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For Parents

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

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 and inclusive environments where everyone is treated with respect.

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

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to expect an orderly and safe learning environment where all students feel respected and accepted.
  • You have the right to expect that students will be held accountable for their actions, and that responsibility and accountability will be fostered through preventative, proactive and restorative approaches.

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect the School Board to collect and monitor data on severely disruptive behaviour of students, as required by the Minister, including the interventions or consequences resulting from incidents of severely disruptive behaviour on the basis of individual incidents and on an aggregate basis.
  • You have the right to expect the school board to report to the Minister at such times as required by the Minister respecting the aggregate data on severely disruptive behaviour of students.

At the Ministry Level:

You have the right to expect the Minister to establish a Provincial school code of conduct policy with respect to promoting school and student safety that includes provisions regarding student conduct and consequences for disruptive behaviour and severely disruptive behaviour, including incidents of bullying and cyberbullying.

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

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to ask that the school administration or teachers communicate regularly with parents in accordance with policies established by the school board.
  • You have the right to ask that teachers and other support staff report the conduct of any student who engages in severely disruptive behaviour, including bullying and cyberbullying, to the principal or other person in charge of the school.
  • You have the right to ask that the principal investigate and respond to reports of severely disruptive behaviour of students, including incidents of bullying and cyberbullying.
  • If the principal believes the well-being of a student has been endangered as a result of the severely disruptive behaviour of any other student, you have the right to ask the principal to notify the parents of the students.
  • You have the right to ask the principal to take appropriate action - as specified by the school code of conduct policy - when disruptive behaviour has occurred on or off school grounds. This may include the suspension of the student causing the disruptive behaviour for a period of not more than five school days.

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:

  • If your child is suspended, you have the right to be immediately notified, in writing, by the principal or other person in charge of the school of the reasons for the suspension
  • You have the right to request a review of the suspension within three school days of receiving the written notification

What parents need to know about The Cyber-Safety Act and personal liability

According to The Cyber-Safety Act, a person who subjects another person to cyberbullying commits a tort (a civil wrong) against that person. If the defendant is a minor, a parent of the defendant is jointly and severely liable for the full extent of any damages awarded to the plaintiff unless the parent satisfies the Court that he or she was exercising reasonable supervision over the defendant (their child) at the time the defendant engaged in the activity that caused the loss or damage. The parent needs to make reasonable efforts to prevent or discourage the defendant from engaging in the kind of activity that resulted in the loss or damage.

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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