With the legalization of marijuana officially on the table, questions about what that means for nation are cropping up quicker than dispensaries across Toronto.  As politicians debate the issues, we’re left to ponder what’s to come…how and where will marijuana be sold? At what age can you purchase marijuana?  And perhaps the most pressing and controversial question of all: how will this impact the nation’s youth?

When it comes to the rights and best interest of youth, there’s quite a bit of contention among the experts.  While some emphasize the harms of use on cognitive development and mental health, others advocate for the reform of laws, arguing that the impact of criminalization on youth trajectories can be far worse than the impact of use itself.  Perhaps the greatest stakeholder of all in this discussion is schools.  Schools, whose main responsibility it is to protect and educate youth, will soon face increasing pressure to respond to new laws about marijuana use, policies, and education in schools.  But what will legalization mean for students, teachers, and the school community? Educators are left with a slew of questions such as:

  • What policies should schools have in place regarding use?
  • How should marijuana be discussed and taught in classrooms?
  • How far from school grounds will dispensaries be allowed to stand?
  • What are youth’s legal rights surrounding marijuana use?
  • What are the legal ramifications of illegal use or distribution?
  • What might the potential benefits of legalization be for schools?

Soon there will be inevitable changes to the national landscape, and schools will be expected to adapt.  They’ll need the knowledge and tools to respond to issues of illegal distribution, medicinal use, illegal use, and more. They’ll need to evaluate current policies and practices and make the adjustments they deem fit. They’ll need to reconsider the way they educate youth about the topic, while evaluating their capacity to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students.

We here at the Canadian Safe School Network realize how important it is to be prepared, and that’s why CSSN will be hosting, “The M Word: Exploring Perspectives on the Legalization of Marijuana and Safe Schools” in both Vancouver on October 5th and Toronto on October 6th.  Join us as experts from across sectors, including government, law enforcement, education, the cannabis industry and mental health, offer their perspectives on the impending legalization of marijuana and how it will affect students, educators, and safe school communities at large.  We’ll provide insights, answer questions, and promote discussion so that educators may feel better prepared for what’s to come.

To learn more about the Vancouver conference or to register click here.

To learn more about the Toronto conference or to register click here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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The Canadian Safe School Network would like to give honourable mention to the following Safe Schools Story Book Contest submission.  Here is a beautiful poem entitled, “The Different Sheep” by 8th grade student Evelyn of Earl Marriott Secondary School. Evelyn’s message about diversity and inclusion really aligns with CSSN’s values. Thanks for sharing, Evelyn! Keep up the great work!

The Different Sheep

There were four groups of sheep, only four.

There weren’t less there weren’t more, four, four, four!

There were white sheep, grey sheep, brown and black.

The rest was history, no sheep ever looked back!

The white sheep were dumb, pretty and annoying;

The grey sheep were smart but rude and boring;

The black sheep were nasty, scary and mean;

At least that’s how the other sheep thought they did seem.

And at last came the brown sheep, all ignorant and popular.

They were the best of all, on top, spectacular!

Now one day at school, a brown sheep dropped her pencil,

But soon off the ground lifted the writing utensil.

The brown sheep looked up and saw the black sheep.

He was smiling, not nasty, scary or mean!

She took the pencil and started to think;

Maybe he wasn’t so bad, as he flashed her a wink.

On the walk home from school they had beautiful weather,

And when the black sheep saw the brown sheep he felt as light as a feather.

Slowly, the black sheep walked over to the white,

And very, very slowly, the black sheep said “Hi!”

Soon after that, they became friends,

And they played together secretly again and again.

One day a white sheep found them playing catch;

She turned to tell her friends, but soon after turned right back.

She joined in quickly, tossing the ball,

And bouncing it a few times against the school wall.

A grey sheep saw them playing, and drew in a gasp,

Thinking with his brain, he knew his task.

He caught the ball when the brown sheep couldn’t,

And kept playing catch, though they knew they shouldn’t.

