#YouAsked: “I suspect my child is being bullied at school. What can I do?”

If your child approaches you about being bullied or if you suspect they are being bullied, you should act quickly and prevent it from happening again. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Listen to your child and assure them that they have a right to be safe.
  • Be clear on the facts. Make notes about what happened and when it happened.
  • Help your child see that there is a difference between “ratting”, “tattling” or “telling” and reporting. It takes courage to report. Reporting is done not to cause trouble for another student, but to protect all students.
  • Make an appointment to talk to your child’s teacher, another teacher that your child trusts or the principal or vice-principal of the school.
  • Difficult as it may be, try to remain calm so that you can support your child and plan a course of action with him or her.
  • Stay on course. Keep an eye on your child’s behaviour. If your meetings with school staff haven’t made the bullying stop, go back and talk to the principal. Follow up on the steps that were agreed to at the meeting.
  • Speak to the instructor or coach if the bullying is taking place during after-school activities or sports events.
  • Contact police if the bullying involves criminal behaviour, such as sexual assault or use of a weapon, or if the threat to your child’s safety is in the community rather than the school.

Bullying is Everyone’s Responsibility!

It is the responsibility of the parentguardian of a child, or tutor or curator to ensure their child grows up learning acceptable behaviour. This is the first step in preventing bullying and teaching children to create positive environments for everyone.

In addition to parents, school systems need to make sure they are educating children about the consequences of their actions. Bullying is preventable with the right socialization, education, and responsibility.  An approach that focuses on teaching kids how to manage their emotions, achieve positive goals, feel empathy for others and maintain positive relationships is a helpful skill for all children.

As a parent of a bullying victim, make sure that your child knows to report any bullying they see or experience to their teacher or principal. The school cannot take action if they are unaware that any bullying is happening.

Bullying At School

All elementary and high schools in Quebec must have procedures about handling complaints about bullying and intervening. So, if a student, teacher or staff member is being bullied, anybody (even a parent) can report this to the school’s administration.

Important! Any person age 12 or older can be accused of a crime and brought to court.

For Quebec schools, the law defines bullying as including these elements:

  • repeated actions or words
  • the behaviour excludes or hurts the victim and makes the victim feel powerless
  • the bully has power over the victim

Behaviour that includes these elements is bullying even if the bully does not intend to cause harm.

Behaviour can be bullying even if the victim is not present. For example, a bully could say hurtful things about the victim to someone else, and the victim could find out about it later. Bullying can also take place over the Internet. It’s called cyberbullying.

Violence

Violence is the use of force against someone. Unlike bullying, violence is always intentional. It can be:

  • verbal or written,
  • physical,
  • psychological, or
  • sexual.

Violence can be used against people or their property.

Just like bullying, violence hurts victims and makes them feel powerless. This is why Quebec schools must have a plan to take steps against violence and bullying.

The School Must Act

The law requires every school to have a plan that includes steps to prevent and stop bullying and violence. The plan must include these things:

  • steps to prevent bullying
  • a procedure for reporting cases of bullying
  • measures to make sure complaints remain confidential
  • the action to be taken against bullies when bullying is reported by a student, teacher, friend, etc.
  • ways to support victims or witnesses of bullying or violence

The plan must be sent to the parents. Students must be given training on bullying and told what action will be taken against bullies.

School Employees Have a Duty to Act

School employees must protect students from violence and bullying.

Public school principals must receive complaints of bullying and violence and then let the parents know.

In a private school, a member of the board of governors must promptly tell the parents when bullying or violence is reported and explain what action will be taken.

Consequences for Bullies

The school’s plan against bullying and violence must also include the action to be taken against students who are bullies or are violent. The action depends on how serious the behaviour is. It can include detention, a letter of apology, suspension and even being expelled from the school.

Important! Serious acts of bullying or violence can be crimes. In these cases, the police will get involved.

Complaints Against a School’s Decision

Students can file a complaint if they feel that their rights have not been respected. For example, students could complain that an action was taken against them before they had a chance to explain, or that the school didn’t act fast enough to stop the bullying.

How to make a complaint depends on whether the student goes to a public school or a private school.

  • Public schools: Make a complaint to the school board. If you’re not satisfied with what the school board does, contact the school board’s Student Ombudsman.
  • Private schools: Make a complaint to the school’s board of governors. If you’re not satisfied with the action taken by the board of governors, you can file a complaint with the private education section of the ministry of education, called the Direction de l’enseignement privé (Web page in French only).

Getting Help

Students being bullied can talk to their parents, friends, teachers and school support staff. Once school employees are aware of a situation, they have a duty to help.

Students can also contact support organizations such as Kids Help Phone and Tel-jeunes.

Bullying Canada is also a great source of information for both parents and youth.  You can also connect to the Support Team 24/7 by calling toll-free 1-877-352-4497 or emailing them at 

Source: Éducaloi’s Web Guide, Bullying and the Law: What You Need to Know and Government of Ontario’s Bullying – We Can All Stop It