What is Bullying?
While Yukon’s territorial legislation does not define bullying, the Department of Education’s Safe and Caring Schools Policy defines bullying as a pattern of repeated aggressive behaviour, directed from one person to another. It can be direct or indirect, physical, social , verbal, or electronic (cyberbullying). Bullying involves a power imbalance between the bully and the victim, and can lead to a cycle of bullying victimization where the victim becomes increasingly powerless. It can focus on: disability; sexual orientation; gender identity; sexuality; race/ethnicity/religion; or other issues.
Bullying and the Yukon Law
In Yukon, Policy 1011 The Safe and Caring Schools Policy is in place to address bullying. The policy is a commitment of the school community to plan, strategize and create a respectful, safe and nurturing educational environment for everyone.
It is accompanied by the Safe and Caring Schools Policy Support Plan, which outlines support programs available to schools to aid in implementing the policy.
Under the policy, cyberbullying is specified as: “threats or harmful and demeaning text messages, photos or videos distributed or published to the internet”.
For more details on cyberbullying legislation, including federal legislation, please visit: Legal Consequences of Cyberbullying
Legal Requirements for Private Schools in the Yukon
Under the Yukon's Education Act [PDF], “school” is defined as a body of students organized as a unit for educational purposes under the jurisdiction of the Minister or a School Board; the word “public” does not appear in the definition. The legislation also provides that a school is entitled to be registered or accredited as a private school if the operator of the school applies to the Minister, meaning that the same responsibilities Yukon public schools owe to maintain a safe and inclusive environment 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 students that bullying and cyberbullying are 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.
These are your rights as a parent under the current policy:
At the Classroom/School Level:
- You have the right to expect school staff to teach positive ways to problem solve, and to help develop the social and emotional potential of all students, to the extent of their abilities.
- You have the right to expect school staff to have the opportunity to be trained to identify and respond to bullying behaviours and to provide positive redirection or interventions.
- You have the right to ask the school to implement Positive Behaviour Intervention Supports, a framework for schools to build behavioural expectations and enhance social skills of the student population.
At the School Board Level:
You have the right to expect school administrators, in consultation with their school communities, will develop a school-based policy that includes practices dealing with bullying and harassment – and that this policy will be reviewed and evaluated on a regular basis to build a safe and caring school.
At the Ministry Level:
- You have the right to ask that the Department of Education provides schools with the resources in order to implement the policy – these resources should include trained departmental staff and professional development for the administrator, teachers, and other school personnel.
- You have the right to expect the Department of Education to provide support to schools for staff-led peer support groups and other positive school climate building activities.
- You have the right to expect the Department of Education to provide resources to schools on bullying awareness and prevention strategies.
Your Child has been Victimized by Bullying or Cyberbullying
If your child confides that he or she has been bullied at school, or if you hear about if from school personnel or someone else, your rights as a parent under the current policy are:
At the Classroom/School Level:
- You have the right to ask that the school administration or teachers:
- respond with a clear message conveying that bullying will not be tolerated;
- listen, investigate, offer support and determine an appropriate course of action in response to bullying or cyberbullying incidents; and
- keep the record of a description of the incident including any actions taken in response to the bullying incident.
- You have the right to ask that the school’s efforts to address the situation involving the bullying or cyberbullying incident continue until the situation is resolved.
- You can expect that, where necessary, a written action plan will be developd and given to the concerned parties.
Students who are being bullied or cyberbullied 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 School/Classroom Level:
- You have the right to be informed of the bullying or cyberbullying incident and how it is being handled by the school staff, conditional upon the school administrator’s discretion.
- You can expect that a report of the incident will be prepared and kept on file for one year, unless there is an active investigation or formal complaint underway.
- You have the right to be informed of a written action plan in response to the bullying or cyberbullying incident, when necessary.
At the School Board Level:
- You have the right to know that the procedures for suspension, as a consequence for engaging in bullying or cyberbullying behaviours, will comply with school rules and the Education Act, and serious cases will be discussed with the Superintendent.
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 and cyberbullying seriously. Always recognize your child’s courage in reporting or talking about the bullying or cyberbullying. 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 these rights. Emphasize his or her responsibility to treat others with respect.
- Visit www.prevnet.ca to gather more information about bullying and cyberbulying.
- Before meeting with school personnel to create a safety plan for your child, or a positive response plan if your child has bullied or cyberbullied, 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.