Respect hinges on oath to the Queen

19th May 2000 at 01:00
CANADA. Teachers in Ontario win power to send pupils on boot-camp style programmes. Nathan Greenfield reports

EXCLUDED pupils in Ontario will be required to attend boot camp-style programmes modelled on strict youth correction centres.

Children temporarily barred from school will be forced to attend alternative classes, including lessons on anger management. And all pupils will have to start the day with the recitation of an oath of loyalty to the Queen to improve respect, under a tough new schools' code of conduct introduced in Canada's largest province.

"We have heard from many parents, many teachers and pupils that our classrooms are not as safe as they need to be," said education minister Janet Ecker. "Teachers can't teach and students can't learn if they are in fear of their safety."

The code, which lays out clear reasons for exclusion, is designed to give teachers and principals more immediate authority. Teachers can now exclude students for swearing at them or other staff, without referring to their heads.

And the power to exclude for such things as possession of a weapon, sexual assault and providing alcohol to minors, is being transferred from the boards of education to the school principals.

Starting in 2001, the boards will be required to provide alternative schooling, including tutoring and programmes designed to improve self-discipline for suspended pupils.

Excluded students wll be required to attend boot camp-like programmes that provide them with an education and help them develop self-discipline, self-respect and respect for others, the ministry said.

While teachers' unions and civil liberties activists support the need to keep order in the classroom, they have criticised the code for potentially violating pupils' constitutional rights.

Earl Manners, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, said: "Teachers want the right to remove (problem pupils) from their class. But they do not wish to be judge and jury at the same time as being teachers.

"There should be a due process procedure in place to allow all the parties involved in the dispute to have their fair say."

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has promised to fight the code.

"No one should be the umpire of his own ball game," said Alan Borovoy, the association's general counsel.

The unions, some school boards and the association also have concerns about the code's requirement that each school day begin with the singing of the national anthem, "O Canada", and the recitation of the Oath to the Queen, both of which the government believes will improve respect in schools.

"The oath is an exercise in gratuitous sanctimony that will accomplish nothing. It will create needless awkwardness for those minorities who have conscious qualms about the monarchy," said Mr Borovoy.

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