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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.   

Bullying and the Nova Scotia Law

In Nova Scotia, there is formal legislation on bullying and cyberbullying. The Promotion of Respectful and Responsible Relationships Act was passed in 2012 to amend the Education Act to address bullying by promoting respectful and responsible relationship. The legislation requires school principals to address all incidents of bullying, whether face to face or electronic, and whether on or off school property if such behaviour significantly disrupts the learning climate of the school. The legislation also allows the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to establish a provincial school code of conduct policy with respect to promoting school and student safety that includes a student code of conduct and consequences for unacceptable behaviour such as bullying and cyberbullying.

Nova Scotia’s previous cyberbullying legislation, The Cyber Safety Act, was deemed unconstitutional in 2015. For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying 

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 and Cyberbullying 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 students that bullying and cyberbullying are wrong and unacceptable. Schools, (public and 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.
  • You have the right to expect that the school will implement the provincial school code of conduct policy.
  • You have the right to expect that the school will communicate the provincial school code of conduct policy to students, parents and other school memebers.

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, including incidents of bullying and cyberbullying, as required by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 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 Department of Education and Early Childhood Development at such times as required by the Department respecting the aggregate data on severely disruptive behaviour of students, including incidents of bullying and cyberbullying.
  • You have a right to expect that the school board will communicate the provincial school code of conduct to schools.
  • You have a right to expect that the school board will ensure consistent implementation of the provincial school code of conduct policy in all schools and classrooms.
  • You have the right to expect that the school board will provide annual professional development to principals on the provincial school code of conduct policy and proactive approaches to prevent unacceptable behaviours, such as bullying and cyberbullying. 

At the Ministry Level:

  • You have the right to expect the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 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.
  • You have the right to expect the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to review the provincial school code of conduct policy every two years.
  • You have the right to expect the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to communicate the policy to school boards.

Your Child has been Victimized by Bullying or Cyberbullying

If your child confides that he or she has been bullied or cyberbullied 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 expect that teachers and other support staff will 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 expect that the teacher of the class may ask a student engaged in unacceptable behaviour, including bullying and cyberbullying, to leave the class and refer the student to the principal.
  • You have the right to expect that the principal will 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 expect 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, if such behaviour significantly disrupts the learning climate of the school. This may include the suspension of the student causing the disruptive behaviour for a period of not more than ten school days.

At the School Board Level:

  • If you have concerns or complaints in relation to a bullying or cyberbullying incident and the interventions or consequences resulting from the incident, you have the right to expect that the school board will implement the following protocol.
  1. first, students and parents are required to address their concern with school staff;
  2. if concerns are not resolved at the school, with a board Coordinator of Student Services or other supervisory staff identified in a board’s Parent Concern Protocol;
  3. if concerns are not resolved with the assistance from the supervisory staff, with the Director of Programs and Services or School Administration; and
  4. if concerns are not resolved with the assistance of a director, with the Office of the Superintendent.

Students who are being bullied or cyberbullied 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 or cyberbullied 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 or Cyberbullied

If you find out that your child has bullied or cyberbullied 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 a right to expect that the school will respond in the following manner:
  1. first consider the safety and security of students, staff and other members of the school community;
  2. assist students in developing new behaviours and strategies to reduce the  reoccurrence of unacceptable behaviour;
  3. address consequences in a fair manner that does not disproportionately impact students based on race, culture, ethnicity, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability or mental disability, mental illness, age, national or aboriginal origin, socio-economic status or appearance
  4. use restorative strategies, when appropriate;
  5. consider the impact that consequences may have on the student(s) adversely affected by unacceptable behaviour;
  6. removing students from class only after acceptable strategies have been implemented to support a change in behaviour or as necessary to maintain a safe learning environment and ensure the student’s return to their regular class when it is safe to do so;
  7. provide academic support when student is removed from class or suspended from school; and
  8. formalize community partnerships that enhance community and school-based supports for students and families.

You have a right to expect that the school’s response to unacceptable behaviour will:

  1. be appropriate for the student’s age and state of development and consider a student’s special needs where the behaviour is determined to be unintentional;
  2. be consistent with standards established in the provincial Special Education Policy, when supporting students with special needs programming relating to behaviour;
  3. reflect the severity of the behaviour;
  4. take into account the frequency and duration of the behaviour;
  5. be chosen primarily for their educational value;
  6. occur in a timely fashion;
  7. reflect an individualized approach to discipline; and
  8. be fair and equitable and respect the dignity of all involved.
  • 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 five school days of receiving the written notification.

At the School Board Level:

If you have concerns or complaints in relation to a bullying or cyberbullying incident and the interventions or consequences resulting from the incident, you have the right to expect that the school board will implement the following protocol.

  1. first, students and parents are required to address their concern with school staff;
  2. if concerns are not resolved at the school, with a board Coordinator of Student Services or other supervisory staff identified in a board’s Parent Concern Protocol;
  3. if concerns are not resolved with the assistance from the supervisory staff, with the Director of Programs and Services or School Administration; and
  4. if concerns are not resolved with the assistance of a director, with the Office of the Superintendent.

Action Plan for parents whose child is being bullied or cyberbullied, or has bullied or cyberbullied others

  1. Give yourself time to process your emotions. Learning that your child was bullied or cyberbullied – or bullied or cyberbullied 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 and cyberbullying seriously. Always recognize your child’s courage in reporting or talking about the bullying. Explain to your child that it is your responsibility to help solve the problem and stop the bullying or cyberbullying, and this includes reporting the bullying to the school and working cooperatively with the school.  Reassure the student who was bullied or cyberbullied 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 student 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 and cyberbullying.
  4. Before meeting with school personnel to create a safety plan for your child, or a positive response plan if your child has bullied or cyberbullied, 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 the school's 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 and youth 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. 

 

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