Michele Mandel writes in today’s Sunday Sun about another student, Daniel Sebben, who has been bullied for years. Now eighteen and a student in the York Region District School Board, he is finishing high school in a program which has him working four days a week outside of the classroom.
But, like Lindsay Hyde, who attends a high school in the Peel Board of Education (my archive is here), apart from keeping him out of the school as much as possible, the York Region board was unable to do anything to protect him from his harassers — even when their abuse was witnessed by teachers. Meaning, that once again, it is the victim who has to make all the accommodations — including, in Daniel’s case, paying for private counselling sessions.
It boggles the mind. We hear so much about zero tolerance policies and anti-bullying programs. Yet, apart from the “wear pink” approach — which was initiated by students on behalf of other students — it seems the authorities can do nothing because, they say, their “hands are tied.”
Yet, in Ontario, with the “zero tolerance policy” essentially replaced last year by Bill 212 (Progressive Discipline and School Safety Act), some changes are beginning to occur — although still focusing more on the perpetrators than on the victims. Bill 212, for example, was “designed to promote a more progressive and constructive approach to student discipline.”
However, some changes are happening. Specifically, in the Toronto District School Board, the additional funding has allowed them to increase the number of Alternative Safe School Programs from 18 to 33 for “suspended, expelled and other at-risk secondary and elementary students.”
But, what about the victims? As Daniel says: “There’s something in place for the aggressor but absolutely nothing for us. Why do we have to put out the money [for counselling] to get help?”
Good question. Maybe all this publicity will bring about some positive change because, if all the school boards do is accommodate bullies, what is society going to be like when those same bullies are unrestrained? It is as though the authorities don’t seem to see that there might just be a connection between bullying in elementary and secondary school (with few consequences) and later domestic and societal violence.