By now, I suspect that most if not all of the readers of this blog have read in depth about the suicide death of Quebec bullying victim Marjorie Raymond.
It’s been four years since I campaigned and won a seat on our council of commissioners, with bullying being one of my top stated priorities.
With my own children in the school board, I knew that bullying was something that went on every day in our schools. It’s of interest that when I first drove focus to the issue at council, one of our commissioners actually questioned if bullying really was a problem in our schools, because he didn’t think it was. Wow – it has been and continues to be a long road indeed.
So what is the problem? Do we need better rules? Codes of conduct? Better policy?
If you read our existing codes of conduct, you would say no. The expectations are very clear and in fact, were these codes of conduct to be enforced to the letter, we would at least minimize and at best eradicate the bulk of all bullying in our schools.
So – we don’t need to worry about rules, or codes of conduct.
Do we need better policy? When I first recognized the depth of the detachment from reality that some of our politicians suffered from, I decided to work on a framework, or a definition of what our expectations were as a school board as regards respect and responsibility. It took more than a year, but that framework finally became policy. It is posted in every school lobby in our board. And it too looks good on paper.
So we have codes of conduct. We have policy. And yet, virtually every school day I hear of dirty, disgusting and entirely abusive acts witnessed at our schools.
So what to do? I have tried to get standardized reporting of bullying incidents in our schools. We have in fact begun to survey our student population and the first board wide results should be examined by commissioners shortly.
But in the mean time, we actually have kids killing themselves because they see no way out.
So we’re obviously not doing enough. And it’s not moving near fast enough.
If we want to take this bull by the horns, the first step we need to take is real enforcement of the rules that we have in place. We say bullying in any form will not be tolerated. So – why are we tolerating it?
For some reason, school boards seem to feel that they are wholly responsible for educating every single student in our system. Regardless of their behaviour. Personally, I believe that if a student cannot bring himself to behave and where we have exhausted all of our means to socialize that student? Sorry, then he goes to the next level – provincial social services, outside of our schools and perhaps offered online schooling.
But to leave that student in amongst the rest of our population and allow him the continued opportunity to abuse them and distract them from their own education? Where is the sense in that? The education act requires us to provide an education for all students. It does not specify the format of that education nor does it require us to keep the wolves in the sheep pen.
Bullying is a societal problem, and school boards cannot handle it alone. There are many cases where social services should take over. The bully should be removed from the school and his issues dealt with by social services. The attempted education of the bully cannot be allowed to supersede the education of the rest of our students, let alone to take priority over the real life safety of our kids.
Until we accept these facts, we won’t succeed in dealing with the problem.