Back-to-school means parents need to be more vigilant about bullying

Back-to-school means parents need to be more vigilant about bullying

MONTREAL – New pens, pristine notebooks, a snazzy backpack and a theoretical clean slate.

All of this lies ahead for students as they return to elementary and secondary school.
For some, though, the spectre of bullying also waits in the schoolyard and in the hallways.

The Tolerance Foundation (in the process of changing its name to Ensemble) is dedicated to raising consciousness about respect for differences. The organization has issued a list of five things parents can do to create a bully-free environment.

“We’d like the parents to create an atmosphere where kids see that bullying is not acceptable,” said Anne Lagacé-Dowson, president of Ensemble.

“Everyone has experiences with bullying and exclusion and thought ‘well, that’s just part of life’ but we’re trying to develop the idea of what’s acceptable in interpersonal relationships.”

Bullies have been around as long as there have been schools, but in recent years a new light has been trained on the practice by both educators and the government, particularly in light of teen suicides linked to cruel behaviour.

Last spring, the National Assembly adopted Bill 55, which requires school boards to designate an anti-bullying person in each school and submit a report to the minister of education each year on instances of bullying and what the consequences were.

“Right now we have no monitoring of how many kids are being suspended for bullying,” Lagacé-Dowson said.

“We do know that more boys get caught doing physical things and that girls are the ones most prone to cyber-bullying,” she said.

While the acts mostly take place in school, there are ways that parents can help curb this worrisome trend.

First and foremost, parents must define what is acceptable and what is not, Lagacé-Dowson said.

“Bullying is repetition, not just the occasional teasing or ribbing but a repeated pattern,” she said, citing name calling, taunting and threats.

Taxing or theft of bus pass, money and cellphone are other instances of bullying.
The other four steps to a bullying-free year that parents can embrace are:
  • Stay in touch with the school and teachers because everyone has to work together
  • Look for signs of trouble like missing personal items, scratches and bruises, a change in marks and attitude toward going to school
  • Listen to what children say about their friends and their school relationships
  • Teach by example, show your children the importance of not going along with bullying by just turning the other cheek.
“Passive acquiescence is not acceptable,” said Marc Gold, chairman of the board of Ensemble.

“The instances of bullying are not getting fewer, there are still cliques out there and our awareness of it is more complete,” Gold said.

“Today, the types of bullying that we see most often are homophobia with words like faggot and gay thrown around and Islamophobia toward anyone who’s foreign or new,” Lagacé-Dowson said.

“There is also bullying about appearance, toward someone who is heavy, wears glasses, has the wrong clothing, and we find this in both the public and the private schools,” one of the reasons uniforms are becoming more popular with both educators and parents, she said.

“Believe it or not, we still find instances of anti-Semitism, even now,” Gold said.

“Try and listen and hear what your kids are saying to you,” Lagacé-Dowson said. “And be prepared that your kid may be the one who is the bully.”

For more information on eradicating the bullying trend go to

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