Monday, October 19, 2009

Bullying is a social issue, which takes place wherever children congregate. It is a complex, and serious issue.

Since I took my own personal story to the media, I have met many parents who I share a commonality with. Why did it happen? I am not speaking about the odd, one-time occurrences of unkind words or gestures. I am speaking about long-term where a child is targeted by the same peers over a lengthy period of time.

Why was a student targeted with homophobic slurs for three school years? Why did a child by the name of “M” have to attend the same school with a child who sexually assaulted “M” for six months? Why was another student tormented for years which resulted in a physical attack which left that child’s eardrum punctured? “Why?” is the question being asked? The parents of all of these children had to fight to actually get a resolution of any kind, but accountability didn’t form part of the equation.

Our boards of education are publicly funded by our hard-earned tax dollars. Parents have the absolute right to approach their boards to voice their dissatisfaction of non-responsiveness and accountability. Our teachers have the absolute right to voice their frustrations over lack of support and follow-up from their administrators. Administrators have the absolute duty to keep our kids safe. But no one is speaking out. Those of us who are experiencing the dissatisfaction and frustration know why.

Adults must take a lead role. All adults, and not just the adults that we entrust our children to while at school.

Our Ministry of Education would have the public believe that as a result of Bill 157 (mandatory reporting), board policies and procedures, there will be no more children who fall into the category of long-term bullying. As of this moment, Ontario has approximately 140,000 students that go to school scared every day. Those are just the victims. What about the bully and the bystanders, and extended family members that this issue impacts. One can plainly see the enormity of it all. This issue does and will continue to have an impact on our health care system, our criminal justice system, and other social services.

Each and every one of us must play a role in finding a solution.

My purpose is to lend a voice to students who go to school scared, and their parents who are afraid to speak out.

When violence and abuse is discovered within our schools, and no one in the school system is able or willing to accept any responsibility or accountability, we feel it is the responsibility of our government to step forward so that families, who have suffered far too long, have a place to go. Together with LABC and Sunnie McFadden-Curtis of benchboy productions we feel that expanding the Ombudsman’s portfolio to include school boards would be a good step at helping Ontario families should they become lost “navigating the bullying maze.” Mr. Irwin Elman, our Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is in complete agreement.

Dr. Mike has an excellent blog post relating to Alberta Bill 206