Friday, August 24, 2012

The start of school is just around the corner. Some parents and students are already becoming anxious. Here is what parents really need to know about keeping their children safe at school. We are tired of reading articles in our local papers directed to parents on how to raise their children and prevent them from becoming targets of bullies. We recognize that not all parents are educated, and some are lacking in parenting skills. But, for the most part we would like to think that parents do assist their children in building self-esteem and social skills. Becoming victimized doesn't necessarily have anything to do with a victim's level of self esteem or lack thereof. It's often the intent of the bully to break it! This kind of message sets up kids to be blamed for being victimized and the real issue not being addressed is the aggressor's lack of self esteem, issues and supports. We are further extremely dismayed with a statement made by Stu Auty, President of the Canadian Safe School Network. "Go up the food chain……You'll find over time the situation will be looked after.” While we recognize that there are most likely certain entities that Mr. Auty must protect, he has just disrespected every child, and their family, who have gone through months or years of a bullying situation without any resolve. This is a reality for many families in Ontario. So we ask why we never see journalistic pieces such as below. How parents can REALLY take on bullying If your child is being bullied we recommend the following: We recognize that this is an emotionally charged process. We ask that you use respectful language in your letters and conversations with school representatives. Calm, level headed communication achieves results. Keep a detailed log of who you spoke to including date, time, name(s), conversation highlights. This is imperative. Use the following guide to contact personnel in order as outlined. If you reach the last item on this list with no resolution - contact us. There are no skipping steps. Successful resolution requires working with established protocols. 1. Teacher 2. Vice Principal/Principal - Ask for a safety plan to be created for your child. 3. Superintendent of the school 4. Safe School Superintendent (only some school boards) 5. School Safety Officer - If need be get a restraining order against aggressor. 6. Elected trustee 7. Elected MPPs 8. If you child’s bullying is due to one of the following reasons: gender, race, orientation, religion, disability (differently abled) contact your Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and request an application. Our schools are bound by The Human Rights Convention and as such must be accountable to that office. 9. If you have a complaint regarding a teacher or administrator of your school/board please file a complaint with the Ontario Teachers College. 10. Ombudsman’s Office - Boards of Education do not form part of the Ombudsman’s portfolio. However, we have recently learned from his office that for statistical purposes they will accept a school complaint and keep record without conducting an investigation. This information is then published in the O’s Annual Report. Before the expansion of the Ombudsman’s power can take place, the number of recorded complaints needs to increase. 11. Share your story with the media. 12. Legal advice - sue in Small Claims Action suit. What children need to learn growing up is that every person is unique and they need to understand and accept differences in people, both physical and emotional. This education needs to carry on in our schools, not just at home. This is all about changing the cultures in our schools and it begins with our Principals, the very individuals our Education Act sites are responsible for the safety of all students. Until then, supporting and protecting our victims is crucial and mandatory. We should not have to go through the “food chain.” Unfortunately, this is not always the case. And while we understand a number of bullying situations are handled well, there is a reason anti-bullying coalitions in this province are being organized. We don’t need to read articles on how to raise our children. We need to learn how to advocate on behalf of them. This is where a parent needs to be educated.