Students shouldn't be punished for failure to report bullying: report
A teenage girl who posted a YouTube video about being bullied is being mourned online after allegedly committing suicide. (YouTube)
Published Monday, November 26, 2012 2:54PM EST
A new report is slamming the approach taken by Alberta's new anti-bullying legislation, saying it places too much responsibility on the shoulders of children while absolving parents and educators of their role in the societal problem.
The report -- released by the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada on Monday -- attempts to sort through a myriad of anti-bullying legislation and initiatives across North America, including Alberta's new Education Act.
That act requires children to report their peers for bulling -- or face possible suspension themselves, giving schools the power to suspend students who remain complacent while bullying is taking place.
Specifically, the act requires that students "refrain from, report and not tolerate bullying or bullying behaviours directed toward others in the school," regardless of whether the bullying happens in a school, during school hours or via electonic media.
Alberta’s bold legislation has been praised by some observers and held up as a model for other provinces to adopt. It comes on the heels of the death of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, who took her own life last month after years of schoolyard bullying.
But Monday's IMFC report takes issue with the new code of conduct, saying it absolves adults of responsibility, especially when it comes to online bullying.
"In effect, students would have to police the Internet on behalf of the school or face the threat of suspension, " states the report, written by IMFC researcher Peter Jon Mitchell. "This is not an effective way to engage students regarding cyberbullying."
In earlier comment released ahead of the full report, Mitchell went a step further in decrying the new legislation.
"Threatening students to 'out' bullies might seem reasonable, but when children are ordered to police the Internet, adults are effectively admitting they have no presence on the social media playground," he wrote. "Unfortunately, bullies know it."
The IMFC report instead calls on parents to take a lead role in their children's lives when it comes to preventing bullying behaviour and victimization. "Researchers have acknowledged the influential role of parents and the family environment and encourage schools to engage families in responding to the bully problem," it states.
The report also advises parents to be proactive in speaking to their children about bullying, and to monitor and limit the time they spend online or using devices.
IMFC suggests governments should "legislate cautiously and promote community-based responses" to bullying, and instead consider parents to be the "primary educator" in their children's lives when developing such policies.