As cyberbullying becomes more widespread, the Brandon School Division is taking steps to introduce more anti-bullying programs into the schools.
“How widespread it is amongst our students, we don’t know because that’s their private lives,” Supt. Donna Michaels said. “We’ve had a couple of cases of cyberbullying last year, but we’re very firm and very strict about that, and so I think we’ve stopped a lot of it in the bud, but we know that goes on after hours.”
The division’s Student Conduct Policy 7004 clearly outlines how bullying and cyberbullying cases should be dealt with.
Bullying is defined as “unprovoked abuse, repeated over an extended time, intended to inflict distress (physical and/or psychological) upon a person perceived to be vulnerable.” Cyberbullying is defined in the policy as “using the Internet or other information or communication technologies, such as email messages or text messages sent by cellphone … to support deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm someone else.”
Some of the possible consequences include informal interview, guidance involvement, formal interview, mediation, parental involvement, official warnings, detention of student, withdrawal from classroom, removal of privileges, restitution and outside agency involvement.
“In general what we do is first of all, identify what the problem or the issue is, who’s involved and then the teacher or the counsellor would speak with the student,” Michaels said. “If it’s something that requires the administrators … they would look into the situation.”
Additional consequences may be considered, such as suspension, voluntary exclusion or expulsion.
“Sometimes the problem can be solved by bringing the kids together in a problem-solving activity,” Michaels said. “Sometimes it has to involve counselling. We involve the parents as much as possible.”
While bullying is still an issue, Michaels said a large majority of students are well behaved.
“Kids who are bullies are kids who are in distress,” she said. “Who knows what has been happening to the students who bully, who knows what’s been happening to them outside of school, but it’s been my experience that they want to take out their distress and their unhappiness on others, and it’s really unfortunate because when one child has to intimidate another we know that there’s serious issues there.”