Bullying report form should be year round, says prof

The chair of Nova Scotia's task force on cyberbullying says there's a gap in coverage in a new online system that allows parents and students to report bullying behaviour in schools.

Online form accessible through province's anti-bullying website

Wayne MacKay says there's a gap in coverage in a new online system that allows parents and students to report bullying behaviour. (CBC)

The chair of Nova Scotia's task force on cyberbullying says there's a gap in coverage in a new online system that allows parents and students to report bullying behaviour in schools.

The online reporting form, which became accessible on Monday, prompts users for information on whether an incident is isolated or whether the bullying behaviour has been happening over a period of time. It can be accessed through an anti-bullying website set up by the province.

The form will be shut down during summer and at Christmas and March breaks when schools are closed.

"There's no doubt significant bullying and cyberbullying that does go during those periods," said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University and the author of a report into cyberbullying in Nova Scotia.

"Perhaps they can investigate whether they could extend it and provide some additional resources and staff to deal with it during those times because two months in the summer, in particular, is a long time."

Kathleen Richard, the province's anti-bullying co-ordinator, said those breaks are meant to prevent frustration when school principals are on vacation.

"To have a parent or a student or a guardian wondering, 'Why are they not getting back to me, what's happening?'" she told CBC News.

"It was meant to be proactive, preventative and avoid frustration or the feeling that no one is taking this seriously."

Richard said the system will be reviewed in six months to see if the resources need to be expanded.

A system that allows parents and students to report bullying behaviour in Nova Scotia schools is now available online. (CBC)

The online reporting system has only been operating for 24 hours, so the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development said there have not yet been any reports submitted.

Richard said students and parents told her that reporting bullying in person can be stressful and the website is designed to make the process quicker and less intimidating.

"Students who were reluctant — or they were even reluctant to have their parent or guardian come in and make a report — this opens another avenue," she said.

CyberSCAN gets 30 complaints

Meanwhile, the director of the new cyberbullying investigation unit CyberSCAN said investigators have received 30 complaints in its first six weeks of operation.

"We're dealing both with the victims or the complainants on these cases but also other individuals involved. We're working with schools, we have received complaints from the schools, we have received referrals from police," said Roger Merrick.

"Some of our investigations, we've actually determined that they should be investigated by the police so what we've done is turn those over to the police for criminal investigation."

Merrick said the complaints come from throughout Nova Scotia and many involve social media sites such as Facebook and Chatroulette.

Investigators also go to schools to try to educate students on the hazards of sharing pictures and intimate details online.

Merrick said many of the cases have been resolved.

"The whole idea is to prevent the behaviour from continuing. In the cases that we've come to informal resolution, the complainant has been happy with that resolution," he said.

"The potential respondent basically has been educated in terms of responsibility and accountability and in those cases that activity has, in fact, stopped."

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