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For Parents

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

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, 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 remind school board employees (i.e., teachers, staff, administrators) that they are required to report any bullying incidents to the school principal as soon as they become aware of a student engaging in bullying activities.
  • You have the right to consult and provide input on planning for bullying prevention and intervention activities in your schools.

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect that your school board has established policies and guidelines with respect to bullying prevention and intervention in schools.
  • You have the right to ensure the school board implement and periodically review the plan.
  • You have the right to ask that the school board make the bullying prevention and intervention plan available to the public.

At the Ministry of Education Level:

  • You have the right to ask the Ministry of Education to ensure the school board develop and implement an equity and inclusive education policy.
  • You have the right to ask the Ministry of Education to develop a model plan to assist school boards in establishing bullying prevention and intervention activities in schools.
  • You have the right to ask the Ministry to make information about the number of bullying related suspensions and expulsions available to the parents.

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 ensure the school principal investigates reported incidents of bullying activities.
  • You have the right to be notified of the results of an investigation, including:
  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 to the student;
  3. the steps being taken to protect the student’s safety, including the nature of any disciplinary measures in response to the bullying incident;
  4. the supports that will be provided for the child who engaged in bullying activity.
  • You have the right to meet with the school principal to have a discussion about the supports that will be provided for your child to ensure that he or she feels safe at school.

At the Ministry of Education Level:

  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to make 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 teachers and school boards can use to identify inappropriate student behaviours that require disciplinary consequences;
  4. the provision of a framework teachers and school boards can use to help students develop healthy relationships and make good choices so they can continue their learning and achieve success.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to establish clear policies on training all teachers and school staff to:
  1. support students who have been bullied, have witnessed bullying, or have engaged in bullying;
  2. increase their ability to respond to inappropriate student behaviours in schools.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry establish policies and procedures that allow parents and guardians to report incidents of bullying.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to establish policies and procedures that ensure parents’ and guardians’ concerns about their children and bullying incidents have been followed up in an appropriate and a timely manner.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to establish policies and procedures that allow for resources to support students who engage in and/or are impacted by inappropriate bullying behaviours.

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 notified by the school principal that your child has engaged in a bullying activity that resulted in harm to another child. The principal should explain:
  1. the bullying activity that resulted in harm to another child;
  2. the nature of the harm;
  3. the disciplinary measures taken in response to the bullying incident;
  4. the supports that will be provided for your child.

When notifying a parent of a student who has engaged in a bullying activity, the principal shall not disclose the name or other personal information about a student who has been harmed as a result of the activity.

At the Ministry of Education Level:

  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to make policies and guidelines regarding:
  1. the discipline of students engaging in bullying behaviours;
  2. the form, content, and timing of the bullying incidences reports sent to the Ministry;
  3. the provision of a framework to identify inappropriate student behaviours that require disciplinary consequences,
  4. the provision of a framework to help students who have bullied develop healthy relationships and make good choices so they can continue their learning and achieve success.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to establish policies to train all teachers and other staff on how to support students who have been bullied, have witnessed bullying, or have engaged in bullying, and to increase their ability to respond to inappropriate student behaviours.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to establish policies and procedures that allocate resources to support students who engage in and/or are impacted by bullying behaviours.

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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