October 21, 2013 – Bullying has become an international public health problem considering its prominence among schoolchildren and the enduring effects on the psychological and physical health into adulthood. The World Health Organization together with an international alliance of researchers completed a study and found that 17% of 11-year-old girls in Canada have reported being bullied at least twice during the period from April to June 2012. This data places Canada in 6th place out of 38 countries for the highest rate of bullying among girls in this age group.
According to a recent study by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, one in three adolescent children admitted being bullied and nearly 50% of parents stated their child was victimized by bullying.
Some of Canada's leading experts are requesting a national strategy to address the bullying epidemic, which affects their psychological well-being, academic performance as well as DNA. Debra Pepler, a Psychology Professor at York University stated that frequent bullying and domestic violence shows premature erosion of the telomores (DNA found at the end of chromosomes) which offers protection as cells divide through a person's life. "It's not just in children's behaviour, its' not just in what you see …it's much deeper in terms of the cellular level, in terms of their DNA, in brain structure, brain architecture, brain responsivity, and it's all in response to stress that children have in their lives," Debra Pepler stated.
In June 2012, the Ontario legislature passed a bill allowing students to form gay-straight alliances and protect them from being bullied by their peers at school after a 13-year-old boy was acquitted of robbing and assaulting Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy. Mitchell Wilson unable to cope with the strains and anxiety committed suicide last September.
Wendy Craig, a professor from Queen's University stated, "We need to do better at bridging the gap between policy and practice…staff working at schools should be given more resources and knowledge to help them identify bullying and then properly intervening."
Ken Jeffers, Co-ordinator for the Toronto District School Board's Gender Based Violence Prevention Program said, "Name calling and sexual harassment in schools has become so common that it's fading into the background." "When that persists, when that is allowed to become just background noise, students push those boundaries…in order to be successful, anti-bullying programs should focus on prevention as well as responding to incidents."
Nova Scotia leads the country with a new 'Cyber-safety Act' wherein people can apply through the Justice of the Peace Centre to obtain a protection order that would not only place restrictions on the cyberbully but also identify him/her. Victims can now sue the cyberbully and parents can be held accountable and liable for damages if the cyberbully is a minor.
Justice Minister Ross Landry stated, "This sends a clear message that cyberbullying is a serious act with serious consequences. Think before you text."
"These amendments will be a wake-up call to those who think they can hide behind a computer to avoid being held accountable," said Chantel O'Brien, a member of Nova Scotia's Youth Advisory Council. "It's assuring to see the government taking action to ensure youth can feel safe in their own homes."
Amendments to the 'Education Act' clarify the role for the Principals when acting upon issues that affect their schools. Principals now have the responsibility to take action and report incidences of bullying and cyberbullying even if they occur beyond the school ground or during after school hours.
CyberSCAN, the first unit of its kind in Canada has been operational since last September and has five investigators who examine all complaints whether the victim is a minor or an adult. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario - Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act, 2012 designates the week beginning with the third Sunday in November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools.
"Manitoba schools now have more tools to fight bullying and cyberbullying and are able to create safer, more inclusive schools," said Education Minister Nancy Allan as Bill 18, the 'Safe and Inclusive Schools Act' was officially proclaimed into law on October 10th.
“Every parent knows the impact that bullying can have on their children and their ability to learn. In recent years, the face of bullying has changed so much with the spread of cell phones and social media, and parents expect action,” said Allan. “That’s why I am proud that we have a new law in Manitoba that builds on our Safe Schools Charter to protect every child from bullying online and in the classroom.”
Under Bill 18, 'The Safe and Inclusive School Act' schools in Manitoba will be required to:
- report and act on cyberbullying incidents even if they take place outside of school or after-hours;
- expand policies related to the appropriate use of the Internet in schools to include social media, text messaging and instant messaging;
- accommodate students who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that fight all forms of bullying, and accommodate any student-led groups that want to use the name 'gay‑straight alliance' or any other name consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all students; and
- establish respect for human diversity policies that are consistent with the principles of the Manitoba Human Rights Code and create a safe and inclusive learning environment that is accepting of all students.
To support schools with the development of diversity policies, the province will hold seminars with school administrators this fall. The province is also collaborating with the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust to develop resource kits for teachers and schools to assist and support students who want to form gay‑straight alliances in their schools. The province will also provide training for teachers and staff about bullying prevention inclusive of strategies to promote respect for human diversity – all within a positive learning environment.
In addition, the province is requesting that 'Appropriate Use of the Internet and Human Diversity' policies be in place at all school divisions and independent, funded schools by June 30, 2014.
Some school divisions have already developed policies that relate to respect for human diversity and homophobic bullying including the Winnipeg, Louis Riel and Seven Oaks school divisions.
“While great work is already going on in many Manitoba schools and school divisions, the proclamation of Bill 18 and the requirements it puts in place will strengthen and expand that work throughout the province," said Paul Olson, president of Manitoba Teacher's Society. "This sends a clear message that all have the right to teach and learn in schools that are as inclusive and supportive as we can make them."
Manitoba’s anti-bullying action plan includes:
- The expansion of 'Tell Them From Me' online survey so that schools can hear directly from grade 4 to 12 students in 550 schools across Manitoba on how they can improve safety and prevent bullying;
- The introduction of a new provincial code of conduct with clear and appropriate disciplinary consequences for bullying incidents;
- The provision of new resources and supports to educate parents, teachers and students to help them identify, prevent and deal with bullying;
- The continuation to support Safe Schools Manitoba, a unique partnership between the provincial government, schools, law enforcement, social service agencies, parent councils, professional associations and community agencies; and
- The hosting of the second annual Safe and Caring Schools Provincial Leadership Forum with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to bring together students, teachers, administrators and experts to share strategies on preventing and addressing cyberbullying.
The above information on Bill 18, the 'Safe and Inclusive Schools Act', was courtesy of the Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI).
The Manitoba partnership with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection includes:
- the Self/Peer Exploitation Resource Guide will assist schools in responding to incidents where teens have been negatively impacted by a sexual picture/video being shared by peers
- educational resources such as www.NeedHelpNow.ca in schools to support youth who may be cyberbullied
- additional resources for Grade 8 to 10 students
- the hosting of the second annual Safe and Caring School Leadership Conference on cyber safety in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection next May.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection, a leader in keeping children safe from cyberbullying and other forms of child victimization, is a not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing programs and services to Canadians.
Parents: Signs that your child may be struggling with a cyberbully
- changes in habits or personality – increased sadness or depression, low self-esteem
- recurrent and unexplained physical symptoms such as stomach ache, headache or difficulty sleeping
- loss of interest in social
- increased anxiety towards using electronic devices such as computers and smart phones
- reluctance to attend school
- increased absence from
- sudden change in grades
- change in eating habits
- isolation from friends
To obtain highly detailed information on bullying including the topics listed below, please click on Bullying Prevention.
- Different Kinds of Bullying
- How Parents Can Help
- Proactive Measures to Prevent Bullying
- School-based Anti-Bullying Program
- Bullying Facts in Canada
- The Whole School Approach
- The Comprehensive Community Approach
- Legislative Assembly of Ontario - Bill 14, Anti-Bullying Act, 2012