BC students will be able to report bullying online

Surrey school district has always encouraged students to report bullying.

Five years ago, it created a website that allows students to provide information anonymously. It was described at the time as the first such initiative in Canada, and now the B.C.
government is in the final stages of a project to make similar opportunities available to all students.

An announcement is expected next month.

Theresa Campbell, Surrey’s safe schools manager and lead trainer for the province’s anti-bullying strategy, said her district developed the website after hearing students were reluctant to report bullying because they didn’t want to become targets themselves and were worried about what adults would do with the information, and whether they would be implicated.

The creation of the website, with support from the RCMP, is changing attitudes, Campbell said. She noted more and more students who report bullying through the site now provide their names so that school officials and police can contact them directly. The district receives between 55 and 80 tips about bullying each year via the website, which also offers links to resources and has had almost 200,000 page views in five years.

“Without a doubt it’s made a significant difference,” she said.

But Campbell stressed the website, called Protecting Surrey Schools Together (www.psst-bc.ca), and anonymous reporting is only part of an effort to reduce bullying, while encouraging face-to-face discussions as the No. 1 priority. “We’re still saying to kids, please let us know if there are things that are occurring that are making you feel unsafe.”

A budget of $150,000 has been set aside for the reporting service and student outreach.

It is part of the government’s Erase Bullying strategy, which was announced last spring and promises five-year training for educators and community partners, dedicated safe school coordinators in every district and stronger codes of conduct in schools. Interest in the plan sharpened after the Oct. 10 suicide of Coquitlam teenager Amanda Todd.

Success will depend on whether students use the reporting function properly and whether adults take action to keep them safe, she said, noting research indicates there’s no easy solution to bullying. Even model programs introduced with full support reduced bullying by only 40 per cent and when the support ended, that figure dropped to between 17 and 23 per cent.

“If the best we can do is somewhere between a 20- and 40-per-cent reduction, we still don’t know how to solve the problem. That’s my concern — OK, this is great from the reporting end, but do we know what to do once it gets reported? That’s still a question.”