Should witnesses to bullying step in?

Story by CBC Kids News • 2019-10-04 09:59
UPDATE: This story originally published on Nov. 26, 2018. On Oct. 3, three former students from St. Michael's College School pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault with a weapon and assault with a weapon. On Dec. 19, the teens were sentenced to two years of probation.

What happened at St. Michael’s College School and how you can help

Students were expelled.

Videos showing alleged sexual abuse of a student by other students circulated on social media.

The police were called in to investigate.

The principal and president quit.

Six students were arrested.

If these things happened at your school, it would probably make national headlines as well.

They happened at St. Michael’s College School, a private Catholic all-boys school in Toronto, in the past month. The story has been in the news in the past few weeks.

An artist's rendition of three boys behind a glass wall in a courtroom

This drawing shows three boys, on the left, in court in Toronto. They were arrested and released on bail. We cannot identify them because of laws in place in Canada that protect people under 18. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Based on the videos, there are allegations that students were abusing and sexually abusing their peers. (Allegations mean this has not been proven in court and no one has admitted to doing anything wrong but the police have a lot of reasons to believe it’s true.)

You may be wondering why students might have been deliberately hurting other students at their school.

And if other students knew it was happening, why didn’t someone stop it?

This is an "extreme form of bullying"

CBC Kids News spoke to Wendy Craig, director of PREVNet, a Canadian organization that works to stop bullying.

What happened at St. Mike’s is the most extreme form of bullying, according to Craig.

There was a "code of silence," said Craig: a cycle that repeated over and over because no one ever stepped in.

“There’s a lot of pressure to go along with these things,” Craig said.

Just like in other incidents of bullying, kids might know it’s happening and might even see it happening but they don’t stop it.

Craig said that if kids see it happening but no one steps in to stop it, they believe those responsible aren’t doing anything wrong.

You can stop bullying

“When peers intervene, most incidents stop within 10 seconds,” according to PREVNet.

But it isn’t always so simple, said Craig. She recommended asking these questions if you think someone is being bullied:

Is it safe to intervene?  For example, don’t step in between people in a knife fight. What’s your status? Are you popular and have power? If you’re a kid who is already being bullied, you may make it worse for yourself. Is it best to take a passive or active approach? Passive means consoling the victim afterwards or walking away and telling someone. Active means stepping in to a situation where someone is being bullied and taking that person away from it.

Are you being bullied? Have you witnessed someone being bullied? If so, talk to a parent or an adult you trust. Or call the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.

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