What is Bullying?

Manitoba’s Public Schools Act defines bullying as behaviour that is intended to cause, or should be known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property. It is also behaviour that is intended to create, or should be known to create, a negative school environment for another person.  Bullying usually takes place in a context of a real or perceived power imbalance between people involved and is often repetitive behaviour, but does not have to be. Bullying can be direct or indirect, and a person can participate in bullying by intentionally assisting or encouraging bullying behaviour in any way. Bullying can take many forms: verbal, physical, social, or electronic (cyberbullying). It can focus on: disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.

Cyberbullying is defined in the provincial legislation as engaging in the above behaviours through  the use of the Internet or other communication technologies, including email, social media or text messages.

Bullying and the Manitoba Law

In Manitoba, there is formal legislation on bullying found in section 47.1 of the Public Schools Act. Last updated in 2013, the legislation states that schools in the province must establish a Code of Conduct that deals with, among other issues, bullying prevention and response. The Code of Conduct must mandate respectful behaviour from both staff and students, and among other requirements, requires appropriate use of the Internet, social media and text messaging. The legislation includes a duty to report bullying and cyberbullying to the school’s principal for employees of the school board, district, or division, and any person who has care or charge of a student in a school-approved activity. Although not explicitly mentioned, this could include parents in their capacity as volunteers.

The law pertains to all incidents of bullying that affect the school’s learning climate, those that happen in any school setting or activity. While the role of parents is not explicit under the Act, parents/guardians should be supportive of the school’s Code of Conduct and expect it to be enforced.

For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying 

Legal Requirements for Private Schools in Manitoba

The Public Schools Act in Manitoba defines “school” as a public school. However, it also states that the Minister may make grants to a private school if specific conditions are met. Section 60(5) of the Act suggests that private schools in Manitoba are not exempt from regulation by the Minister and so the same responsibilities that public schools owe to maintain a safe and inclusive environment may also apply to private schools.

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 student 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, including addressing training for teachers and other staff on bullying prevention. 

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

At the Classroom/School Level:

  • You have the right to expect that the principal of each school, in consultation with the school's advisory committee, has established a Code of Conduct for students and school staff, and an emergency response plan for the school, which are to be reviewed at least annually.
  • You have the right to expect that bullying behaviours will be reported by any employee of a school board and/or any person caring for one or more students during the prescribed school-approved activity to the school principals as soon as reasonably possible.
  • You have the right to be notified by the school principal as soon as reasonably possible if your child has been harmed as a result of any unacceptable conduct, including cyberbullying.

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect the Board to establish written policies on the appropriate use of the Internet, social media, text messaging, cellphones, and other forms of electronic communication.
  • You have the right to expect the Board to establish written policies concerning respect for human diversity, and ensuring that the policy is implemented in each school in the school division or district.

At the Ministry Level:

  • You have the right to expect the Ministry may develop clear procedures and regulations for how unacceptable conduct must be reported.
  • You have the right to expect the Ministry to address training for teachers and other staff about bullying prevention, the promotion of human diversity, and the creation of a positive school environment.

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 it 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 be notified, as soon as reasonably possible, by the school principal, of:
  1. the nature of the bullying incidence that resulted in harm to your child;
  2. the nature of the harm; and
  3. the steps taken to protect your child’s safety, including the nature of any disciplinary measures taken in response to the bullying behaviour.
  • You have the right to expect the principal of the school to ensure the appropriate interventions and disciplinary measures are included in their school's Code of Conduct. 

At the School Board Level:

  • You have the right to expect that the Board will engage in assessment and monitoring of bullying data to inform future policy improvements and the impact of anti-bullying policies. 

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 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 the right to request that the name or any other identifying or personal information about your child is not disclosed to the parents or guardians of the child who will be notified in cases of bullying incidences.
  • You have the right to expect your child’s school to follow appropriate protocol in informing you when your child has become subject to interventions or discipline.
  • You have the right to expect your child to be subject to appropriate interventions and disciplinary measures as included in their school’s Code of Conduct.

At the School Board Level:

  • If your child is suspended for five days or longer, you have the right to make representations about the suspension to the Board.

Parents have the responsibility to cooperate fully with their child’s teachers and other educational staff in ensuring that their child complies with the school’s Code of Conduct and discipline and behaviour management policies.

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 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 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 Safe Schools Manitoba