B.C.’s new anti-bullying plan gets mixed reaction
B.C.’s new anti-bullying strategy is a positive step but much work has already been done to tackle the problem, says the Vancouver school board chair.
Premier Christy Clark today (June 1) unveiled a 10-point plan intended to help ensure young students feel safe and respected in schools. Clark promised to take action against bullying when she ran for the Liberal leadership in 2011.
Key elements of the strategy include training for thousands of educators and community partners, and tougher school codes of conduct in line with the B.C. Human Rights Code, which has protections around race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Other elements include new options to anonymously report bullying online or by using a smartphone app, and creation of a provincial advisory committee of educators, police, and community representatives.
"We all want our kids to be safe, especially at school. That's why when I became Premier, I promised to address bullying in our school system as a high priority for my government," Clark said in a statement.
Vancouver school board chair Patti Bacchus welcomed the plan to help combat harassment in the province’s 60 school districts.
“We see this as a positive step. It’s great to see a strategy that isn’t just an overnight quick-fix, because we know it’s ongoing work that constantly needs to be done. But this does draw attention and focus to it,” she told the Straight by phone.
However, Bacchus said the Vancouver school district has already been working on the issue for years. She noted there is staff training on bullying and codes of conduct that reference the B.C. Human Rights Code, among other measures.
Bacchus also questioned the plan to introduce a system for reporting bullying anonymously, saying her district promotes an environment where students feel comfortable talking to staff.
“The idea of anonymous reporting, I do have some questions about that, if that is consistent with the rest of the work in terms of creating safe and caring schools where students are comfortable addressing adults,” she said.
New Democrat Opposition MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert accused the Liberal government of taking too much credit for their plan to fight bullying. He said school districts are already working hard on the issue.
“It seems instead the province is going to claim that their policy is brand new and that they thought up the ideas that the communities have already been doing for years,” Chandra Herbert told the Straight by phone.
“There’s some ideas in there which we should have been doing already and frankly I’m surprised the government would highlight, in a way, the fact that they haven’t been.”
The province’s anti-bullying strategy is set to launch when school resumes in the fall.