STUDENTS and government leaders on Wednesday called for a united front against bullying, especially cyberbullying.
Premier John Horgan, Minister of Education Rob Fleming and B.C. MLAs joined about 100 students on the steps of the B.C. parliament buildings.
“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness, whether it is in the schoolyard or on social media,” Horgan said. “I’m proud of the students who have come here today to make it clear that bullying, in any form and in any space, is unacceptable.”
B.C.’s 11th-annual Pink Shirt Day event included spoken-word poetry and choir performances by Reynolds Secondary students with strong messages against cyberbullying. Students from Cedar Hill Middle school also came to show their support.
“Cyberbullying touches the lives of B.C. kids every day,” Fleming said. “We all have a role to play in making sure students feel safe in the classroom, at home and online. By supporting positive online practices, we can help keep students safe and encourage respectful behaviour towards others.”
The government has proclaimed February 28 as Bullying Awareness Day, highlighting B.C.’s commitment to ensuring a safe and inclusive province for all. Those in attendance at the Pink Shirt Day event in Victoria were encouraged to speak out against negative online posts, and to spread kindness instead, using the hashtags #PinkShirtDay and #ERASEBullying.
To ensure parents have the tools they need to support their children as they navigate the digital world, government is providing $100,000 to the B.C. School Superintendents’ Association (BCSSA) to offer social media education sessions to parents in every school district this school year. BCSSA will be partnering with Safer Schools Together to offer the session, called Raising Digitally Responsible Learners. This session was successfully piloted to approximately 120 parents last year.
“Parents play an important role in the safety and upbringing of their children both with respect to on and offline behaviours,” said Carol Todd, mother and founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society. “Parents have a need to become better informed on how their children are using technology and, more importantly, how to support them in conversations related to social media and cyberbullying.”
Parents and students can access bullying prevention resources, and an online anonymous bullying reporting tool at www.erasebullying.ca, part of the Province’s comprehensive bullying prevention strategy, ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education). Since its launch in 2012, ERASE has received national and international recognition for its work in keeping students safer.
The Ministry of Education is also providing $35,000 to the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils to work in collaboration with the ARC Foundation (Awareness. Respect. Capacity) to develop a new set of SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) resources for parents, including a brochure and online videos. The brochure can be viewed at www.sogieducation.org and the videos will be posted there by the end of March.
“All forms of bullying and harassment have no place in B.C. schools. We need to keep our children safe from cyberbullying and intolerance in schools, in the community and at home,” said Jen Mezei, president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (BCCPAC). “The social media presentations and SOGI resources will help parents have frank, open and informed conversations with their children, and teach them how to accept others, so we are all treated with mutual dignity and respect.”
- 19% of Canadian children have experienced cyberbullying or cyberstalking: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2016001/article/14693-eng.htm
- Research suggests vulnerable youth are at a greater risk of mental health challenges and may be more susceptible to bullying and cyberbullying behaviour.
ANDREW Wilkinson, Leader of the Official Opposition, in a statement said: “Today we are proudly wearing our pink shirts as we stand together against bullying. It may seem like just a small gesture, but it sends a big signal: bullying has no place in our communities.
“We believe that everyone has the right to respectful and safe schools, communities and workplaces. As elected representatives, we have a responsibility to not just talk the talk – we need to ensure that we are creating the right spaces where people can thrive.
“The Pink Shirt Day movement gets bigger every year, but one in five kids is still affected by bullying. This year’s campaign focuses on cyber bullying, which has become especially powerful in today’s constantly connected society. We pledge to do our part to help stop this troubling trend.
“It takes no effort at all to be nice to those around you, and it takes even less effort to pay kindness forward. To anyone who has been bullied or is going through a tough time right now, know that we stand with you today and every day.”