Laws prevent stopping bullies

NANAIMO – Re: District wastes tax dollars while abandoning children facing constant bullying, Letters, May 25.

To the Editor,

Re: District wastes tax dollars while abandoning children facing constant bullying, Letters, May 25.

It was with compassion and sympathy that I read the moving letter by Cathy Coulson, regarding her daughter’s ongoing victimization at the hands of bullies.

Hers is a cry that we have often heard in recent years.  Bullying is an issue that will not go away, but unfortunately, it is also an issue against which little or no progress is apparently being made.

I spent 34 years teaching in public schools, at the secondary level, in B.C.’s school system. In all those years, I cannot think of a single bullying incident that was effectively or successfully dealt with.

Bullying was a subject that would occasionally come up at staff meetings and on Professional Development Days – experts expounded, psychologists theorized, school counsellors pontificated, and “zero-tolerance policies” were given enthusiastic assent – but nothing ever happened to effectively deal with the bullies.

The reason is simple: the laws that currently exist do not give school boards and administrators any ‘teeth’ with which to effectively clamp down on the perpetrators.

Every school administrator will tell you that his or her school district has a strict anti-bullying policy.  What they won’t tell you is that the policy lacks any real clout for doing anything effective or immediate to alleviate the torment of the victim, or deal severely with the bullies themselves.

I can remember a couple of incidents in which the parents of the victim were advised to keep their child at home to avoid an escalation in the bullying behaviour of those responsible for the torment.

The Pink Shirt Days and other similar public relations events only serve to give lip service – more of a recognition that the problem exists, rather than a statement that victims are being supported and protected by the system.

District- and school-based administrators always seem phenomenally reluctant to impose harsh penalties on the perpetrators.  Lengthy suspensions are rare, and expulsions are totally out of the realm of possibility.

If public pressure needs to be put anywhere, it needs to be brought to bear on the provincial government to make effective legal changes to the Public Schools Act, and on the federal government to make appropriate changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Until the laws change, I’m afraid that situations like the one described by Coulson will continue to be a concern for everyone.

William Poppy