- Andere apps
Officials have limited reach dealing with harassment that takes place beyond the schoolyard
BY TARA CARMAN, VANCOUVER SUN OCTOBER 16, 2012
Preventive action, restorative justice and mediation are some of the strategies the school districts where Amanda Todd spent her final months say they use to stop bullying, but officials admit they have limited reach beyond the schoolyard.
Representatives of both the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows and Coquitlam school districts didn't have an answer when asked what can be done to prevent bullies from laughing off mediation efforts initiated by the school and continuing their harassment in places like parks, shopping malls or, in particular, cyberspace.
Officials would not provide details of the types of support services made available to Todd, 15, in the months leading up to her suicide on Wednesday, citing her family's request for privacy.
However, the YouTube video Todd recorded last month - detailing how she was victimized first by a suspected online pedophile and then by her peers, largely through social media - tells of a physical attack Todd endured while she was a student in the Maple Ridge school district. The teen said she was beaten and then left in a ditch. District spokeswoman Irena Pochop would not say what action was taken by the school district after that attack.
Todd says in the video, in which she details her story one phrase at a time on handwritten cards, that she chose not to press charges against her attackers, preferring to try to start over in a new school district, now known to be Coquitlam. Things got better for a time, but the harassment soon followed.
Students who are bullied in either of those districts - assuming they take the daunting step of reporting it to authorities in the first place - can expect the school to launch an investigation, talk to everyone involved and look for a way to address the alleged bully "in a non-confrontational manner," said the Coquitlam school district's Cheryl Quinton.
Depending on the situation, the school might use mediation, restorative justice, counselling, or choose to involve the parents to address the situation. If there is physical violence or intimidation at play, suspension becomes an option and the police may become involved.
In Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, Pochop said schools are increasingly focused on teaching children as young as kindergarten the basic rules of socially acceptable behaviour.
"We're finding that the kids don't really have that training as much as they necessarily used to just because ... parents are busy, so schools are sort of having to step up and do a lot of that kind of work."
When the harassment follows the victims into cyberspace, there is even less school districts can do about it. Most have policies on the acceptable use of Internet facilities provided by the schools, but they do not apply to what students do on their home computers or smartphones.
Victims of bullies can report any physical or online harassment that breaks the Criminal Code to police, said RCMP spokesman Sgt. Peter Thiessen. However, cyberbullying is a very new area for law enforcement and gathering enough evidence to secure a conviction stemming from online harassment is difficult, he said.
Thiessen could not say how often police work with school districts to go after bullies, nor could he say what evidence investigators need in order to prosecute cyberbullies, citing the need to keep that information private.
Burnaby parent Desi Louvris said the school district and the police both failed her daughter, who she said was harassed by the same two people from kindergarten all the way through high school. The harassment, which took the form of verbal taunts, physical abuse and stalking, culminated in an attack on her daughter by about 20 people at Metrotown when she was 13, shortly after
she had started high school at Burnaby South.
The school district tried mediation and getting the parents involved to work things out, Louvris said, but nothing helped.
The Metrotown attack, during which Louvris's daughter was beaten with a skateboard and suffered a broken nose, resulted in a court case and a restraining order against the five assailants she was able to identify. Louvris said she had to pull her daughter - as well as her younger sister, who witnessed the attack - out of school for a year because it was too dangerous. Her daughter, now 22, changed schools four times, Louvris said, but the harassment followed her everywhere she went. She has still not finished high school.
No one from the Burnaby school district was available to comment.
"There shouldn't be a warning - 'OK, we'll take it to the counsellor, we'll talk to you, see what's going on' ... by that time it's too late. They're too easy on them," Louvris said.
"There has to be a punishment. Without this, it's not going to stop."
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