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For Educators

What is Bullying?

Ontario’s provincial legislation defines bullying as: repeated aggressive behaviour by a student where the behaviour is intended to have the effect of, or the student ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of, causing harm, fear or distress to another individual. Bullying can take many forms, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, and harm to an individual’s reputation or property. The bullying may also create a negative environment at a school for an individual. The bullying occurs in a relationship where there is a real or perceived power imbalance based on factors such as size; disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.

Bullying and the Ontario Law

In Ontario, there is a formal legislation on bullying, Bill 13 Accepting Schools Act, 2012: An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters. The bill states the rights and responsibilities of teachers, schools, school boards, and ministries when preventing or dealing with bullying instances. The law pertains to all incidents of bullying that affect the school’s learning climate, whether on or off school property, face-to-face or electronic.

Legal Requirements for Private Schools in Ontario

Under The Education Act, private schools in Ontario are considered distinct from other schools and operate as businesses or non-profit organizations independently of the Ministry of Education. There is no specific legislation regarding bullying for private schools. However, Bill 13 requires compliance by other persons or entities that use publically funded school facilities (through rental or other agreements). This means that if a private school competes in athletics or other competitions that take place in publically funded school facilities, or accesses school facilities such as classrooms, they are required to comply with Bill 13 in their operations.

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. 

This is what is expected of you as an educator:

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You are expected to report a bullying matter to the principal of the school as soon as you become aware of a student engaging in bullying activities.

At the School Board Level:

  • School boards are expected to establish board-level policies and guidelines with respect to bullying prevention and intervention in schools.
  • School boards are expected to consult with and ask for input from students, parents/ guardians, and the public when planning bullying prevention and intervention activities in schools.
  • School boards are expected to implement and periodically review the bullying prevention and intervention plan.
  • School boards are expected to make the bullying prevention and intervention activities plan available to the public.
  •  School boards may be required to develop and implement an equity and inclusive education policy at the discretion of the Minister.

At the Ministry of Education Level:

  • The Ministry is expected to develop a model bullying prevention and intervention plan to assist individual school boards in establishing their own bullying prevention and intervention activities.
  • The Ministry is expected to make information about the number of reported suspensions and expulsions with respect to bullying incidents available to parents/guardians.

When a bullying situation occurs

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • The school principal is responsible for investigating reported incidents of bullying activities.
  • The school principal is responsible for notifying parents/guardians of involved children the results of the investigation. The principal should explain:
  1. the nature of the bullying activity – although personal information about the child who bullied may not be disclosed;
  2. the nature of the harm;
  3. the nature of any disciplinary measures taken in response to the bullying incident;
  4. the supports that will be provided for the child who was bullied.
  • The school principal is responsible for inviting parents or guardians to have a discussion about the supports that will be provided for the child who was bullied to ensure that he or she feels safe at school.

At the Ministry of Education Level:

  • The Ministry of Education is responsible for making policies and guidelines regarding:
  1. the discipline of students engaging in bullying behaviours;
  2. the form, content, and timing of reports on bullying incidents;
  3. the provision of a framework to identify student behaviours that are inappropriate and that require disciplinary consequences;
  4. the provision of a framework to help students who have bullied to develop healthy relationships and make good choices so they can continue their learning and achieve success.
  • The Ministry of Education is responsible for establishing clear policies on training all teachers and school staff to:
  1. support students who have been bullied, witnessed bullying, or engaged in bullying;
  2. increase their ability to respond to inappropriate student behaviours in schools.
  • The Ministry of Education is responsible for establishing policies and procedures that:
  1. allow parents and guardians to report incidents of bullying;
  2. follow up with parents and guardians with the concerns about their children and bullying incidents in an appropriate and a timely manner.
  • The Ministry of Education is responsible for establishing policies and procedures that :
  1. allow parents and guardians to report incidents of bullying;
  2. allocate resources to support students who engage in and/or are impacted by bullying behaviours;
  3. provide a process for parents and guardians to follow if they have concerns about the supports being provided to their child.

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 empathetic towards others, even when you disagree, they are more likely to behave the same way.

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