One day they thought, let’s spread the word!

Let’s spread the word, let it fly like a bird!

The others were hesitant, nervous and scared,

What about the legends, the stories they’ve shared?

What about the stereotypes? Were they really true?

They’d never spoken to each other, they never knew!

Gradually they joined in playing catch, everywhere.

From morning to night, they didn’t care!

They had play dates and shared secrets, in and out of school.

They all played together, they forgot about the rules!

Forgetting the rumors, they blended together;

They would all be best friends, best friends forever!

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The Canadian Safe School Network is thrilled to announce the launch of our #StandTogether campaign!  #StandTogether is about recognizing our diversity, embracing our differences, and coming together in solidarity to prevent bullying.

Bullying and cyberbullying incidents are increasing every year.  Kids get bullied for all kinds of reasons, but 70% of reported bullying is because they either look or act differently – race, weight, height, clothing, and any physical, religious and sexual differences – can all play a part. And over half of all teens have had at least one negative social networking experience, while an alarming 33% of students who are bullied online report symptoms of depression.

The Canadian Safe School Network’s new Stand Together campaign takes a unique, action-centered approach which will help prevent bullying and make schools safer. We’re asking people to buy special anti-bullying socks with a portion of the sale going to help financially support meaningful programs like Lift Up, Press Play Documentary Contest and BullyStop hack-a-thons.

As part of our campaign, we’ve created an educational resource that can be used in classrooms across the country to prevent bullying. This educational resource offers practical tools, discussion prompts, and lesson-based activities for BULLYING, DIVERSITY, & KINDNESS.

Help make your school bully free! Check out the #StandTogether Educational Resource, and bring some exciting and valuable lessons about bullying, diversity, and kindness into your classroom!

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Safe School Story Contest-01

In January, CSSN received over 100 amazing stories written by students across Canada. These stories taught us lessons about kindness, friendship, acceptance, bullying and much more. It was a pleasure to read all the entries and to hear from so many exceptional young people! We want to thank you ALL for sending us your stories!

The winning stories have been selected!

Congratulations to:

1st place winner – “Danika’s PJ Incident” by Jahzara, Suddaby P.S., Waterloo Region District School Board.

TWO Runners Up:

These stories will also be published in the Safe Schools Story Book!

Peter’s Poster, by Hannah, Illustrated by Abby Osler School, Prairie Spirit School Division.

Big or Small, You Can Do It All! by Miranda, Earl Marriott Secondary, Surrey School District #36

These stories were well written, creative and shared important messages. Congratulations on a job well done! We are looking forward to working with these talented authors on publishing the Second Safe Schools Story Book.

But there’s more! We were so delighted by all of the entries we received that we’ve decided to highlight some of our favourites on our website! Once a month we will post entries from the story contest for students and teachers to read! So check back to see if your story is there!

Thank you to everyone who participated in to the teachers who incorporated this initiative into their classrooms.

 

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What’s a parent to do when the hardships that we’re once restricted to the school yard such as bullying and name calling, come creeping into the house, scurry down the hall and are sitting next to your child on a screen while they try to do their homework?

The reality is, for most parents (and teachers), children are going to know more about smartphones and apps before you have a chance to learn how to pronounce them. This makes combatting issues like cyberbullying incredibly difficult.

In the last month, CSSN held the first two of our Bully Stop Hackathons, and we’re thrilled to say they were a great success!

The BullyStop Hackathon is a new Safe Schools initiative developed to help combat cyberbullying.

Bullying is one of the most prevalent and harmful issues facing youth today. Not only does bullying make children feel unsafe, but it puts their mental, social, and physical well-being at risk. With the rise of social media, the problem has only become more severe. Bullying, harassment and intimidation have become an inescapable, 24/7 problem for many Canadian children. The effects of bullying can be devastating and in the most severe of cases can lead to suicide.

