital threat assessment support, VTRA assistance, assistance with media and parent communications, connect with Safer Schools Together directly by email or by phone: 604-560-2285 / 1-855-677-3720
  • It is essential to notify the Ministry about incidents if there is media involvement (or strong potential of media involvement), high profile investigations or emerging issues/trends of concern, using this email or phone number (778-974-6388)
    • Please also use these contact details when requesting information (i.e. erase training questions, templates and resources)

 

Ministry Contact Lists

Master Contact List

  • The Ministry maintains a list of independent schools, referred to as the Master Contact list, that is updated annually by the Ministry through the 1601 data submission process.  In addition, schools must report any updates to their contact details throughout the year by submitting requests via a webform. The main contact for the school (in the principal field) will be the person who has overall responsibility for the school.  In most cases, this will be the school principal, but might also be the Head of School of a Superintendent. The individual listed in the principal field on this list is the main contact for the Ministry for all matters, including for student safety incidents, even if different from the Primary Safe School Coordinator.

Safe School Coordinator Contact List

  • Please note that the Ministry also maintains a list of contact information for Primary and Additional Safe School Coordinators that is separate from the Master Contact List. This list is used to populate school contact information within the erase Report It Tool. Named contacts will be sent reports made through the anonymous online tool and are expected to respond. The Independent Schools Branch sends out a request for schools to update Primary and any Additional Safe School Coordinator contact information annually. Please also report any changes throughout the year to the Independent Schools Branch.

4. Anonymous Online Reporting Tools

Independent school authorities are strongly encouraged to promote the use of an online confidential reporting tool. The Ministry’s erase “Report It” tool is recommended. Independent schools are expected to respond to all reports of bullying, and all reports of other worrisome behaviours, including those made through online reporting tools, and/or other equivalent tools.

5. Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) Community Protocols

A Community VTRA Protocol is designed to reflect the shared understanding and agreement between school districts/independent school authorities and community partners about how to collaboratively respond to threat-making and worrisome behaviour. Community VTRA Protocol partners work together for the common goal of violence prevention, threat management, and safety planning. This is achieved by sharing information, advice, and support that assists in the reduction of risk. A multi-disciplinary threat assessment response team may include agencies such as:

  • Education (school districts and independent schools)
  • Law enforcement
  • Child and youth mental health
  • Child protection
  • Probation
  • Youth crown counsel
  • Psychiatry
  • Health (e.g., hospital emergency units, physicians)

Independent schools are encouraged to collaborate with their local school district in the development of Violence Threat Risk Assessment Community Protocols as per the Safe and Caring School Communities Ministry policy for public schools. Independent schools are strongly encouraged to communicate with the local school district to request to be included as a member of the Community Violence Threat Risk Assessment Protocol. 

Appropriate information sharing between schools and other agencies is an integral component of VTRA community protocols. The Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by private organizations such as independent school authorities, and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by public bodies such as school districts.

Independent school authorities are responsible for ensuring that their information sharing practices align with the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA), and are encouraged to seek independent legal advice as necessary.

Resources

School Safety Resources

Personal Information Protection Resources

The Canadian Mental Health Association and the Ministry of Children and Family Development have created a suite of resources to assist schools and service providers in understanding their roles and responsibilities regarding privacy issues and information sharing across sectors. Independent school administrators are responsible for ensuring that all staff understand their responsibilities with regard to information sharing.