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For Parents

What is Bullying?

Bullying is aggressive behaviour in a relationship in which the person who bullies has more power than the person who is bullied. The aggressive behaviour is typically (but not always) repeated.  Bullying can take many forms: verbal, physical, social or electronic (cyberbullying). It can focus on racial, ethnic, or religious differences, as well as on sexual issues and disabilities. You should expect that educators at your child’s school will take action whenever a bullying incident has affected the learning environment at school, whether or not it took place on school property, face-to-face, or through cyberbullying.

As of August 2013, your province or territory has not yet enacted legislation pertaining to bullying. The following information is offered as a general guide and should be considered to apply to both public and private schools.  You may also find it helpful to read the documents pertaining to the seven provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Alberta) as well as the Yukon Territory that do have legislation in place.

Bullying 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 children and youth that bullying is wrong and unacceptable. Schools, (public or private) school boards, parents, teachers, and ministries are all responsible for creating safe environments where everyone is treated with respect.

What you should expect as a parent:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You should expect there is a school code of conduct that specifically addresses bullying, defines bullying in all its forms, and outlines the responsibilities of teachers and principals to prevent bullying, from Kindergarten through secondary school.
  • You should expect parents have provided input into the school’s anti-bullying policy, and are aware of the policy.
  • You should expect all school personnel have had training about bullying prevention in accordance with their roles and responsibilities.

At the School Board Level:

  • You should expect there is a School Board Policy that affirms all students’ right to a safe learning environment, free from bullying in all its forms, and outlines the responsibilities of the school board to prevent bullying from Kindergarten through secondary school.
  • You should expect there are evidence based bullying prevention resources and training opportunities available.

At the Ministry Level:

  • You should expect there is a Ministry or Department Policy that affirms all students’ right to a safe learning environment, free from bullying in all its forms, and outlines the responsibilities of the ministry, the school board, and school principals and teachers to prevent bullying, from Kindergarten through secondary school.
  • You should expect there is adequate funding for resources and staff training.
  • You should expect there are measures to ensure school boards comply with the legislation (e.g., monetary rewards or punishments).

Your Child has been Victimized by Bullying

If your child confides that he or she has been bullied at school, or if you hear about if from school personnel or someone else, this is what you should expect as a parent:

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 Classroom/School Level:

  • You should expect all students to participate in developmentally appropriate educational experiences throughout their school careers conveying the importance of respect in relationships, and teaching that bullying in all its forms is unacceptable.
  • You should expect teachers will consistently identify and respond to incidents of bullying, and will report incidents to the school principal in accordance with school policy.
  • You should expect school principals or their delegates will report bullying incidents involving your child to you in a timely fashion, and to investigate reports of bullying.
  • You should expect all adults who deal with children within a school context (administration, staff, bus drivers, event organizers) have equal responsibility to report incidents of bullying when it occurs on school property, during school associated events, or within the student body as cyberbullying, so the school administration responds appropriately.
  • You should expect that parents are invited to work in developing and implementing a safety plan for your child so that your child can feel safe at school and going to and from school.

At the School Board Level:

  • You should expect there are guidelines in place outlining the school board’s responsibility to become involved in a bullying situation when there is an enduring problem that has not been successfully resolved at the school level.
  • You should expect there is policy in place affirming the school board’s commitment to a safe and positive learning environment.

At the Ministry Level:

  • You should expect there are resources available to provide the necessary supports to students who have been bullied.
  • You should expect there is a progressive discipline policy framework in place that guides school boards and principals in effecting just and effective responses to bullying. The discipline policy takes into account: the developmental level of the involved students, the prior history of the involved students, exceptionalities of the involved students, the severity of the incident and the harm done.
  • You should expect there is a policy in place about sharing information with parents while maintaining the privacy of all students.

Your Child has Bullied

If you find out that your child has bullied at school, either through hearing about it from school personnel, your child, or someone else, this is what you should expect as a parent:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You should expect there is adequate supervision and monitoring of students.
  • You should expect that bullying behaviours are consistently addressed in a timely fashion.
  • You should expect that consequences for bullying behaviour are fair and effective in motivating children to refrain from future bullying behaviours.
  • You should expect that progressive discipline is applied consistently, so the child can develop the social understanding, attitudes, social skills and self-control skills necessary to engage in respectful relationships with fellow students.  If your child continues to bully, you should expect that the disciplinary consequences will progress in severity.
  • You should expect that, when appropriate, consequences for bullying should initially be formative – that is, consequences designed to educate and positively motivate the offending student. Read here for examples of formative consequences.

At the School Board Level:

You should expect that the role of the School board in decision making involving Suspensions, Removals, and Expulsions is clearly explained, as are the procedures for resolving issues.

At the Ministry Level:

  • You should expect that the role of the Ministry in decision making involving Suspensions, Removals, and Expulsions is clearly explained, as are the procedures for resolving issues.

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

  1. Give yourself time to process your emotions. Learning that your child was bullied – or bullied 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 child 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 child 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 at What Parents Need to Know

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