Anti-bullying school reforms coming, says activist
The New Brunswick government is expected to introduce new legislation in the spring to deal with bullying at schools.
It comes on the heels of several incidents across the province in recent weeks.
The Department of Education did not respond to a request by CBC News for an interview.
But anti-bullying activist Rob Frenette, who has lobbied for years for stronger measures and better resources to deal with school bullies, said he’s been told the pending changes will include "disciplinary action related to bullying."
"I believe they’re going to be beefing up what’s currently in place with regards to policies, providing some more workshops and education aspects for students and teachers," added Frenette, a former bullying victim who co-founded of BullyingCanada.ca.
There has been a string of bullying incidents at New Brunswick schools in the past few weeks.
On Jan. 12, a 12-year-old student at Hampton Middle School was allegedly cornered in her school washroom by two other students who held her down and cut her hair.
Earlier this month, a Saint John mother came forward about her 13-year-old son allegedly being pushed around by other students in the centre of a so-called bully circle at Forest Hills School.
On Feb. 3, a 15-year-old boy at Simonds High School in Saint John allegedly used a lighter to set a 14-year-old girl’s hair on fire in a classroom and is scheduled to face assault with a weapon charges next month.
On Feb. 4, a Fredericton couple took the drastic step of pulling their 15-year-old son out of Leo Hayes High School, saying he had endured months of persistent harassment by his ex-girlfriend, which drove him to cut himself.
Then, just a few days later, a second Fredericton family came forward about a similar problem at Leo Hayes, involving a teenaged boy being harassed by a former girlfriend at the school and on social networking websites.
"Some of the stuff that’s been happening lately is really horrendous," said Marilyn Noble, who sits on the minister’s Advisory Committee on Positive Learning and Working Environment.
The committee submitted recommendations to the minister in December.
"I think there's a much greater level of awareness," said Noble.
"My major concern, and a major concern of the committee, is what cyber bullying is doing because it puts it in a venue where adults have trouble following," she said.
Fredericton High School student Bella Hoffman, who is part of the school’s anti-bullying group Beyond the Hurt, agrees.
"It happens on Facebook a lot," said Hoffman. "People come out of their comfort zone when they text on Facebook."
Fellow student and group member Alisha Virmani presented her ideas of dealing with bullies to the provincial advisory committee.
"If you are caught using drugs on school, the component afterwards is that you have to sit with a counsellor and figure out the root cause of why you were doing what you were doing," she said.
"So similar to that with bullying, talking to the bully and find out why they were bullying and have a follow-up with them so that the behaviour stops."