Despite the issues, the reality is that communication technology has carved a lasting place in society. We live in digital times, and our capacity for online communication is only growing. In fact, computer coding is being introduced into provincial school curriculum and will likely continue to be integrated across the nation. As the space for online social networks continues to grow, more is needed to combat negative peer interactions and to promote safety, resilience, and positive mental health. We don’t believe that social technology is inherently the problem. In fact, we believe that it may be the solution.

 

This event, held in Vancouver and Toronto in Lighthouse Labs offices (and soon to be Calgary and Halifax) invited high school and university students to take part in a friendly competition to build mobile apps that can help put an end to cyberbullying.

The events saw students:

Discuss the issues and explore perspectives

– What are the problems and who is impacted?

Learn about app technology and development.

– Students learned about computer coding for iOS, how to storyboard their ideas, and how to develop a concept ready for market.

Collaborate and create ways to put a stop to cyberbullying.

-Students worked alongside safe school facilitators, law enforcement officials, and tech experts to brainstorm ideas for digital solutions.

-They competed in a creative competition to design iOS apps that could help eliminate cyberbullying.

-Teams pitched their ideas to the one another and to the adult experts.  The room voted on the winning app in each city!

We’ve heard excellent ideas all around! The events have allowed us to hear directly from youth on the most pertinent issues they face in the online world, which in turn allows us to develop solutions that are effective. We’re proud to have met and worked with such engaged and inspiring young individuals thus far, and can’t wait to hear more fantastic ideas as we head to Calgary and Halifax.

The program came to life with help from our generous sponsors Lighthouse Labs, and Telus WISE who seek to make the online world safer for everyone using it.

To check out CTV coverage of this event click here.

Stay tuned for more information on the BullyStop Hackathon as we look to develop a program that will bring the initiative to schools across the country! If you’d like to know more, get in touch!

 

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In January 2016, Canada welcomed thousands of refugee families from war-torn countries overseas. The Canadian Safe School Network felt strongly about this issue, and sought to do our part to help. The Send Support campaign was launched in January with the goal of supporting refugee children starting school in Canada for the first time.

Supporting school-aged children is no new task for us. For 20 years we have created safe and welcoming environments in Canada, but this was a special case. A new school, new friends, a new classroom can be a stressful experience for any child. Imagine not knowing the language, culture and curriculum.

It became our goal to ensure that upon arrival at a new school, every child felt comfortable, accepted and treated with kindness by their peers, and school community.

Our send support campaign saw over 250 students from schools across the country receive packages of school supplies and educational resources. In addition, every package contained certificates for free tutoring services offered by GradeSlam tutoring. The packages were assembled and sent out to students in 3 age divided categories. IMG_5843

In addition to the support packages, we developed a comprehensive resource page on our website to help educators welcome refugee students to their classrooms. The resources contains:

  • Strategies for improving refugee parent involvement
  • Strategies for overcoming language barriers
  • Strategies for creating welcoming environments
  • Strategies for discussing the issues (Syria, Refugee Crisis) with your classroom at large

We are proud to have undergone this initiative and we wish all students and educators the very best in developing inclusive learning environments as Canada continues to support those in need!

A special thanks to Amp Solar Energy Group, GradeSlam Tutoring and Education Station for supporting this initiative.

A big thanks to author Sheri Lynn Fishbach for contributing copies of her book, “Dex” to our refugee Sheri Lynn picstudent support package initiative. Sheri Lynn Fishbach is a New York-based freelance writer and editor who holds an MA in Education from Brooklyn College and has contributed to local, regional, and national publications including Gannett’s the Journal News, Psychology Tomorrow, the Jewish Reporter, Steppin’ Out, and the New York Times network of newspapers. A staunch advocate for education and intercultural exchange, Sheri is delighted to work with the Canadian Safe School Network in helping Syrian refugees adapt to their new lives in Canada. Find Sheri on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/sherilynnfishbach

