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For Parents

What is Bullying?

Alberta’s provincial legislation defines bullying as: repeated and hostile or demeaning behaviour by an individual in the school community where the behaviour is intended to cause harm, fear or distress to one or more other individuals in the school community, including psychological harm or harm to an individual’s reputation. It can focus on: disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.

Bullying and the Alberta Law

In Alberta, there is formal legislation on bullying and cyberbullying under the School Act  The legislation is a commitment of the school community to ensure a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment. The legislation specifically prohibits students from bullying others in school, during the school day or by electronic means (cyberbullying). Students have an obligation to report bullying behaviour, including cyberbullying. Furthermore, school boards must establish a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviour.

For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying 

Legal Requirements for Private Schools in Alberta

Private schools are included within the definition of school in The School Act (Alberta). Section 28 of the Act authorizes two kinds of private schools to operate in Alberta: registered private schools and accredited private schools. Both registered and accredited private schools are subject to ministerial regulation. This means the Minister may make regulations respecting private schools and so the same responsibilities that public schools owe to maintain a safe and inclusive environment also apply to private schools.

Charter schools, which are specialized non-profit public schools, are bound by the same laws and regulations as standard public schools.

Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention

Parents/guardians have a responsibility to work with the adults in their child’s life (teachers, school principals, coaches, and group leaders) so that together, they can teach students that bullying is wrong and unacceptable. Schools, (public or private) school boards, parents, teachers, students, and ministries are all responsible for creating safe environments where everyone is treated with respect.

Parents/guardians also have a responsibility to help their child meet his or her responsibilities. This includes modelling kindness and other anti-bullying behaviours, reporting any problems at school to the teacher as soon as possible, and maintaining positive and respectful communication with teachers and other school staff.

These are your rights as a parent under the current legislation:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to expect the school to provide your child with a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.
  • You have the right to know that a teacher or principal may suspend or, in extreme circumsances, expel, a student if, in the opinion of the teacher or principal, the student’s conduct is injurious to the physical or mental well-being of others in the school, whether or not the conduct occurs within the school building or during the school day and including cyberbullying.
  • You have the right to expect teachers and other staff to promote and model bully prevention attitudes and behaviours 

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect school administrators will ensure that each student is enrolled in a school operated by the school board and each staff member employed by the board will provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that respects diversity and fosters a sense of belonging.
  • You have the right to expect the school board to establish, implement and maintain a policy respecting the board’s obligation to provide a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment that includes the establishment of a code of conduct for students that addresses bullying behaviour.
  • You have the right to expect that the code of conduct explains what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour - in the school and also outside the school grounds and hours when it affects the learning environment.
  • You have the right to expect the code of conduct must be made publicly available and reviewed every year.
  • You have the right to expect that the 3rd week in November each year is designated Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week and is used to promote awareness and understanding of bullying and its consequences in the school community

Your Child has been Victimized by Bullying or Cyberbullying

If your child confides that he or she has been bullied at school or cyberbullied, or if you hear about it from school personnel or someone else, your rights as a parent under the current legislation are:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to engage in the child’s school community and encourage, foster and advance collaborative, positive and respectful relationships with teachers, principals, other school staff and professionals providing supports and services in the school.

Students who are being bullied often do not want their parents/guardians to report it to the school out of fear or shame, but teachers and administration need to know about the bullying in order to stop it. Work with your child to determine which adults he or she trusts and feels most comfortable with, so that these adults can be involved in the solution.

Remember: approach the school in a calm, supportive manner despite the painful feelings of anger and worry you may feel. It is your job to protect your child, but it is the school’s role to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. It is the school’s responsibility to determine appropriate responses and consequences for the student who bullied and to maintain students’ privacy. Stay focused on solving the problem – preventing further incidents and enabling your child to feel safe and supported.

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect the school board’s Code of Conduct will ensure that support is provided for students who are impacted by inappropriate behaviour, including bullying.

Students who are being bullied often do not want their parents/guardians to report it to the school out of fear or shame, but teachers and administration need to know about the bullying in order to stop it. Work with your child to determine which adults he or she trusts and feels most comfortable with, so that these adults can be involved in the solution.

Remember: approach the school in a calm, supportive manner despite the painful feelings of anger and worry you may feel. It is your job to protect your child, but it is the school’s role to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. It is the school’s responsibility to determine appropriate responses and consequences for the student who bullied and to maintain students’ privacy. Stay focused on solving the problem – preventing further incidents and enabling your child to feel safe and supported.

Your Child has Bullied or Cyberbullied

If you find out that your child has bullied at school or cyberbullied, either through hearing about it from school personnel, your child, or someone else, your rights as a parent under the current legislation are:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to be informed of any suspension taken against your child and the right to meet with the principal to discuss the suspension.
  • In the case of expulsion, you have the right to make representations to the board with respect to the principal's reccomendations to expel your child. 

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect that disciplinary consequences for unacceptable behaviour are included in the school board’s Code of Conduct and must take into account the student’s age, maturity, and individual circumstances, and must ensure support is provided for students who engage in unacceptable behaviour.

Action Plan for parents whose child is being bullied or cyberbullied, or has bullied or cyberbullied others:

  1. Give yourself time to process your emotions. Learning that your child was bullied or cyberbullied – or bullied or cyberbullied someone else – can be very painful. Listen carefully to the information and if necessary, say you need some time to come to terms with the information before moving forward.
  2. Respond caringly to your child. Take reports of bullying seriously. Always recognize your child’s courage in reporting or talking about the bullying. Explain to it is your responsibility to help solve the problem and stop the bullying, and this includes reporting the bullying to the school and working cooperatively with the school.  Reassure the student who was bullied that he or she has the right to be safe, to be protected by adults at school, and to be treated with respect by everyone. Help the student who bullied understand these rights. Emphasize his or her responsibility to treat others with respect.
  3. Visit www.prevnet.ca to gather more information about bullying.
  4. Before meeting with school personnel to create a safety plan for your child, or a positive response plan if your child has bullied, set short and long-term goals. It is important to identify what you are trying to accomplish and to know what to expect from the school based on its rights and responsibilities under the legislation.
  5. Follow up and monitor how the plan is working. Check in regularly with your child and with the school to ensure that the problem is being addressed and that there have not been any more incidents. Initially check in daily, and then gradually reduce the check-ins to every few days, every week, etc. Often it is necessary to monitor for several months.
  6. From the first time you become aware of the situation, keep an ongoing record of what happened, when it happened, what was done, and whether the plan of action was effective in stopping the bullying.

Remember, you are a role model for your children. Children watch what their parents do very closely, and are influenced by your actions as well as your words. If your children see you communicating respectfully and remaining constructive in the face of disagreements with others, they are more likely to behave the same way. 

Read more here.

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