Vancouver School Board

Vancouver School Board

October 24, 2007 09:00 ET

Vancouver Board of Education to Implement Avison Report Recommendations

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Oct. 24, 2007) - Vancouver Board of Education trustees will implement recommendations contained in a report by Victoria lawyer Don Avison. Mr. Avison's independent review of current policies and practices was commissioned by the Vancouver Board of Education in response to criminal charges against former teacher Tom Ellison. Ellison taught in the school district's Quest outdoor education program between 25 and 30 years ago.

Mr. Avison observes that steps undertaken in the policy context within the Vancouver Board of Education have been good overall. His recommendations are intended to further the effectiveness of the district's current policies and practices.

"The Board continually looks to improve and update its policies and practices, as it has over the years. Our objective is to have the best policies and practices in place to deal with concerns of inappropriate conduct," says Vancouver Board of Education Superintendent Chris Kelly. "We have established an Implementation Task Force and are taking additional measures to ensure those practices are in effect and are the best they can be. We expect to implement the recommendations and report to the Board on progress by the end of January, 2008."

The Vancouver Board of Education is a public body that is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As a result, only the recommendations contained in the report will be released to the public.

In addition, the Board is stating how it is implementing all of Mr. Avison's recommendations. The Board intends to keep the public informed of its progress through its website: www.vsb.bc.ca. The recommendations are also available for review on that site.

Vancouver Board of Education

Implementing the Avison Report Recommendations

October 24, 2007

Vancouver Board of Education Accepts Recommendations from Independent Review

The Vancouver Board of Education has received from Mr. Don Avison his report and recommendations from his independent review of current policies and practices concerning the security and well-being of students enrolled in the School District. The Board called for this review with the objective of acquiring an independent evaluation of its current policies and procedures and receiving recommendations with respect to best practices.

Mr. Avison observes that steps undertaken in the policy context within the Vancouver Board of Education have been good overall, and that the district's leadership in this regard indicates a deep commitment to ensuring policies are embedded in practice. His recommendations are intended to further the effectiveness of the district's current practices and policies.

The Board appreciates the recommendations Mr. Avison has made and will immediately take steps to implement all of them.

Summary of Recommendations

Mr. Avison's recommendations may be summarized as follows:

1. Policy and Protocols

- Use the Trek Program policy document as a model for all field study, outdoor and alternative education programs.

- Incorporate the Inter-Agency Protocol and Procedures for Investigating Alleged Physical and/or Sexual Abuse of Students by VSB Employees into the Board's Policy on Reporting Child Abuse.

- Ensure the Policy on Supervision of Students makes more explicit reference to appropriate gender supervision for activities that involve overnight travel.

- Ensure protocols are in place for appropriate and timely reporting to the College of Teachers.

- Implement protocols requiring discipline record checks for prospective employees, in addition to the mandatory criminal record checks which are already undertaken.

2. Training

- Provide all employees, including prospective administrators, with in-service training on the Inter-Agency Protocol and Procedures for Investigating Alleged Physical and/or Sexual Abuse of Students by VSB Employees and other Child Protection Initiatives.

3. Code of Conduct

- Implement a "VSB specific" Code of Conduct for all employees and volunteers.

4. Record Keeping

- Ensure there is consistent documentation of allegations and investigations of abuse.

- Update procedures for record keeping, including retention of personnel records.

Implementing the Recommendations: Moving Forward

The Board intends to address all of Mr. Avison's recommendations, some of which are already accommodated by existing programs and procedures.

Implementation Task Force

In order to complete this work as quickly and effectively as possible, the Board has established an Implementation Task Force. Under the leadership of the Superintendent of Schools, the Implementation Task Force is comprised of designated members of senior and school administration. The Task Force will report directly to the Board, through the Superintendent. It will work with the Board's educational partners, employee groups and other agencies, as appropriate, to determine and employ the best means for acting upon Mr. Avison's recommendations. The target for the Task Force is to address all of Mr. Avison's recommendations and report on progress no later than the end of January, 2008.

Included in the work of the Implementation Task Force will be a focus on Mr. Avison's recommendations involving employee training in the Protocols for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual abuse and on establishing a "VSB specific" Code of Conduct for all who are involved in working with young people in the district, in any capacity. The Task Force will also focus on designing appropriate means for ensuring employees and volunteers are ready and able to address suspicion and reports of sexual abuse or unprofessional conduct with students. The Task Force will have an ongoing role in providing relevant and current professional development for employees and orientation for volunteers.

Overall, the Implementation Task Force will extend and strengthen a working culture in the district which is already deeply committed to student safety, security and well-being.

Additional Safeguards

Dialogue with Students

In addition to addressing Mr. Avison's recommendations, the Board is taking other initiatives to further ensure all students enrolled in our schools feel informed and supported in reporting concerns of abuse. To this end, the Superintendent will be holding a series of dialogues with student representatives to discuss current policy and procedures with respect to abuse allegations. Through these dialogues, students will have opportunity to provide their perspectives on policies and procedures, and specifically, on reporting concerns of abuse. By the end of February, 2008, the Superintendent will be reporting to the Board with recommendations drawn from these dialogues.

Review of District Alternative Programs

The Board, through its Superintendent, has also initiated a review of district alternative programs, to ensure they are continuing to comply with current policies and procedures and that there are adequate levels of supervision of such programs and their activities to provide for the security and well-being of students. Mr. Avison commended the Board for policy changes it has made over the last number of years and for having clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the supervision of such programs by the school principal. The Board wishes to ensure these policies and reporting procedures are being assiduously followed. This review will be completed and a report presented to the Board no later than March 31, 2008.

In Closing

Legislative and policy initiatives which the Board, as well as the Federal and Provincial Governments, have taken over the years all contribute to enhancing the safety and security of the learning environment for our students. Mr. Avison's recommendations complement those measures and the Board is committed to implementing all of his recommendations as soon as possible.

The Board understands that the security and well-being of young people may never be taken for granted in any context and that the school district and its community must therefore be ever vigilant in ensuring their safety and protection at all times. The safeguarding of students remains the paramount concern of the Board and it is committed to continuing to build an organizational culture with an unwavering commitment to their safety, security and well-being.

Contact Information

  • Peak Communicators
    Alyn Edwards
    (604) 689-5559 or Cell: (604) 908-7231
    Website: www.vsb.bc.ca