I've received numerous invitations to participate in today's announcement by former education minister and Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Elizabeth Witmer regarding the creation of an anti-bullying week in November.
The press release is full of endorsements from anti-bullying coalitions, teachers' federations, etc. If it passes through to its eventual end, it would create an awareness week in the third week of November and mandate that activities take place in every school across Ontario during that week.
You can wear pink, label a week and parade against bullying all you want. It'll make you feel great -- particularly if people who bully get behind it and add their weight (imagine being bullied into anti-bullying activities?). But what does Witmer's resolution do to actually improve the social conditions in our schools?
Does it direct any increased funding to safe-school programs?
Does it encourage adults in schools to use their common sense and step in when they see any signs of behaviour that lead to someone being bullied?
Does it teach parents how not to make bullies of their children?
Does it change our society as a whole to reward the meek and punish the aggressive?
Does it do anything to address the deep-rooted sentiment of not "ratting out" bullies?
Does it eliminate the bystander? You know, when we stand by and watch it happen but do nothing?
If it doesn't move any closer to answering yes on any of the above, then this resolution is just empty platitudes.
Bullying is a societal problem that extends well beyond schools. I always hesitate to join the masses slamming schools and school boards for 'not doing enough' to stop bullying. Ending it requires more than just teachers and principals. The first place to look is in the home, then in the peer group. Solve that conundrum first.
To add to this, I always cringe at media coverage of bullying. Those who are most successful in media are type-A personalities-- aggressive, dominant, stubborn. Read: bullies. So someone whose bully qualities have been honed to the benefit of their craft is now writing about someone who was bullied. I saw journos I respected bully a school board through coverage and public opinion into taking unprecedented steps to address why people weren't reporting what they witness.
I cringed when I read this today, almost a repeat of what happened in Dec. 2004 and I do hope we're able to take a breath, count to 10 and consider the bigger picture prior to blaming any school involvement.