The Nova Scotia government is setting up a task force on cyberbullying, Education Minister Ramona Jennex announced on Wednesday.
Jennex said the move is in response to two recent cases where grieving parents have, in part, blamed online bullying for their children's suicides.
"The events of the past week are a stark reminder that we, as Nova Scotians and as a caring society that puts family above all else, have much more to do to safeguard our children," she told the legislature.
In recent weeks, the parents of two teenaged girls in Nova Scotia have made public pleas for more action on bullying.
The parents of Courtney Brown — a 17-year-old girl from Parrsboro — said their daughter killed herself last week after she was bullied for months at school and on Facebook.
Last month, the mother of Jenna Bowers-Bryanton — a 15-year-old girl from Belmont — said her daughter was harassed at school and through a social networking site before she took her own life in January.
"The government cannot stop all bullying with a change in policies," said Jennex.
"But we have an obligation to bring people together to find solutions that help children and families to be and remain safe from bullying."
Jennex said she would invite teachers, police, parents and mental health professionals to participate in the task force, which will hold its first meeting in May.
While the terms of reference are still being developed, the minister said she hoped the task force will address a wide range of issues, including:
- The extent to which cyberbullying is occurring among school-aged children and youth.
- Strengthening provincial and school policy around online bullying, including proactive strategies and consequences for bullies.
- Guidelines to help school administrators address online abuse.
- Legislative change.
- Raising awareness
- Identifying resources that will better support students to develop digital literacy skills.
Alexis Allen, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, welcomed the task force.
"I think the tragedies that we have recently had … have been a wake-up call to all of us to seek support from the public at large," said Allen.
"We need to talk together to support all of the children in our schools."
The task force is expected to produce recommendations by December.