Situations of violence and bullying should not be tolerated in school. A student has the right to get help if he or she is a victim. If a student is bullied, he or she is exposed to consequences that can be significant.
Acts of bullying
The law defines bullying as:
- repetitive behavior, words, or gestures;
- that isolate or harm and create a sense of powerlessness;
- where the person or group doing the act is in a position of power.
If these conditions are met, a behaviour can be intimidating, even if it was not the intention of the person doing it.
Acts may be intimidating even if they are not done directly in front of the person, such as hurtful comments that are later reported to the person. Bullying can also take place on the Web, which is called cyberbullying.
Acts of violence
Violence is a use of force against someone. Unlike intimidation, violence is always intentional. It can be:
- verbal or written;
The force may be exerted against the person himself or herself or against his or her property.
Like intimidation, violence hurts its victims and creates a sense of powerlessness. For this reason, schools must have a plan to deal with both violence and bullying.
The school’s responsibility
The law requires every school to have an action plan to prevent and combat bullying and violence. This plan must include how:
- prevent bullying;
- report cases of bullying;
- keep complaints and information confidential;
- acting when a case is reported by a student, teacher, friend, etc;
- support students who are experiencing a bullying situation, either as a victim or as a witness.
The plan is distributed to parents. Students must also be trained about bullying and the sanctions that may apply.
School staff members must protect students from violence and bullying.
In a public school, the principal is responsible for receiving complaints about violence and bullying and for notifying parents.
In a private school, a principal is responsible for promptly notifying parents of a bullying situation and explaining to them what action will be taken.
Consequences for Bullies
The antiviolence and anti-bullying plan must also include consequences for students who engage in bullying. Sanctions must be linked to the seriousness of the actions. They can range from detentions and letters of apology to suspension or even expulsion from school.
Watch out! The most serious cases of bullying or violence can be criminal acts. In these cases, the police will intervene.
Complaining about a school decision
If you feel that your rights have not been respected, for example, because you have been punished and have not had a chance to explain yourself or because your school has not acted quickly enough to stop a bullying situation, you can complain:
- to your public school board, and then, if that didn’t work, to the Student Advocate;
- to your private school’s school board, then, if that didn’t work, to the Private Education Department.
A student who is experiencing a bullying situation should tell his or her parents, friends, teachers, or other school staff. Once they are aware of the situation, school staff members have a duty to help the student.