The Progress of Discipline: An Examination of Safe Schools Policies in Ontario's Education System (1999-2011), From the Politics of Exclusion to the Conditions of Inclusion

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Vander Meulen, Cindy
Policy, School Discipline , Education
In 2001 the Progressive Conservative government led by Mike Harris (1995-2002) implemented an authoritative discipline regime in Ontario schools that epitomized the law and order values of contemporary neoconservative rule in the Canadian context. Central to the character of this regime was the enforcement of safe schools through the exclusion and punishment of some of the most vulnerable students. In 2005, the Ontario Human Rights Commission initiated a complaint against the Ministry of Education, alleging that the discipline policies were disproportionately and adversely affecting racialized students and students with disabilities. In response, in 2007 the Liberal government led by Dalton McGuinty (2002 - present) introduced what it called progressive discipline policies. These policies reflect therapeutic values of early intervention and support, offering incentives for students to remain actively involved and engaged with the school community. This shift, from an authoritative to a progressive mode of discipline, is less an indication of a successful political effort to implement equitable discipline policies in education; instead, it is more an indication of the repositioning of these policies within neoliberal relations of power. I argue that progressive discipline policies do little more than change the forms through which marginalization and exclusion are carried out in Ontario schools.
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