Dex Jacket ed.fwMeet Dex Rossi. He’s a gawky, lovesick middle-school entrepreneur and amateur chef who runs a gourmet lunch stand from his front lawn. In love with a girl whose boyfriends are jocks, he hopes to earn enough money to buy a gym system that will help him bulk up and win her heart. But while he serves up his locally famous food, his profits come to serve another purpose. He discovers that his grandmother’s restaurant is in financial ruin, and to save it, he must cook up a quick plan! With the help of Alicia, his filmmaking older sister, and a host of great friends, Dex kicks his business into high gear. As word of his talent spreads like peanut butter, an unlikely windfall comes his way. Dex lands his own TV cooking show on the famous Eatz network! But just when he thinks he’s got his problems licked, Dex finds himself going head to head with a scheming, hard-boiled associate with a secret he has kept closely guarded. Dex learns that when your dreams are on the chopping block, finding the right ingredients is the best recipe for success.

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Bully Stop Twitter

On Saturday March 12, The Canadian Safe School Network, launched the first of our 4-city series of Hackathon events.

The BullyStop Cyberbullying Hackathon has 3 goals:

1.Create awareness around bullying and cyberbullying.

2.Engage youth in a discussion on the most relevant issues surrounding bullying and social technology.

3.Develop a unique and innovative digital solution to help combat cyberbullying.

In Vancouver this weekend a team of experts engaged in conversation about the issues pertaining to cyberbullying and youth. How do youth use social media? How does it affect their well-being and mental health? What policies are currently in place at school to help prevent cyberbullying?

Overwhelmingly, all participants believed that when it comes to online technologies, it’s adults who need educating. We learned that top down approaches are not the answer to help educators and parents alike deal with cyberbullying. Instead, we need to turn to students. Young people are way ahead of the curve when it comes to social media and online communication. As such, educators and parents should engage in conversation with youth about the issues.

We we’re pleased to have Carol Todd, of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society join us and provide insight and exceptional knowledge on the matter.

The afternoon portion of the day consisted of conceptualizing creative and engaging iOS apps that can help!

Coverage of the Vancouver event can be found here: http://bc.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=827660&binId=1.1184694&playlistPageNum=1

Coming up, we take this event to Toronto, Calgary and Halifax. As we host the events in more Canadian cities we hope to expand on the discussion, and build more creative app concepts!

In the coming months following the BullyStop Hackathon series CSSN will work to turn one of the creative concepts into a functioning app to benefit educators, parents and students.

Special thanks to our presenting sponsor Lighthouse Labs. Our supporting sponsor TELUS WISE, and to Instant Imprints, Panago Pizza and Blenz for their donations and support!

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PRESS Release
Attention: Assignment /Education/Crime Editor
For Immediate Release
12 March 2016

Breaking the </code> of silence: Youth speak out against cyberbullying at the BullyStop Hackathon

VANCOUVER – What’s a parent to do when the hardships that were once restricted to the school yard such as bullying and name calling, come creeping into the house, scurry down the hall and are sitting next to your child on a screen while they try to do their homework?

The reality is, for most parents (and teachers), children are going to know more about smartphones and apps before you have a chance to learn how to pronounce them. This makes combatting issues like cyberbullying incredibly difficult.

For this reason, The Canadian Safe School Network (CSSN) is turning to the experts. We’re inviting high school students to partake in a series of hackathons focused on putting an end to cyberbullying. The BullyStop Hackathon, presented by Lighthouse Labs and sponsored by TELUS WISE, is a full day interactive event inviting engaged students to discuss social media, technology, and help put an end to cyberbullying. Groups of youth will work alongside tech experts, educators and law enforcement to brainstorm and build solutions in the form of iOS apps. Students will learn about computer coding for iOS, how to storyboard their ideas, and how to develop a concept ready for market.

