Two Fredericton school administrators say their schools have implemented more than a dozen programs to combat bullying in the last several years.

Shane Thomas, the principal of Fredericton High School, and Kevin Pottle, the principal of Leo Hayes High School, participated in a panel discussion on bullying on Friday.

Several high-profile stories of students being bullied have grabbed the public’s attention in recent weeks.

A Saint John teen is facing charges after lighting a girl’s hair on fire and a mother has come forward to describe how she hired a bodyguard to follow her daughter to school three years ago because of the severe bullying she was experiencing.

The principals say there are programs in place at New Brunswick schools to fight back against bullying.

'It comes down to awareness and communication and empowerment and I think the school has strategies to deal with that.' —Shane Thomas, Fredericton High School principal

Thomas said there are at least 18 anti-bullying programs at Fredericton High School.

He said the high school brings in guest speakers, does professional development workshops with teachers, and has a student awareness group. That group is about to announce a new program on Pink Day, Feb. 29.

Thomas said he does not think it is possible to eradicate bullying from schools.

"It comes down to awareness and communication and empowerment and I think the school has strategies to deal with that," Thomas said.

Earlier this week, a Fredericton mother told her daughter’s story of the relentless bullying she experienced during her time at Fredericton High School. The bullying happened three years ago and the mother said she wished the administrators had done more at the time to help her daughter.

Tougher laws promised

Education Minister Jody Carr said in an interview on Thursday that combating bullying will be a top priority for his department.

Carr will introduce legislative reforms in the spring to strengthen the rules around bullying.

Kevin Pottle, the principal of Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, said parents can reasonably have certain expectations about what the school will do if a child is being bullied.

"That any incident to be treated seriously, that any incident is treated with a tremendous degree of seriousness and respect looking to provide the victim with a sense of empowerment and control," he said.

Pottle said a lot of times the person doing the bullying simply has not developed the skills or capacity for social interaction.

He said one way to help fix that is to add more guidance counsellors in elementary schools.

One Leo Hayes student left the school this year because he said he was being harassed by another student.