2022-11-16 21:19:03.592012 +0000 UTC

PPM166: Exploring and Leveraging Ontario Educations Student Safety Policy

Keeping Students Safe

The process of guiding, caring for, and instructing young people is complex and multifaceted – especially considering today's online and social media-driven landscape. 

Despite best efforts, the dark corners of the internet are often not as distant or hard to find as we like them to be. Bad actors, mature content, and questionable influencers are just a few swipes and seconds away on any modern device.

In our work with Canadian School Boards, it has always been encouraging to see educators, senior leadership, and policymakers come together to make a positive impact on the lives of children. Over the course of this year, encouragement has come from the Ministry of Education in Ontario's: Keeping Students Safe Policy (PPM166).

While all forms of negative influence can be a cause for concern, when it comes to topics such as human trafficking and child exploitation – an extra layer of vigilance is needed. 

Designed to do just that, Ontario's Policy/Program Memorandum 166 provides a framework for school boards to implement tools, programs, and training to identify and prevent child trafficking and exploitation. 

Curbing Sexual Exploitation

The Ministry of Education in Ontario reports that human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative crimes worldwide, with Ontario posting the highest number of police-reported human trafficking cases in Canada. 

According to their own research, and verified by law enforcement agencies, the Ministry also points out that the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking in Canada is 13 years old, with school-aged children and youth being prime targets for predatory exploitation. 

It’s clear that today's students face a multitude of diverse and intersecting factors that increase their vulnerability to violence and harm (PPM166).

The framework provided by PPM166 gives School Boards what they need to prepare for critical situations and acknowledges that schools and school administrators have an essential role to play in the overall safety, security and well-being of students.  

Proactive vs. Reactive

However, when it comes to child sex trafficking and other high-risk online threats (suicide, violence, exploitation, cyberbullying etc.), how do School Boards go beyond awareness and training? How will we amplify existing processes and protocols to ensure that they are not just passive or reactive in nature? How do we intervene before kids become victims? 

Fortunately, we feel the answer to these questions has also been accounted for in PPM166 with the addition of the following strategic section: 

Strategies must include consideration of the use of available technology and tools to identify and deter potential situations involving students who could be at risk of sex trafficking and other online threats, while using school board-provided technology.

The answer, as outlined here, is to meet both students and those that would cause them harm, where they’re at - with technology.  

As traffickers are increasingly using online platforms to lure, groom and recruit young people into sexual acts or service (PPM166), and students struggling with mental health issues are finding accessible pathways to the high-risk dark corners of the web, it is imperative that the use of technology is considered in a strategic PPM166 plan.  

With the right tools in place, a school board can stay ahead of the curve and avert disaster by using technology to identify and notify administration in real time when students present signs of dangerous online activity. 

By taking a proactive, technology-driven approach, school boards can quite literally be heroes.

Join Your Colleagues

So, what does it actually look like to have this proactive, technology-driven approach when acting on PPM166?

We're so glad you asked!

Consider joining your colleagues at Waterloo Catholic DSB on November 24th at 12pm EST for an interactive webinar.  Waterloo Catholic DSB's system leaders of Safe Schools, Student Mental Health, and Technology will be taking this time to share details of the approach they've taken to identify and support students who are at risk of sex trafficking, self-harm, school violence and other forms of online risk while using school board-provided technology.  We will be sharing information on both internal policies and innovative technology solutions to help you and your team action on the requirements found within PPM166. 

Can't make it or read this too late?

No worries. Our team and the team at Waterloo Catholic are available for further discussion -- just reach out at any time to set something up!

Close to Home

This policy and its potential for impact hit close to home for us.

Back in 2018, our founder and CEO Brad Leitch had been working alongside Canadian law enforcement agencies to develop machine learning algorithms designed to target and stop online Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). Through discussion with educational leaders, the question was asked if this work could be extended to help identify at-risk kids within schools. These discussions led to the founding of Imagine Everything and galvanized our mission to help support and protect children from abuse, self-harm, violence, and other dangerous online activity.

Drop us a message to learn more about our mission, the Student Aware platform currently protecting 500,000+ students across Canada, or how we could partner to help your school board implement a technology-backed response to PPM166.