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Welcome to Checkered Flags


The Student Support Leadership Initiative was created through a joint initiative of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services in 2008 to 2013. This initiative was developed to foster leadership within and across school boards and community agencies to enhance local partnerships to better meet the needs of students and families through collaborative planning, coordination and referrals. This initiative was in response to changes to the safe school provisions of the Education Act and is in line with A Shared Responsibility, Ontario’s Policy Framework for Child and Youth Mental Health.


  • Improved understanding
  • Improved joint decision-making processes
  • Improved access to existing services/supports for students and their families


The Steering Committee wanted to help share expertise, maximize local resources, and develop a tool that would support collaboration and joint planning. A working sub-committee of the SSLI Steering Committee was established to develop a “Checkered Flags” guide that could be used within agencies and schools across the eight counties of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and Prescott-Russell.

“Checkered Flags – Everyone’s Responsibility” is designed to assist professionals in responding effectively to the students that we all care about, to promote a collaborative approach within our community and to increase the level of awareness and access to effective supports and services.

Thank you especially to Kathy O’Brien and to the many, many individuals and organizations who have contributed to the creation of the content of this website.


We all want our children and youth to thrive! Working together towards that goal is key to optimizing our effectiveness. Throughout the Checkered Flags Guidebook, the terms “children and youth” and “student” are used appropriate to the context. The terms “child,” “children,” “youth,” and “students” refer to school-age children.

This Guidebook is intended to help us develop the shared expertise and mutual understanding that generate informed and efficient decision making. It provides practical strategies to positively impact children and youth, and reinforces “UPSTREAM” thinking and wellness. It is also a heads-up resource for those responsible for children’s well-being.

Schools play a vital part in providing the positive experiences and opportunities that children and youth need to grow into confident, capable, caring, and healthy people. Schools are also in the unique position of making certain that the difficulties and challenges that children face are recognized promptly and treated appropriately. Just as physical illness can affect a student’s performance and ability to concentrate, so too can a personal or family situation, relationship problem, lack of connectedness/inclusion, or mental health issue.

Mental health is about maintaining a positive level of personal and social functioning. It is more than the absence of mental health difficulties. For children, this means getting along with others, participating in social activities, meeting educational expectations, feeling a sense of belonging and safety, having a voice and feeling valued, and having a positive level of self-esteem and confidence.

Research indicates that in a classroom of 30 students, about five or six students will be facing a mental health problem, and three or four of them will have a problem that interferes with their daily life. (Ontario Child Health Study, 1985, Waddell and Shepperd, 2002) Research also indicates that supportive adults can have a significant impact on the wellness of children and youth, and that fostering home-school-community partnerships is essential.

Using This Website

Effective partnerships are characterized by mutual respect and acknowledgement of the particular expertise that each participant brings to the partnership. To understand and respond to children, we need to take advantage of these sources of valuable information:

  • Children bring their hopes and their worries, their experiences and their insights to the planning process. When we listen to them and work with their views, we are more likely to maintain their commitment. Children need to be included in planning and collaboration in a way that is respectful of their developmental age and protects their well-being.
  • Parents and caregivers—the first “teachers” in a child’s life—bring with them a deep understanding of their child’s whole life experience and of what makes them unique. They understand intimately how a child’s temperament, preferences, history, strengths, and worries inform who that child is. Engaging parents and drawing on their insights and experiences are vital to crafting the best response for the child. School teams meet with parents and students often, formally and informally, and these meetings are essential opportunities for school teams to reach out to parents as partners.
  • Educators see our community’s children 30 hours every week, 200 days every year. They see and support their strengths and notice when things are going well, and when they are not going well, for their students. Educators have an ideal vantage to view and assess students’ social and learning competencies.
  • Community partners represent a diverse range of services, from children’s mental health to child protection, from health services to social services. Each can offer professionally informed insights and provide appropriate adjunct services to facilitate social and school success.
  • It will assist in determining when to ask questions and to seek out help
  • It will help you find out “Where To Go For Help. ***REMEMBER – Calling 211 will give you a trained person to help you find what you are looking for.***
  • It will give you basic information and “Actions Strategies: What We Can Do Now” These Actions Strategies are shown under 4 headings:
  • Action strategies that we can all work on together—practical ways to help promote the best outcomes for our children and students.
  • Guidance on when and how to work together.
  • Action strategies—practical ways to help promote the best outcomes for students.
  • Guidance on when to draw in parents, school administrative and resource teams, and professionals.
  • Access to protocols and directories for enlisting key service providers.
  • School team strategies for responding to students.
  • Clear reference material on child development and on promoting child.
  • physical, social, and mental health and well-being.
  • Clear reference material that can inform the working relationships between schools, service providers, parents, and children.