A review on how the Halifax Regional School Board handled the events leading up to the death of Rehtaeh Parsons will not look into her alleged assault or the distribution of a photo linked to the allegations and will instead focus on school board policies.

Ontario-based education experts Debra Pepler and Penny Milton released an interim report on Wednesday that outlines the scope of their review.

They said the panel will not assign blame or publish the names of the people it speaks to in its review.

Rehtaeh, 17, killed herself last month after she was allegedly sexually assaulted and cyberbullied.

According to the panelists the report will ask:

  • What did the board know?
  • What could it have known?
  • What did it do to respond?
  • What else could it have done to respond?

The  panel will also review support services for people who are bullied that are provided by schools, the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, the Capital District Health Authority and the police.

It's due June 14.

The provincial government has set aside $70,000 dollars for the review.

"We know blame is not on the table but we would like to see some accountability," said Glen Canning, Rehtaeh's father.

"We're hoping to find answers to what procedures are in place to help a child going through a traumatic experience like our daughter went through."

New cyberbullying laws a last resort

Meanwhile, the man who led Nova Scotia's taskforce on cyberbullying said creating new laws to tackle cyberbulling should be a last resort.

 

Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University, chaired the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. He was also the executive director of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

MacKay said the federal government would be responsible for creating new laws, although enforcement is shared with provincial governments.

"I think the first thing to do is look at the laws we currently have. Are we applying those creatively and appropriately in the new cyber world?" he said Monday.

"There are things there that could be more effectively used. There’s kind of a starting idea that we shouldn’t make the criminal code any bigger than it needs to be."

Backs law against 'revenge porn'

He said adding laws also risked limiting free speech and infringing on privacy.

MacKay said there are a slew of laws that can be used against some online harassment, including laws against criminal harassment, intimidation, illegal use of computers and child exploitation.

He identified a gap in the law as it protects adults and said a proposed law criminalizing sending intimate images without consent for malicious or sexual purposes had merit. Such "revenge pornography" incidents are difficult to deal with.

"That would fill a gap more on the adult side," he said.

Prevention through education

MacKay advocated using social pressure to combat cyberbullying. 

"So much of it is about prevention and education," he said. "The better thing is to change attitudes so the kinds of tragedies like Rehtaeh Parsons are not only not acceptable, but are not even the kind of things people would contemplate."

He cited a senate study that said the federal government can also play a key leadership role in setting and coordinating a national strategy for dealing with cyberbullying.

"That’s almost outside of the traditional constitutional structure, because it's really funding, because they tend to have more money, and coordinating and working with the provinces," he said.

Ottawa also plays an  international role in protecting children abused for exploitation images.

with files from the Canadian Press