STATEMENT – August 15, 2019
Receiving the St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) Respect and Culture Review Committee’s Final Report propels us into a new phase in our ongoing journey of learning, healing and change.
We are tremendously grateful to the Independent Review Committee for its diligence, effort and objectivity in undertaking a comprehensive review of our school’s traditions, social and cultural practices.
Their work enables us to methodically address the underlying issues identified in a positive, meaningful and sustainable way – using best practices and evidence-based strategies that we believe will help SMCS to be a best-in-class educational institution.
Our goal remains unwavering – to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.
We also remain committed to adopting these recommendations as had been outlined when our Board of Directors mandated the Committee’s work last December.
The report is extremely detailed and thorough. It draws on:
- Voluntary, anonymous surveys completed by current and past students, staff and parents,
- Over 70 in-person interviews,
- Many more written submissions, and
- A town hall hosted by the Committee in May, for the entire SMCS community
The feedback provides key insights and a more complete picture into the extent of the issues – both current and historical. Its 36 recommendations will be vital in helping us chart a future course with clear objectives and tangible deliverables.
We are pleased to learn of the Committee’s findings that hazing, in its most extreme form, is not a significant part of the school’s culture. It will however be addressed. At the same time, we are deeply concerned that bullying is a systemic issue. While the numbers are comparable to boys of similar age across the country, this is not acceptable. We must and will do better.
One of our key takeaways is the need for a comprehensive strategy to address bullying. We also need to put the supports in place to implement this and bring it to life so that we can, as a community, continue to improve over time.
Another is the need for greater transparency, inclusion and education in all of our policies and proposed changes. We will continue to bring everyone in our community into the process of finding solutions. We will also provide all students and faculty with the support, information and tools they need to both intervene and prevent bullying.
A series of foundational steps have already begun being put in place through our Action Plan, since last December. These are critical building blocks upon which many of the Committee’s recommendations will rest.
Through the Committee’s interim report, released in May, and our own learnings on this journey, we have begun to address many of the themes included in the recommendations, including: developing a comprehensive bullying prevention and intervention strategy, a review of various policies and guidelines, as well as re-organizing the athletic and co-curricula programmes including our football programme.
Plenty of important work lies ahead, as we strive to be the change by leading it.
We understand the effort required and remain resolute in our aim to strengthen our culture of respect and safety – for our students, staff and the entire St. Michael’s College School community.
In making this report public, we hope that other educational institutions can benefit from its recommendations.
Bullying at SMCS needs to be addressed as it does across the country. Canada ranks 27th out of 31 countries on rates of being bullied. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our children and young people grow up in safe, supportive and caring environments.
It is indeed a time for renewal.
We embrace with confidence the blueprint provided by the SMCS Respect and Culture Review Committee — to make that renewal a reality.
Rev. Andrew Leung, CSB, Interim President
On Behalf of the Board of Directors