Monday, June 8, 2009

MacDonald on Bill 157

The Sun's columnist Moira MacDonald has this opinion on Ontario's Bill 157, 'Keeping our kids safe in school,' act, that provides some further guidance to educators when it comes to dealing with violent incidents at school and bullying.
Parents' groups, such as the London Anti-bullying Coalition, say the legislation doesn't go far enough. The LBC was founded after the death of Strathroy District Collegiate Institute student Joshua Melo, who hanged himself off a tree, reportedly because he was being cyber-bullied by his peers at school.
"We had so much hope," says Corina Morrison, co-founder of the London Anti-Bullying Coalition (ABC).
But, "there's no accountability in Bill 157 or support for the victims ... Parents are tired of dealing with a system that is unresponsive and ineffective."
Three parents whose children died after being targeted by bullies -- two through suicide -- were at London ABC's first press conference in 2004. Though based in southwestern Ontario, it fields calls from parents across the province.
Typical complaints go like this: Victim gets bullied. Victim's parents never find out what, if any action is taken -- and may not even be informed by the school of the incident. Perpetrator remains at school, bullying often continues, perhaps more covertly. Victim is increasingly traumatized and feels so insecure s/he either stays home from school or changes schools. The perpetrator often stays put.
Bullying is a complex, societal issue. This bill attempts to address some of its implications within schools, in addition to responding to violent incidents that have led to student deaths.
I've always wondered how much responsibility the education system needs to take when it comes to students being bullied. A raft of new programs and initiatives have taken hold across Ontario in the last five years, but I don't know that incidents of bullying have actually decreased.
Bills such as this one are steps along a continuum, but they cannot and should not be the entire solution to these problems. Everyone has to take responsibility if viable solutions are ever to be found.