Recently, Bills 13 and 14, both of which are with respect to bullying, were referred to committee after second reading in the Ontario legislature.
We have previously commented on Bill 13, tabled by the Liberal Government, and Bill 14, put forward by the Conservatives. We offered our opinion that legislation regarding bullying may be unnecessary because the Education Act and the Ministry of Education's Policy Program Memoranda 144, Bullying Prevention and Intervention already address bullying.
Now that both Bills have been referred to committee and additional legislation regarding bullying is likely, we hope that the best features of both pieces of legislation are incorporated into a Bill.
To be effective, it is important for additional legislation to be accompanied by funding for programs, which assist both victims of bullying and bullied students. It is important to recognize that programs for students require both a financial and social commitment. A financial commitment is necessary because allocating Social Workers or Child and Youth Workers to programs to assist victims and bullies requires additional staff. Training for teaching and EA staff to address bullying also has a cost because staff must be replaced in the classroom during training. A social commitment is necessary to bring about real change because parents and community members must be involved. Parents of bullies need to support the efforts of the school, and schools rely on the parents of victims to assist them to identify when bullying has occurred. As a community, we need to understand what bullying is and is not, so we can recognize it and can respond.
Notwithstanding these new Bills, it is worth noting that programs to address bullying are not new. The Ministry of Education’s PPM 144, Bullying Prevention and Intervention, also requires such programs. We believe that it is the individuals who implement bullying programs and create safe environments for students who make prevention and intervention efforts truly effective. While we have and continue to believe that the further legislation is not strictly necessary for bullying to be addressed, enhancements to the tools available to schools, as they attempt to combat this challenging issue, and the increase in community awareness that legislation can bring, as well as a sensitivity to the issues that can result from heightened attention, can bring about change for the students being affected. This is particularly so if the Ministry of Education assists school boards to invest time, energy and money in more programs for victims and perpetrators.
Committee hearings will be held regarding the Bills until the end of May, when we anticipate that one Bill with features from both Bill 13 and Bill 14 will emerge, just in time for school boards to amend policies and procedures to be compliant with the legislation for September 2012.
We will keep you aprised of the progress that is made.
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