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For Parents

What is Bullying?

In November 2012, Newfoundland began a consultative process to strengthen the way the education system addresses bullying. In the document entitled, Policies, Protocols and Legislation Governing Student Behaviour, the following draft definition was offered: (http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/consultations/question_1.pdf)

Bullying is typically repeated behaviour that is intended to cause harm to another person(s).  A person participates in bullying if he or she directly carries out, assists, or encourages the behaviour in any way.  Those who engage in bullying behaviour are perceived to be in a position of power.  Bullying can be physical, verbal, social, or electronic.  It can focus on: disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.

Bullying and the Newfoundland Law

In Newfoundland, a policy on bullying was put forth by the Department of Education in 2006. The Safe and Caring Schools Policy [PDF] does not provide a legal definition of bullying but does pertain to all incidents of bullying that happen in any school setting or activity that affect the school’s learning climate.

Legal requirements for Private Schools in Newfoundland

Private schools in Newfoundland are included within the Schools Act and, as defined, are not exempt from regulation by the Minister. The same responsibilities that public schools owe to maintain a safe and inclusive environment also apply to private schools.

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, community members and ministries are all responsible for creating safe and inclusive environments where everyone is treated with respect.

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

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to ask that the school principal identifies a school team responsible for facilitating the Provincial Safe and Caring Schools Initiative that will develop a safe and caring schools policy and will develop a safe and caring school action plan that includes:
  1. preventative teaching of positive behaviours to all students;
  2. guidelines for responding to traumatic events;
  3. ways to recognize needs of individual students when providing positive behaviour supports, including early identification of students with exceptionalities;
  4. training of school personnel, including for effective classroom management.
  • You have the right to ask that all teachers and school staff do the following:
  1. model high standards for safe, caring and responsible behaviours;
  2. maintain consistent expectations of positive behaviour for all students;
  3. collaborate with parents in promoting a safe and caring learning environment.

At the School District Level:

  • You have the right to ask that each school district establishes a Safe and Caring Schools Team that will:
  1. provide district-level leadership with respect to the Provincial Safe and Caring Schools Initiative;
  2. establish guidelines for implementing preventative and proactive school-wide practices promoting positive behaviours by all members of the school community;
  3. provide support and resources to schools as they develop safe and caring schools policies and implement school action plans;
  4. establish guidelines and procedures to assist school personnel in managing potentially violent situations.

This is what is expected of parents, under the current policy:

  • You are expected to participate in the development of, and support the safe and caring schools policy and code of conduct.
  • You are expected to encourage and assist your children to abide by the school’s code of conduct, and demonstrate positive behaviours that include demonstrating appreciation and respect for diversity, and engaging in positive, non-violent conflict resolution.
  • You are expected to take an active interest in your children’s academic and social progress.
  • You are expected to communicate regularly with the school.

Your Child has been Victimized by Bullying

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

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to ask that such behaviour is always addressed by the school, meaning that school personnel immediately respond to stop the behaviour and follow up with a form of intervention that encourages a positive behavioural change.
  • You have the right to ask that the needs of the children who may be adversely affected by the unacceptable behaviour are addressed by the school.

At the School District Level:

  • You have the right to ask that such behaviour is always addressed by the school district, that there is an immediate response to stop the behaviour, followed by an intervention that encourages a positive behavioural change.
  • You have the right to ask that the needs of the children who may be adversely affected by the unacceptable behaviour are addressed by the school district.

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

If you find out that your child has bullied at school, 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 your child’s unacceptable behaviour and should be given the opportunity to collaborate on actions towards behavioural change.
  • You have the right to ask that the consequences for your child’s unacceptable behaviours are:
  1. appropriate to his/her stage of development and special needs, if necessary;
  2. logical and connected to the behaviour;
  3. reflecting of the severity, frequency, and duration of the behaviour;
  4. timely.
  • You have the right to ask that, if suspension is determined as an appropriate consequence for your child’s bullying behaviours:
  1. in-school suspension will be given consideration as an alternative to out-of-school suspension;
  2. a re-entry or transition plan will be developed to ensure your child’s successful return to school;
  3. re-entry plans will include interventions that enable positive behavioural change.

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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