What is Bullying?
Bullying is repeated aggressive behaviour in a relationship in which the person who bullies has more power than the person who is bullied. The aggressive behaviour is typically (but not always) repeated. Bullying can take many forms: verbal, physical, social, or electronic (cyberbullying). It can focus on: disability, sexual orientation and sexuality, gender identity, race/ethnicity/religion, or other issues. In many provinces and territories, laws pertain to all incidents of bullying that affect the school’s learning climate, whether on or off school property and whether face-to-face or electronically.
Bullying and the British Columbia Law
Pursuant to a Ministerial Order: Provincial Standards for Codes of Conduct Order under British Columbia’s School Act, school boards must establish codes of conduct that define what is unacceptable behaviour, including bullying and cyberbullying, while at school, at a school-related activity or in circumstances where engaging in the activity will have an impact on the school environment, and what the consequences of unacceptable behaviour will be.
Furthermore, the British Columbia Ministry of Education has a Safe and Caring School Communities policy which affirms all students’ right to an education free from discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and other forms of violence.
For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying
Legal Requirements for Private Schools in British Columbia
Similarly to public schools in British Columbia, independent schools must set clear expectations for acceptable behaviour and hold students accountable by enforcing bullying and violence prevention policies and codes of conduct.
Bullying and Cyberbullying 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.
As an educator, you should expect the following:
At the Classroom/School Level:
- You have a right to expect that your school make the code of conduct, which includes an anti-bullying policy, available to the public and provide it to parents, students and all school staff at the beginning of the school year.
- You have a right to expect that your school review the code of conduct annually with representatives of the school staff, parents and students to assess the effectiveness of the code of conduct in addressing current school safety issues.
- You should expect all school personnel have had training about bullying prevention in accordance with their roles and responsibilities.
- You should expect that all students participate in developmentally appropriate educational experiences throughout their school careers, conveying the importance of respect in relationships, teaching that bullying in all its forms is wrong and unacceptable, and teaching social skills that build capacity for healthy relationships.
- You should expect that there is adequate supervision and monitoring of students.
- You should expect that all school personnel consistently identify and respond to incidents of bullying, and report incidents to the school principal or designate in accordance with school policy.
- You should expect that your school keeps records of bullying and their responses to them, and that these records are reviewed on a regular basis to identify and address ongoing concerns.
At the School Board Level:
- You have a right to expect that your school board has established a code of conduct that defines bully and cyberbullying, provides for the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying which takes into account the student’s age, maturity and special needs (if any), and that explains that the board will take all reasonable steps to prevent retaliation against a student who has made a complaint about bullying and/or cyberbullying.
- You have a right to expect that the code of conduct, wherever possible and appropriate, establishes consequences for bullying and cyberbullying that focus on restorative rather than punitive actions and includes an explanation that special consideration may apply to students with special needs.
- You should expect that your school board has a District Safe School Coordinator who is responsible for district-wide safety initiatives, including overall monitoring of the online reporting site.
- You should expect there are evidence based bullying prevention resources and training opportunities available.
At the Ministry Level:
- The Ministry has a Safe and Caring School Communities policy which affirms all students’ right to an education free from discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and other forms of violence.
- You should expect there is adequate funding for resources and staff training.
As an educator, these are your rights and responsibilities with respect to bullying prevention:
- You have the right to ask parents to take an active interest in their children’s academic and social progress.
- You have the right to communicate to parents/guardians that their children’s social skills, self-discipline, empathy, compassion and ethics are learned through life, and that both parents and educators play key roles in transmitting these skills and values to their children through instruction and by example.
- You have the right to expect that parents/guardians:
- Encourage and assist their children to abide by the school’s code of conduct;
- Model respect for diversity and for engaging in positive, non-violent conflict resolution; and
- Refrain from inappropriate behaviours when interacting with school personnel.
- You have the responsibility to invite representatives of parents and students to participate in the development and support of your school’s safe school policy, code of conduct, and plan to create a positive learning and working environment.
- You have the responsibility to ask parents to communicate regularly with the school when there is a concern about bullying.
When a bullying or cyberbullying situation occurs
If an incident of bullying is disclosed to you or witnessed by you, these are the educator’s responsibilities.
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, 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 students 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:
- the developmental level and age of the involved students;
- the prior history of the involved students;
- exceptionalities of the involved students (including special needs);
- the severity of the incident; and
- the harm that was done to the student who was bullied.
- delegated school personnel are responsible to take reasonable steps to prevent retaliation against a student who has made a complaint of bullying.
At the School Board Level:
- 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.
Remember to consider your own behaviour, despite any disagreements or hostility you may encounter. Students 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