The description of the news article below and the “Afterthought” are the opinions of Deby Ko, a volunteer member of JFCY’s PLE Team and JFCY’s bullying sub-committee. The information about the proposed Ontario legislation is by JFCY.
Bullying in the News – By JFCY volunteer Deby Ko
Current news indicates how severe bullying can be and how bullying can lead to terrifying results. In Fall 2011, the Toronto Sun reported that Mitchell Wilson committed suicide. Mitchell was 11-years-old and he had muscular dystrophy, a disease which weakens muscles over time. Mitchell was heavily bullied.
Mitchell’s challenges began when a 12-year-old mugged him. When his attacker was arrested, his friends started following Mitchell home and bullying him on why he was bringing the young offender to court.
With the taunts and bullying, Mitchell no longer did the same amount of exercise he had in the past. soem could argue that this made his illness develop faster, so that he had to use a wheelchair all of the time. His mental state was also extremely vulnerable. The Sun described the changes in Mitchell’s mental state: “Mitchell stopped sleeping and began suffering anxiety attacks. He told his family he’d rather kill himself than go back to school where he was being bullied.”
Despite being counseled and assigned a protector at school, Mitchell no longer was the same person he used to be. He had ongoing stresses because of his illness and because his court date against his attacker was approaching. Before his first day of grade 6, Mitchell ended his life.
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Afterthought – by JFCY volunteer Deby Ko
It’s terrifying how physical attacks followed by verbal attacks can lead to such traumatic results. Despite being counseled by his school and accompanied by a protector, Mitchell could no longer act the way he used to. Sometimes people think that kids need to face bullying on their own, but it is important for kids who have been bullied to talk with someone about the situation. This can help to relieve some anxiety. People you can turn to may be friends, family, teachers or other people that you trust. If you don’t want to turn to others, you can try writing your feelings on a blog or diary entry, either to help other people who are going through the same thing as you online or just to relieve some anxiety you may have. Joining extracurricular activities can also help you confront your fears when you have more friends by your side listening to any problems you may have.
If you have bullied someone, you have to know that what you have done can have a lasting effect on someone and that there may be long-lasting consequences for you, too.
School bullying and the law – by JFCY
Every province in Canada has the power to make laws about education in that province. In Ontario, the Education Act applies to public and separate (Catholic) schools. This year, the Ontario government introduced a bill to change the Education Act. A bill is a proposed law that must be debated by government and voted on. If a majority of the elected representatives to a province’s legislature vote for a bill, then it becomes law. The bill that the Ontario government is proposing is supposed to help address bullying in school. The goal of the law would be to help make sure that students feel safe in school, because all students deserve to feel safe and included. Feeling safe at school is also important to being able to succeed in school. The introduction to the bill, which is called a preamble, talks specifically about making schools more inclusive for LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning) people, because a lot of bullying in school is based on someone’s perceived sexual identity. Another important part of the bill is that it recognizes that both people who bully and people who are bullied need to be supported in making good choices and developing healthy relationships.
So what will the bill do if passed?
The bill defines bullying. Legal definitions are important because people depend on them when they are trying to understand what is included in a law. For example, one part of the bill says that school boards must consider expelling a student who has previously been suspended for bullying. Whether or not a student’s behaviour is classified as bullying according to the definition in the law could make a difference to what consequences the student faces for his or her actions.
The bill also makes school boards and schools responsible for working to prevent bullying. For example, schools have to include rules to help prevent bullying in their codes of conduct. School boards will be required to have guidelines and policies on a wide range of topics relating to bullying and other forms of inappropriate behaviour. Some examples of the guidelines and policies that are required include which consequences should be considered for students who engage in inappropriate behaviour, what strategies can be used to prevent bullying, and what training relating to bullying should be provided to teachers and staff at a school.
Finally, the bill also proclaims Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week as the third week in November, and it requires school boards to support students who want to lead activities or organizations that “promote gender equity, anti-racism, the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities or the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.”
If you have specific legal questions relating to bullying, please contact JFCY at 416.920.1633
If you are a victim of bullying and need support, check out some of these organizations:
- Kids Help Phone at 1 800 668 6868 or on www.kidshelpphone.ca
- LGBT Youth line at 1.800.268.9688 or on www.youthline.ca
If you want to find out more about bullying and how you can help raise awareness and prevent bullying, you can look at some of these websites:
- Web Aware on www.bewebaware.ca
- Canadian Safe Schools Network on www.canadiansafeschools.com
There is a list of books and other resources on blocking and dealing with cyber-bullying as well as other forms of bullying on this website: http://www.cheo.on.ca/En/bullying
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