This ground-up approach to delivering youth designed digital solutions comes shortly after Premier Christy Clark announced that BC will introduce computer coding in the provincial school curriculum. “Every kindergarten to grade 12 student will have…the opportunity to learn the basics of coding,” She stated at the BC Tech Summit in January 2016. The new B.C. coding curriculum (along with many other new curriculum amendments) is currently being developed and will be introduced over the next three years. We believe that this is an important event, not simply to help eradicate cyberbullying, but to encourage youth to enhance their digital literacy and create positive change in a fun and engaged way.

This series of events is being held in 4 Canadian cities in the coming months. The Vancouver event will launch the series and be held in downtown Vancouver on Saturday March 12, 2016 at Lighthouse Labs, 128 W Hastings St #300, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G9. More information can be found online: https://canadiansafeschools.com/events/bullystop Participants at this event include Ms. Carol Todd founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society, Superintendents from the VSB, and members of local law enforcement. There are still limited student spots available. Help us to fill this event by passing this information to any students interested in social justice, youth engagement, leadership, social media or technology. No coding experience necessary!

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Renee Goncalves
Canadian Safe Schools Network
renee@canadiansafeschools.com
778.877.9525 (on-site)

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On Friday, February 26th, educators and professionals in the field of education gathered in Toronto for a full day, interactive conference on Safe Schools. The Canadian Safe School Network is extremely proud to have hosted the 19th Annual Safe Schools Conference: A Focus on Student Wellness. We would like to thank all of those who made the event possible including our planning committee, volunteers, speakers, and of course the delegates who joined us. It is clear from the widespread participation in the event that educators across Ontario are committed to enhancing the safety and wellbeing of their schools and communities.

We were truly fortunate to have had Bill Byrd, Safe Schools Administrator for the Toronto District School Board offer inspiring remarks about wellness and introduce our keynote, Angela Gauthier, Director of Education for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Ms. Gauthier presented an in-depth review of the TCDSB’s commitment to student wellbeing and achievement as supported by the comprehensive Mental Health Strategy. The importance of community building and positive school climate were highlighted as being essential to the health and success of students, and Ms. Gauthier urged a “call to action” in which educators must work to promote the mental health and wellness of all students.

In the student stream, Jason Colero of the Toronto Argonauts’ Huddle UP program kicked off the day by sharing his personal story and discussing the potential effects that bullying can have on mental health. Students reflected on their own stories and were left with the important message that you can turn your experiences into a positive no matter what they are.

As the day progressed, our delegates attended a variety of workshops that emphasized the importance of mental health and wellness. Some of the topics that were addressed included: LGBTQ and transgender support, peace education, digital citizenship, student engagement and student allies, diversity and inclusion and the revised health and physical education curriculum. Others focused on resilience and self-regulation, alternative and human rights programming, teen sexual assault, restorative practices, body-based bullying, effective teambuilding and much more. In the student stream, workshops focused on inclusive schools, community activism, movement, and leadership skills.

Prior to our second plenary session, the Canadian Safe School Network/TD Award for Excellence Against LGBTQ Youth Bullying was presented to South Huron High School’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance. The school received the award for demonstrating excellence in the development, creation or promotion of an in-school initiative to counter LGBTQ bullying. Conference delegates cheered to honor the group’s fine and significant accomplishment.

Our second keynote address was given by Dr. Garfield Gini-Newman, national senior consultant with The Critical Thinking Consortium and associate professor at OISE, University of Toronto. In his captivating presentation on critical thinking and safe schools, Dr. Gini-Newman explained the 5 key principals that underpin a “thinking classroom” and explored the central role that creating a community of thinkers plays in implementing those principals. Delegates reflected on their own practices and were asked to critically consider strategies to help create a safe and caring school environment.

In the student stream, the day ended with a reflective workshop presented by Dianne Banasco of the TCDSB in which students engaged in mindfulness practices. We are extremely impressed by the level of enthusiasm and commitment to wellness that students brought to the event.

We are very pleased to have had such an excellent group of presenters, keynote speakers, and exhibitors. Thank you to everyone who joined us!

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