Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bill 206- anti-bullying Bill

On Monday, at the Fall Annual General Meeting of the Alberta School Board Association (62 school boards across the province), 97% of boards agreed that Bill 206 should not be supported.

Why?

The Bill, introduced by MLA Forsyth (Calgary-Fish Creek) is intended to "make all schools safer and give our education system the tools it needs to stop bullying, including that which is disseminated by electronic media on and off the school grounds. Additionally, it would prohibit the possession of weapons and/or drug paraphenalia." (Hansard, April 14, 2009.)

Aren't we all united against bullying? Don't school boards recognize the problem of cyber bullying and drug/weapon possession? What's the problem?

The intent is great; the devil is in the details.

Bill 206 includes amendments to the School Act. It establishes that a contravention of the legislatuion by a student "is guilty of an offence" and provides no discretion to the Peace Officer or courts in the application of the section.

Here are the issues, as summarized by Calgary Board of Education, who put forward the resolution:

"The mandatory protocols provided by these amendments:
- do not provide principals with the discretion to progressively discipline students or taken into consideration mitigating factors, especially for special needs or disabled students (I attended a law/education conference in Toronto last spring, called CAPSLE, which talked about this very thing. Check my blog history. Kids who cannot understand & learn from punishment, due to cognitive impairments, deserve different treatment.)
- remove the principal's current authority to issue student suspensions, especially to immediately remove a student who threatens the safety of staff and students
-impact students' rights to procedural fairness if the student fails to participate in the mandated educational measures program
- create onerous, potentially unworkable tracking and reporting requirements to determine when "bullying" as defined occurs
- fail to require parental notification and involvement
- do not provide any guidance or meaning as to what an educational measure program consists of or is meant to do.

Given the above concerns and the short timeline for the passage of Bill 206, the ASBA should communicate immediately with the Premier, the Minister of Education and all MLAs regarding the lack of support for the passage of Bill 206."

As I said, 97% of boards, representing approximately 97% of the students of Alberta, agreed with this resolution. The bill is flawed. It has not been built collaboratively with school boards, teachers, principals, students, parents and community members. We all want to stop bullying- but Bill 206 won't get us there.

What will?
In my opinion, a concerted effort by us all. Parents need to be educated on prevention, cyber-awareness and how to talk to your kids about bullying. All adults need to take a hard look at themselves and be sure that their parenting/teaching/coaching style isn't fostering or modelling bullying. Conflict resolution skills need to be taught. Restorative justice models need to be embraced by every school. Students need to be listened to and involved in creating the solution. Drug addiction counselling and prevention needs to be readily available for all students, starting early. Dr. Martin Brokenleg's Circle of Courage needs to be known, implemented and realized so every child feels a sense of belonging, competence, independence and generosity. Poverty needs to be addressed (See: PIAs call for a Provincial Poverty Reduction Plan: http://www.pialberta.org/program_areas/poverty). Racism needs to be openly addressed. Exploitation and abuse of children need to be openly addressed.

We need to know what makes a bully. I don't believe it is any child's dream or ultimate goal in life to be a bully, to use drugs, to assault another child. What went wrong? How did we get here? Are we brave enough to look for the answer? Hearing the truth will make us feel uncomfortable...but if we REALLY want to address bullying and not just feel like we are "doing something about bullying".... we are going to have to unpack some of this mess. We are going to have to stop blaming and start assuming responsibility- a collective responsibility- for all our children, including the bullies.

That's my two cents worth!

1 comment:

EducatorDave said...

Thanks for your insight Sue. An anti-bullying bill sounds great but this one sounds like it needs greater thought and some major tweaking.