What is Bullying?
Quebec’s provincial legislation defines bullying as: repeated direct or indirect behaviour, comments, acts or gestures, whether deliberate or not, in which the person bullying has more power than the person who is bullied. This behaviour causes distress and injuries, hurts, oppresses, intimidates or ostracizes. 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.
Bullying and the Quebec Law
The Quebec legislature passed Bill 56: An Act to prevent and stop bullying and violence in schools in 2012, amending the Education Act and the Act respecting private education to formally address bullying.
The amendment lays out the duties and responsibilities of the school boards, public and private schools, and the Ministry to provide a healthy and secure learning environment which allows every student to develop his or her full potential, free from any form of bullying or violence.
For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying
Legal Requirements for Private Schools in Quebec
Under An Act respecting private education, private schools in Quebec must provide a healthy and secure learning environment that allows every student to develop to his or her full potential.
The Act contains extensive anti-bullying provisions, including that institutions must adopt an anti-bullying and anti-violence plan meeting the same standards as those required by public schools. The Act also provides a definition of bullying that is consistent with the public school’s definition of bullying.
Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention
The law states that the main purpose of adopting an anti-bullying and anti-violence plan is to “prevent and deal with all forms of bullying and violence targeting a student, a teacher or any other staff member”. Schools are required to create safe environments where everyone feels safe and included and is treated with respect. This includes requiring students to take part in anti-bullyingand anti-violence activities held by their school.
These are your rights as a parent under the current legislation:
At the Classroom/School Level:
- You have the right to ask for the school principal to be the main person to receive and promptly deal with all reports or complaints concerning bullying or violence at school.
- You have the right to ensure the school principal adopts and implements an anti-bullying and anti-violence plan at school that strictly follows all elements provided in the legislation and that the principal reviews, evaluates, and updates the plan annually and distributes this plan to the parents in a clear and accessible language.
- You have the right to expect the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan to include an analysis of the prevailing situation at the school with respect to bullying, preventative measures to end all forms of bullying, measures to encourage the participation of parents in the plan, and procedures for reporting instances of bullying, including cyberbullying, along with the follow-up and support procedures that follow instances of bullying.
- You have the right to hold every school staff member accountable for collaborating in the implementation of the anti-bullying and antiviolence plan.
- You have the right to ensure every school staff member is informed of school’s rules of conduct, safety and anti-violence measures, and of the procedures to be followed when an act of bullying or violence is observed.
- You have the right to request the school principal set up an anti-bullying and anti-violence team, as well as delegate one school staff member to coordinate its work.
- You have the right to expect the principal to support any group of students wishing to engage in anti-bullying activities.
- You have the right to request the school’s rules of conduct be presented to the students during a civics session held every year.
- You have the right to expect the school’s governing board to annually evaluate the results achieved by the school with respect to preventing and dealing with bullying, and that a report on the evaluation will be distributed to you.
At the School Board Level:
- You have the right to expect the school board will take responsibility for providing a healthy and secure learning environment for every student – an environment where students can develop their full potential, free from any form of bullying or violence.
- You have the right to expect the school board to support the principal of the school in their efforts to prevent and stop bullying.
- You have the right to expect the school board to approve the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan proposed by each school’s principal.
- You have the right to ask the school board, by December 31st of each year, for:
- an annual report on the number and nature of acts of bullying reported that year; and
- the measures taken to improve the school’s results with respect to preventing and dealing with bullying – with a specific focus on enhancing the quality of the school learning environment.
- You have the right to expect the school board to consult with the parents’ committees and establish clear procedures for the examination of complaints from parents.
- You have the right to assistance in crafting a complaint to the Student Ombudsman..
- You have the right to expect the school board to enter into an agreement with the police force in the area to determine how police officers will intervene when an act of bullying is reported to them, and to establish the means of collaboration for prevention and investigation purposes.
- You have the right to expect the school board to enter into an agreement with another health/social services organization, including community organizations, to provide services to students after an act of bullying is reported.
- You have the right to expect that a copy of the above agreements will be sent the school’s principal.
- You have the right to expect that the school board will appoint a Student Ombudsman to hear and report on complaints concerning acts of bullying, as well as to develop recommendations for preventative measures.
- You have the right to expect that student transportation contracts require the transportation provider to adopt measures to prevent and stop bullying during the transportation of students, inform the principal of any incidents, and ensure that all drivers complete anti-bullying training.
At the Ministry Level:
- You have the right to expect, where not provided for at the school board level, that the Minister of Education and Public Safety will jointly determine how police officers will intervene when an act of bullying is reported, and to establish the means of collaboration for prevention and investigation purposes.
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 be promptly notified by the principal of the form and nature of the bullying activity that resulted in harm to your child.
- You have the right to be informed of the anti-bullying and anti-violence plan in response to the bullying incidents.
- You have the right to remind the school principal that the adults responsible for transportation of students are also expected to adopt measures to prevent and deal with any form of bullying or violence, and to reinforce their duty to report any incidents of bullying or violence during transportation.
- You have the right to be informed of supervisory or support measures for a student who has been the victim of bullying or cyberbullying.
- You have the right to expect measures to protect the confidentiality of any report or complaint concerning an act of bullying or cyberbullying.
- If you are unsatisfied with how the principal has dealt with the incident, you have the right to file a complaint with the Student Ombudsman.
- You have the right to expect the principal to send the director general of the school board a summary report of the nature of the bullying incident and the follow-up measures taken.
- You have the right to request a copy of the summary report mentioned above.
At the School Board Level:
- You have the right to request assistance from a person designated by the school board to deal with parents’ complaints concerning bullying or violence at school.
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 be notified of the form and nature of the bullying activity that resulted in harm to the bullied student and the action that will be taken to prevent any further act of bullying or violence.
- You have the right to ask the school principal to take into consideration the severity of the bullying incidents and any disciplinary measures taken on previous occasions, as well as the best interest of your child when determining the consequences of engaging in bullying behaviours.
- You have the right to be informed of the reasons for your child’s suspension and of the remedial and re-integration measures to be imposed on your child as a consequence of engaging in bullying behaviours.
- You have the right to be informed of supervisory or support measures for any student who engages in acts of bullying or cyberbullying in order to prevent further acts of bullying or cyberbullying.
At the School Board Level:
- You have the right to request that the school board give the parents/guardians an opportunity to have an open discussion before expelling your child from the school, or enrolling him or her in another school.
- You have the right to expect that the principal will inform the director general of the school board and the Student Ombudsman of the decision to suspend your child.
Action Plan for parents whose child is being bullied or cyberbullied, or has bullied or cyberbullied others
- 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.
- 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 your child that 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 student 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 student who bullied understand their rights. Emphasize his or her responsibility to treat others with respect.
- Visit www.prevnet.ca to gather more information about bullying.
- 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 the school's rights and responsibilities under the legislation.
- 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.
- 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.