The following are excerpts from newspapers throughout Alberta. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATA.
Bullying tough on students … and teachers
Bullying has been the subject of much attention in recent years in the educational community, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. All the attention has produced policies, guidelines, action plans, chains of command … busywork, in other words, that keeps teachers and school officials occupied but doesn’t really do anything to make life better for the victim. So at best, the victim might sit through some school board-mandated sessions where they get to talk about their feelings with the bully. At worst, the teacher just quietly says, “Look … don’t bother. I can’t help you. Good luck.” There’s a tendency to blame the teachers for allowing bullying to occur, but that’s generally unfair. Responding to bullying, the school board brain trusts have decided, is too important to be left to the teachers. In many school boards, incidents of bullying must be automatically referred up the chain of command. In theory, that leaves the teacher as the neutral educator while others sort out the behavioural issues. In effect, it traps the problem in red tape and neuters the teacher’s ability to get involved in the classroom. Teachers are generally smart cookies. They can see what’s going on with the eyes that God gave ‘em. But they’re often as helpless as the victims to actually do much about the problem. And kids, who are also sharp operators, know that. They know that reporting bullying will just compound their humiliation while accomplishing nothing. And the crowd will be watching, judging them. It always is.
—Matt Gurney, National Post, October 17, 2012
Effort to stop bullying badly needed
Cyberspace is a cruel and dangerous place for the innocent children and teens who frequent it. … The deranged scum who preyed on Amanda [Todd] need to be rooted out and charged for their crimes, not a simple task when you consider they often lurk across international borders. … In Alberta, the government points to a new Education Act it says will contain the toughest anti-bullying legislation in Canada. … While it’s a step in the right direction, the question remains whether school boards could actually enforce such an edict. We should pay heed to Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson, who tells reporters laws designed to stop the outrages inflicted on Amanda already exist. While law enforcement has a role to play, what’s really needed to stop this scourge is a concerted effort between the kids, their parents and their teachers. There must be greater consequences for this behaviour and parents have to take more time to discuss the issue with their children. Given human nature, it won’t be an easy task, but Amanda’s tragic story shows us how badly we need to make that effort.
—Editorial, Calgary Sun, October 16, 2012
Time for us to look in the mirror
Over the course of several years, starting at the age of 12, I was bullied by my classmates. They threw things at me, verbally abused me and harassed me by phone. … When my mother had to call the school and explain that her daughter, who loved learning, was too agitated and upset from the previous day’s episode to get out of bed, the secretary said she would list me as being sick. My mother insisted she write down the real reason: I was bullied. When I was surrounded in science class by a cluster of classmates who disrupted the lesson by shouting obscene insults at me, the teacher never intervened. … Everyone gets upset when they learn a child has killed themselves because of being bullied. But why do we allow things to reach that desperate point? ... It’s time to recognize bullying is not about a headline or an isolated incident or a tragedy you heard on the news. It is a problem that affects all of us. There are bullies. There are victims. And there is everyone else watching from the sidelines. It’s time for us to take a long look in the mirror. It’s time to speak up, say something, and refuse to be the complicit bystander.
—Carly Weeks, Globe and Mail, October 14, 2012