Most Canadians believe bullying is a serious problem among students. Increased awareness and media coverage has created country-wide interest in addressing this problem. Bullying is no longer considered “just part of growing up” but is now being described by some as an epidemic.
It’s time to examine the provincial and territorial policy response to bullying across Canada. Millions of dollars and numerous programs and policies have already been put in place without evidence that these dollars and policies work; all lack sufficient measures to evaluate the efficacy of these efforts. The introduction of provincial anti-bullying legislation in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia is an escalated response lacking clear evidence of what can be accomplished combined with few tools to evaluate the practical outcomes. Bullying is a relational problem that impacts the social climate of a school community. The law can provide clear definitions of bullying behaviour, mandate the need for policies, assign responsibility and empower educators with disciplinary tools, but it will be community level involvement that will best address the complex issue of bullying.
Before the rush to legislate, policymakers should consider the following:
- Review existing policies and funding commitments
- Prioritize evaluation and research
- Minimize the scope of legislation, maximize community autonomy
- Communicate clear, pragmatic expectations of legislation
Bullying is a big problem and Canadians often look to government to solve large challenges. The complex nature of bullying requires frontline intervention from parents, students and educators. The law may provide a supporting context, but it cannot regulate and repair school yard relationships.
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