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.
As of August 2017, your province or territory has not yet enacted legislation pertaining to bullying or cyberbullying. The following information is offered as a general guide and should be considered to apply to both public and private schools. You may also find it helpful to read the documents pertaining to the seven provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Alberta) as well as the Yukon that do have legislation in place.
For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying
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 should expect there is a school code of conduct that specifically pertains to bullying, defines bullying in all its forms, and outlines the responsibilities of all personnel (e.g., principals, teachers, assistants, bus drivers, etc.) to prevent bullying, from Kindergarten through secondary school.
- 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.
At the School Board Level:
- You should expect there is a school board policy that affirms all students’ rights to a safe learning environment, free from bullying in all its forms, and outlines the responsibilities of the school board to prevent bullying, from Kindergarten through secondary school.
- You should expect there are evidence based bullying prevention resources and training opportunities available.
At the Ministry Level:
- You should expect there is a Ministry or Department policy that affirms all students’ rights to a safe learning environment, free from bullying in all its forms, and the policy outlines the responsibilities of the ministry, the school board, and school principals and teachers to prevent bullying, from Kindergarten through secondary school.
- 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 parents 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 of the involved students;
- the prior history of the involved students;
- exceptionalities of the involved students;
- the severity of the incident; and
- the harm that was done to the student who was bullied.
At the School Board Level:
- You should expect there is school board policy in place affirming the school board’s commitment to a safe and positive learning environment.
- 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: PREVNet.ca