Saturday, 8 September 2007

Drivers License for High School Students

Hansard - Ontario Legislature Wednesday August 30, 2006

The Chair: Our next presentation will come to us by teleconference. Mr. Jeremy Tyrrell, the former chair of the Assumption school council and PTA member. Mr. Tyrrell, can you hear us?

Mr. Tyrrell: Thank you. My name is Jeremy Tyrrell. I'm the former chair of the Assumption school council parent committee. I state that I've been part of PTA and parent council for 20 years. It's actually only 19, but I still have a bit of experience to share.
Our youngest starts high school in about a week. We've got three children, all of whom have done well in our school system.

All three of our kids have been very active in sports, in school government, in experiential learning.

I would like to express my support of the bill as stated in the preamble, in that I think it addresses the issue of experiential learning. It shows a respect for school happenings, a little bit more than just inside the school building. For the most part, I think the bill works towards a good cause.

The part of the bill that I'm particularly pleased with is making it a penalty for employers to employ anybody who should be in school, basically. As a restaurateur for many years, I always made it my own personal point to make sure that if the kids were supposed to be in school, they weren't working for me at that time.

Mr. Tyrrell: I'd like to get right to the point of the bill which I don't agree with, and that is the driver's licence. I'm sure you must be hearing from others about that. When a child drops out of school, they're automatically marginalized from their own society. In my years on a parent council, I think that was the one thing we always tried to focus on -- not just on the kids who were doing very well and not just on the kids who were involved, but on the students who are really not speaking up. You can't hear them, their parents aren't there to speak for them and they risk being marginalized. When a child drops out of school, they're automatically marginalized from their own society. By denying them the right to get a driver's licence, or by suspending their driver's licence pending their return to school, we further marginalize them, I think.
I'm calling this, for my use, the pudding clause. If you remember the Pink Floyd song The Wall, "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" We look at school as the meat and the driver's licence as the pudding.
Now, I'd like to look at it a little differently than that. I'm not one of these people who doesn't believe in consequences -- I do -- but have you considered, has it come up, that perhaps the driver's licence could be part of the school experience? What I'm suggesting is that what if there were a credit for getting a driver's licence? What if there were classes available in the school that would study driving, make safer drivers out of these students and they could in turn get a credit out of that? Obviously that's not going to be of much interest to those who are university or college-bound, but for those kids who aren't planning on that and are looking to get a general diploma, this could count as a credit towards it and would, in the same way as your bill does, include it as part of the overall experience of learning happening outside of the schoolroom and that there's more to it than just the three Rs.
That's basically what I have to say. I'm sure you've heard from others about the driver's licence issue, and I'd be happy to entertain questions if you have any.
The Chair: Thank you very much. We should have an opportunity for each party to ask you at least one question, beginning with Ms. Wynne from the Liberals.
Ms. Wynne: Mr. Tyrrell, can you hear me?
Mr. Tyrrell: Yes, I can. Thank you.
Ms. Wynne: I just want to be clear about what you're suggesting. You're suggesting that you make a driver's licence course a credit, so that by definition, students would be in school if they're 16, 17. You're not opposed to the idea of keeping kids in school until they're 18. You're suggesting that the driver's licence become part of the Ontario curriculum.
Mr. Tyrrell: I think that would be a workable solution. I don't mean it to be sort of a trick to keep kids in school, but by definition they'd have to be 16 to take the course. It would be a reward for staying in school and something they could work towards.
I use my own nephew as an example. He dropped out of school just a couple of credits short and then still went out and got his driver's licence. I think he had something to offer; he just couldn't find it there. It might have worked for him if it were a credit.
Ms. Wynne: So you're supportive of the other parts of this initiative, which are to offer those alternative programs. You think that's fine, and you'd like to see this as part of the Ontario curriculum.
Mr. Tyrrell: I think it's a wonderful idea. It's taking great strides forward.
Ms. Wynne: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Miller from the Progressive Conservative caucus.
Mr. Miller: Thank you very much for your presentation. Your idea about drivers' licences is interesting. Certainly in my area of Parry Sound-Muskoka, a driver's licence is pretty much a necessity in a rural northern area. That's an interesting idea.
You're the first person I've heard come before the committee who supports penalties for employers. I'm just wondering why you support that, especially when you don't agree with the punitive measures in terms of the driver's licence. You say that would further marginalize dropouts. Why wouldn't penalizing someone who drops out but gets a job, probably out of necessity -- I'd like to hear why you support penalizing dropouts by penalizing the employers who might provide them with some income.
Mr. Tyrrell: To clear it up, there should probably be a way if the student could prove to the necessary authorities that he had to do it, perhaps for financial or family reasons. There are a lot of reasons kids drop out beyond the fact that they're just bored, and we have to take that into account. But there are also kids who see that the opportunity to work and make some money is more enticing than attending school. Those are the ones who I think the bill targets, and that's who I meant by saying I support that sort of penalty. So there could be a system in place.
Mr. Miller: If I understand you correctly, there should be an exemption for those other cases, the hardship cases or cases where --
Mr. Tyrrell: Absolutely.
The Chair: Thank you. Mr. Marchese from the NDP caucus.
Mr. Marchese: Jeremy, I just have a couple of comments that you might want to respond to. I think the whole focus of this bill is wrong. I would have expected the Conservative government to have done it but not the Liberals, so it puzzles me.
Fining employers I believe is a mistaken thing; to say we've got to put the onus on the employer who might be hiring somebody who left of his or her own free will to find employment.
Fining a parent $1,000 instead of the old $200 is another wrong focus because it says the parent is at fault rather than something wrong with the student.
And third, the whole idea of creating an equivalent learning option that will require a whole bureaucracy to supervise the people who are doing the course, who is monitoring them, who they're accountable to, who's actually doing it, is a costly affair.
I think a whole lot of students who leave have a lot of social, psychological and learning problems.
The Chair: Okay, Mr. Tyrrell, we need you to respond to that.
Mr. Marchese: This bill won't reach them. That's why forcing kids to stay in school is wrong. What do you think?
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Marchese. Mr. Tyrrell, you have a brief moment to respond.
Mr. Tyrrell: Sure. If it were phrased in the form of a question, I would say that the bill serves to encompass the entire community as part of it. I believe there should be consequences. You just can't say, "You've got to stay in school until 18," and then somebody drops out and there are no consequences.
Secondly, to clarify the fine to the parents, it's only until they're 16, not between 16 and 18.
Getting employers involved -- I think we need to have the entire community show a vested interest in having those kids get their high school diplomas and stay until they're 18.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Tyrrell. That concludes the time we have, and thank you very much for calling in to us today.
Mr. Tyrrell: My pleasure.

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