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For Educators

What is Bullying?

Nova Scotia’s provincial legislation defines bullying as: repeated behaviour that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way. It can focus on: disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.

Cyberbullying means any electronic communications through the use of technology including computers, other electronic devices, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, website and electronic mail, typically repeated or with continuing effect, that is intended to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or damage to another person’s health, emotional well-being, self-esteem or reputations, and includes assisting or encouraging such communication in any way.   The Education Act was amended in 2013 to require school principals to address all incidents of bullying whether face to face or electronic, and whether on or off school property.

Bullying and the Nova Scotia Law

In Nova Scotia, there is formal legislation on bullying. The Promotion of Respectful and Responsible Relationships Act, The Ministerial Education Act Regulations and The Cyber-Safety Act.

all address bullying and aim to provide for safer communities.

In Nova Scotia, The Cyber Safety Act is strict. Under the law, anyone who cyberbullies has committed a civil wrong and is legally liable, meaning the Court will award damages to the Plaintiff.  This legislation establishes cyberbullying behaviour as a tort. This means that the victim could sue the individual(s) who engaged in cyberbullying in civil court. If the individual who cyberbullied is a minor parents could be liable for damages.

Legal Requirements for Private Schools in Nova Scotia

Under The Education Act [PDF], there is no definition for the word “school”. However, the Act does define “private school” as a school, other than a public school, that serves school-age children and has a curriculum comparable to that provided by the public schools but does not include a home-education program. The Act also states that the Minister may appoint or designate a regional education officer to assess a private school, and to perform “such other duties with respect to the private school as the minister may require. This provision, and the inclusion of private schools within The Act would suggest that private schools in Nova Scotia are not exempt from ministerial regulation and the same responsibilities that public schools owe to maintain a safe and inclusive environment also apply to private schools in Nova Scotia.

Bullying Prevention

Educators share responsibility with parents and other adults in students’ lives to nurture the development of the social emotional skills that students need to engage in healthy relationships, and to teach students that bullying is wrong and unacceptable. 

These are your rights as an educator:

  • You have the right to report to the principal or other person in charge of the school the conduct of any student who engages in severely disruptive behaviour, including bullying or cyberbullying.
  • You have the right to encourage parents and legal guardians to:
  1. assist their children to abide by the school’s code of conduct;
  2. demonstrate positive behaviours that include showing an appreciation and respect for diversity, and engaging in positive, non-violent conflict resolution.
  • You have the right to ask for parents or legal guardians to take an active interest in the child’s academic and social progress.
  • You have the right to encourage parents or legal guardians to communicate regularly with the school if there is a concern about bullying.

This is what is expected of you as an educator:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You are expected to attend to the health, comfort and safety of the students.
  • You are expected to maintain an attitude of concern for the dignity and welfare of each student and encourage in each student an attitude of concern for the dignity and welfare of others, as well as a respect for religion, morality, truth, justice, humanity, equality, and other virtues.
  • You are expected to take all reasonable steps necessary to create and maintain an orderly and safe learning environment.

When a bullying situation occurs

If a student discloses, or if you as an educator have witnessed that a student has been bullied at school, or if you hear about it from school personnel or someone else, the legislation does not specifically outline a course of action.  The following recommendations are offered by PREVNet as a guideline in maintaining a safe learning environment.

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You are responsible for ensuring school principals or their delegates are told of the incident, so that they can investigate and address reports of bullying and cyberbullying, including notifying parents/guardians in a timely fashion.
  • Delegated school personnel are responsible for working with the parents/guardians and principal in developing and implementing a safety plan for a student who has been bullied, so that he/she can feel safe at school and going to and from school.
  • Delegated school personnel are responsible for checking in with the bullied student on a regular basis (e.g., daily, every few days, weekly, biweekly, monthly etc.) to ensure the bullying has stopped and the situation is resolved.
  • Delegated school personnel are responsible for consistently monitoring the student who bullied to ensure that the student is no longer perpetuating bullying behaviour.
  • You should expect there is a progressive discipline policy in place that guides the choice of just and effective responses to bullying. Progressive discipline means that initially children who bully receive consequences that help them learn from the experience and take responsibility for their actions, known as “formative consequences”. If bullying behaviour continues, consequences progress in severity. Consequences always take into account the unique characteristics of the situation which include:
  1. the developmental level of the involved students;
  2. the prior history of the involved students;
  3. exceptionalities of the involved students;
  4. the severity of the incident;
  5. the harm that was done to the student who was bullied. 
  • If a child is suspended, the principal or other person in charge of the school is required to provide the parent with written reasons for the suspension

At the School Board Level:

  • You should expect there is school board policy in place affirming the school board’s commitment to a safe and positive learning environment.
  • You should expect that there is a policy in place about sharing information with parents/guardians while maintaining the privacy of all students.
  • 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 that there is a policy in place regarding removing a student from school if repeated bullying behaviours compromise a safe learning environment.
  • You should expect that the policy and role of the School board in decision making involving suspensions, removals, and expulsions is clearly explained to parents, as are the procedures for resolving issues.

At the Ministry Level:

  • You should expect there are resources available to provide the necessary supports to students who have been bullied, who have bullied others, and who have witnessed bullying.
  • You should expect that the role of the Ministry in decision making involving suspensions, removals, and expulsions is clearly explained to parents, as are the procedures for resolving issues.
  • You should expect that there are alterative programs in place for youth who were removed from their community schools, and plans are made for a supported re-entry when possible.

And finally,

Remember to consider your own behaviour, despite any disagreements or hostility you may encounter. Children and youth closely watch what the adults in their life do and are influenced as much by your actions as your words.  When students see you being respectful and empathic towards others, even when you disagree, they are more likely to behave the same way.

For more resources, please visit: http://www.prevnet.ca

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