Superintendent Janine Bowyer talks about why her board of education decided to join the Ontario Dress Purple Day campaign

As the Superintendent of Student Services and Safe Schools, you were instrumental in forging a close partnership with the Durham Children’s Aid Society’s Ontario Dress Purple Day campaign. Why did you decide to support the campaign?

From my perspective it was an obvious thing that a school board should support. By joining this campaign, we’re setting an example for educators and school leaders, child and youth counsellors, social workers, support staff, and parents. We’re demonstrating that child well-being is a priority for us and that we will do anything that we can to support the work of a partner like Children’s Aid, which is also trying to ensure that we take care of the mental health, physical, social, and emotional needs of children.

How would you define student “well-being”?

What we mean by well-being is that positive sense of self and the belonging that we feel when our cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual and physical needs are being met. It is the goal of everyone involved in a student’s education to promote and develop this sense of well-being at all times. Well-being is critical to having children grow into healthy productive adults. We also know that it plays a critical role in student academic achievement. Currently every board in the province is required to have a board improvement plan for student achievement. We made an intentional decision to put well-being first in the title of our board improvement plan – we call it the Student Well-Being and Achievement Board Improvement Plan – because we know what a critical role well-being plays in student academic achievement.

How does the Ontario Dress Purple Day campaign help support a board of education’s focus on student well-being?

We are always trying to teach our students from kindergarten right up to grade 12 that there are adults who are helpers – adults in the school building but also adults in the community – and the Ontario Dress Purple Day campaign helps us get that message out that there are people who can help you. We want students to know that no issue is so great that it can’t get help.

How does partnering during Ontario Dress Purple Day enhance a relationship between a board of education and a Children’s Aid Society?

 Well, I would say that historically the relationship with Children’s Aid has always been one of need or of reaction. For example, we’re keenly aware as educators about our obligations through policies, procedures, and legislation, about our duty to report if we have protection concerns. As a former principal, I knew when and how to report and what that meant in terms of the CAS coming into the school, the CAS supporting particular families, or a student coming into care. Those are more reactive approaches.  Like our board/CAS team that is now working on the joint protocol for student achievement, and another team that is working on the CAS-school board protocol, the Ontario Dress Purple Day campaign is a more proactive approach to the relationship.

To learn more about Ontario Dress Purple Day and how you and your organization can support the campaign, visit our webpage or contact Christina Campbell, Advocacy and Public Engagement Specialist at ccampbell@oacas.org.

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