Cyber-bullying by students could result in suspension or expulsion in the future after changes to Ontario's Safe Schools Act passed unanimously in the provincial legislature late Monday.
The revamped bill marks the first time bullying— both physical and online— are formally prohibited in Ontario schools. The definition of bullying, however, has yet to be ironed out.
Incidents of online bullying have made headlines in the past few months.
In February,anumber ofstudents from a Catholic high school north of Toronto were suspended because of comments posted on Facebook about their principal.
Ata Toronto high school, the suspensions of students over comments madeon Facebook escalated into a protest where four classmates were charged after scuffling with police.
Act focuses on 'progressive discipline'
Amendments to the safe schoolspolicy also eliminate its much-criticized zero-tolerance provision, a change Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said will result in a more consistent approach to discipline.
The province had agreed to change its strict use of expulsions and suspensions after an Ontario Human Rights Commission ruling found the Safe Schools Act had a disproportionate impact on visible minorities and disabled students.
"The concept of progressive discipline is the one we are focusing on in our legislation," said Wynne.
The New Democrats said changes to the act do not address the serious discipline problems facing some Ontario schools.
Pointing to the recent fatal shooting of a 15-year-old student inside a north-end school, NDP Leader Howard Hampton said schools desperately need more funding for safety and security.