MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 13, 2012 – The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) continues to send a loud and clear message that bullying is unacceptable.
“We have zero tolerance for acts of bullying in our schools,” emphasizes EMSB Chairman Angela Mancini. “I would like to commend our in-school administrators, their staff and experts in the field from our central head office for the proactive approach they have taken in this regard.”
The EMSB sees school violence as a public health issue. “The school and school system are cogs or part of the solution and cannot solve this in isolation or alone, and that is assuming that everyone has the same definition or perception of the problem,” notes EMSB Director of Student Services Lew Lewis. “Creating new legislation may not be the answer, particularly when existing laws can already be used when required.”
While the victim must be cared for, protected and helped to heal, the safety of the bully from vigilante action and intimidation by the victim and his or her supporters needs to be taken into consideration as well. “After the bully has accepted responsibility for his or her actions, after articulating remorse and empathy for the victim, the bully must be re-integrated into the community so that he or she does not re-offend,” Mr. Lewis explains. “During this process, the victim must feel protected from the bully and then must be helped to make some kind of accommodation and acceptance of the bully as a non-threat in the environment. While this is the ideal, it would take a length of time to achieve depending on the offense and the personalities involved. When I say personalities involved, this also must include the parents, teachers and other bystanders who were aware of or participated in the bullying events.”
The process of investigating the event, suspending the bully and accepting this individual back into the school after a suspension, as though everything is now fine, will not work in the long term.
The EMSB has long been involved in actions to prevent and counter bullying. Here are some examples:
- EMSB schools were trained and equipped to conduct the Tell Them From Me (TTFM) online student survey. This was designed to provide empirical data on students’ perceptions of school climate and school engagement. Schools prepared groups of students (from Grade 4 and up) to participate in the survey;
- The EMSB supported programs and practices in violence prevention, particularly in collaboration with the Centre de santé et de services sociaux (CSSS) and other community stakeholders, and with emphasis on best practices, early intervention and the needs of at-risk youth. Meetings were held with the health and social service centers with the aim of improving the integration and consolidation of violence prevention and intervention services;
- Principals, child care workers and teachers in the alternative outreach and special education secondary networks were provided with specialized Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training for de-escalation and restraining techniques;
- All EMSB schools were provided with training for lockdowns and emergency crisis situations;
- Prevention workshops on cyber-bullying were and continue to be provided to EMSB teachers, parents, students and administrators;
- The EMSB rewrote its Safe Schools Policy, which now has an emphasis on proactive and educational strategies while acknowledging that reactive actions must be taken up to and including legal action should that be deemed necessary;
- The EMSB Project Harbor team, headed by Behavior Management Specialist Lori Rubin, provides support to schools in the area of anti-bullying workshops, conflict resolution, and behavior management. A second behaviour management specialist, Catherine Korah, was recently hired in order to further address the behavioural needs and challenges in schools, which would include concerns surrounding the topic of bullying;
- The EMSB Violence Prevention Consultant, Daphna Leibovici, facilitates the Board’s adoption of the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS) Action Plan to prevent and deal with violence in the schools.
- EMSB schools have adopted a variety of programs aimed at preventing and reducing behaviors and attitudes that may contribute to bullying. Many of these programs have been provided through partnerships with outside agencies such as GRIS-Montreal (Groupe de Recherche et d’Intervention Sociale), the Girls Action Foundation, The Trevor Williams Kids Foundation, Concordia’s Creative Arts Therapies Department, Agence Ometz, Leave Out Violence (LOVE) and Sun Youth.
- REISA (The East Island network for English Language Services), an EMSB partner, hosted a workshop entitled Family Violence, A Legal Information Workshop for Service Providers and Professionals, took place in January at the Laurier Macdonald Community Centre in St. Léonard. This event was part of a workshop project which includes the distribution and explanation of a Family Violence Toolkit, a resource provided by the Community Health and Social Services (CHSSN) and Éducaloi, funded by the Department of Justice.
In November the EMSB Pedagogical Services Department announced plans to introduce the use of a multimedia resource from Videotron called “Vigilance sur le net.” All high school French teachers have received a copy of this material, with added resources prepared by the Français Langue Seconde (FLS) high school consultants’ team. The FLS high school consultants will help all of the FLS high school teachers integrate the resource’s contents into the FLS program.
EMSB Pedagogical Consultant Maureen Baron has been giving presentations to elementary and secondary students, teachers and parent groups on internet safety in general, cyberbullying and on how to set the privacy and security settings in Facebook for maximum safety.
EMSB spiritual community animators have also been organizing activies. At Rosemount High School, for instance, Spiritual Animator Katie Leggitt, coordinated am informative and inspiring anti-bullying student assembly in December. Featuring speeches and presentations from student speakers, Ms. Leggitt, Principal Demetra Droutsas and from Guidance Counsellor Jamie Dimopoulos, RHS students from all levels were in attendance in the school’s auditorium. The assembly’s message was clear – bullying is not to be tolerated in any form, at any level. One key point the speakers got across to the students was that there are no innocent bystanders when it comes to bullying. Findings from the student council’s anonymous school bullying survey were revealed during the assembly. The results were somewhat encouraging, as compared to the average bullying numbers from across the country. Strategies on how to deal with bullying were also shared with the students.
This year, through the Kids Helpline, former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan is touring schools to speak out against bullying.