On Nov. 21, students and staff from across the Halton Catholic District School Board gathered for the launch of See the Problem: Be the Solution. A bullying prevention initiative, the campaign is urging students to take action by developing creative public service messages that promote positive school environments. Photo from www.hcdsb.org

Anti-bullying strategies take different paths

By 
  • November 29, 2017
If a child commits a crime, should a parent do the time?

The city of North Tonawanda, N.Y., thinks yes. Located 24 km north of Buffalo, North Tonawanda passed a law in October stating parents could be sentenced to 15 days in jail if their child violates a city law, including bullying, twice in a 90-day period. 

Although no arrests have been made so far, it has raised the question: Should a parent be held responsible for their child’s behaviour? 

Catholic school boards across Ontario have adopted less retributory approaches to bullying. 

On Nov. 21, students and staff from across the Halton Catholic District School Board gathered for the launch of See the Problem: Be the Solution. A bullying prevention initiative, the campaign is urging students to take action by developing creative public service messages that promote positive school environments. Students are encouraged to incorporate art form, media, musical, visual or other into their submissions. Student finalists will be recognized at a gala in April 2018.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board sees parents as allies in the goal to end bullying. 

“We see parents as true and valuable partners in education,” said Nadia Adragna, principal of the Safe Schools department. “Parents need to play a key role in any support plan that is established for any student, whether they are the bully, the bullied or the bystander.” 

The board’s latest anti-bullying initiative is an app for students, Anonymous Alerts, allowing students who experience or witness bullying to report it without identifying themselves. The app was created in spring of 2017 and was first used by students this fall.

“Students send an anonymous report detailing what happened to administrators, who receive a notification by email and text,” said Adragna. “If the student permits to engage in encrypted conversation with the administrator, they are able to communicate and tell administration what is going on.”

Most of the feedback Adragna has received from students has been that they are already comfortable reporting bullying to an adult. But for the minority who are not comfortable, the app is there. 

“It’s one of the many tools in our tool kit to ensure healthy school conduct,” said Adragna. 

The Hamilton-Wentworth board favours the Each Belongs model. The philosophy of the model was originally centred around special needs children and inspired by former superintendent Jim Hansen’s belief that “everyone belongs, not because he or she can do something or cannot do something, but because he or she is.”

Jenny Athanasiou-Malisa, manager of social work services for the board, says Each Belongs is an inclusive model that includes bullies and their parents.

The Hamilton board includes the towns of Stoney Creek, Ancaster and Dundas, all of which are less than 100 km from North Tonawanda, though the philosophy on punishment could not be further from their U.S. neighbour.

“It really depends on the situation,” said Jennifer Fortino, a social worker with the Hamilton board. “Our philosophy is prevention-based. We look at how best to support all our students, including those who bully and get bullied. But it’s important to keep in mind that each school has different demographics and that each student has different needs, concerns and reasons for why they are behaving a certain way. That being said, there are consequences for students who bully others. Depending on how severe the bullying was, the student may be asked to apologize or they may be suspended.”

North Tonawanda is not the first U.S. city to implement such a law. In 2016, Shawno, Wisconsin passed legislation that punishes repeated bullying with a fine or jail time. Similar laws have been passed in towns across Alberta and Saskatchewan and in 2006, Regina prohibited bullying by law. 

In any bullying situation, Fortino says the schools rely on the support of parents to restore justice after bullying has occurred.

“Whether it’s a parent or a school counsellor, we work together to figure out how we can avoid this happening again. We also bring in community supports in the form of police officers to speak with students about preventative actions, especially around cyberbullying. We encourage our community partners to talk to students about their perspective and what is expected of them in the community.”

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.