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 a direct or indirect electronic communication that was intentionally sent to cause harm to another person’s health or well-being or where the sender was reckless with regards to the risk of such consequence. Such communication may include a web page, blog, profile or message that was meant to impersonate another person, disclose sensitive information, threaten or offend another person, make a false allegation, encourage a person to commit suicide, or make any communication that might encourage someone to do any of the above.
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.
In July 2018, Nova Scotia furthered the protection provided to victims of cyberbullying by passing into law the Intimate Images and Cyber-Protection Act (https://nslegislature.ca/legc/bills/63rd_1st/1st_read/b027.htm). Nova Scotia is the first province in Canada to adopt legislation focused on unwanted sharing of intimate images. The legislation provides support and access to non-criminal prosecution to those who have experienced cyberbullying or unwanted sharing of intimate images. The legislation allows victims or their parents to seek compensation, prohibit further contact between the victim and another individual, request the removal of online content, receive protection orders, and participate in a restorative process to resolve a dispute.
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
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.
These are your rights as an educator:
- You have the right to expect parents and legal guardians to:
- support their children in achieving learning success; and
- support their children's teachers in their efforts to provide an education for their children.
- You have the right to encourage parents or legal guardians to communicate regularly with the school if there is a concern about bullying or cyberbullying.
This is what is expected of you as an educator:
At the Classroom/School Level:
- You are expected to attend to the health, comfort and safety of the students.
- You are expected to maintain an attitude of concern for the dignity and welfare of each student and encourage in each student an attitude of concern for the dignity and welfare of others, as well as a respect for religion, morality, truth, justice, humanity, equality, and other virtues.
- You are expected to take all reasonable steps necessary to create and maintain an orderly and safe learning environment.
- You are expected to communicate regularly with parents in accordance with policies established by the school board.
- The school principal is expected to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to create and maintain a safe, orderly, positive and effective learning environment.
- The school principal is expected to ensure that provincial and school board policies are followed, including policies in bullying and cyberbullying.
At the School Board Level:
- The school board is required to communicate the provincial school code of conduct to schools.
- The school board is required to ensure consistent implementation of the provincial school code of conduct policy in all schools and classrooms.
- The school board is required to 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.
When a bullying or cyberbullying situation occurs
If a student discloses, or if you as an educator have witnessed that a student has been bullied or cyberbullied at school, or if you hear about it from school personnel or someone else, these are your responsibilities as an educator.
At the Classroom/School Level:
You are expected to respond to unacceptable behaviour, such as bullying and cyberbullying, in the following manner:
- first consider the safety and security of students, staff and other members of the school community;
- assist students in developing new behaviours and strategies to reduce the reoccurance of unacceptable behaviour;
- 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
- use restorative strategies, when appropriate;
- consider the impact that consequences may have on the student(s) adversely affected by unacceptable behaviour;
- 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;
- provide academic support when student is removed from class or suspended from school; and
- formalize community partnerships that enhance community and school-based supports for students and families.
- As the teacher of the class, you may ask a student engaged in unacceptable behaviour, including bullying and cyberbullying, to leave the class and refer the student to the principal.
- You and other support staff are responsible for ensuring school principals or their delegates are notified of bullying and cyberbullying incidents.
- The school principal is expected to investigate and address reports of bullying and cyberbullying, including notifying parents/guardians in a timely fashion.
- The school principal may take appropriate action as specified in the provincial school code of conduct policy when a student engages in bullying or cyberbullying behaviour, whether on or off school grounds, including suspending the students for a period of up to 10 days. Responses to unacceptable behaviour need to:
- 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;
- be consistent with standards established in the provincial Special Education Policy, when supporting students with special needs programming relating to behaviour;
- reflect the severity of the behaviour;
- take into account the frequency and duration of the behaviour;
- be chosen primarily for their educational value;
- occur in a timely fashion;
- reflect an individualized approach to discipline; and
- be fair and equitable and respect the dignity of all involved.
- In case of a suspension, the school principal is expected to immediately notify in writing the student, the student’s teachers, the school board and the parents of the student of the reasons for the suspension.
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 empathic towards others, even when you disagree, they are more likely to behave the same way.
For more resources, please visit: PREVNet.ca