Moms stand up to bullying
Reports of assault, harassment at CBN schools prompt reaction
Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of the children involved.
A Conception Bay North mother is taking a stand against the “nightmare” she’s experienced after witnessing the toll bullying has taken on her family.
Leanne, not her real name, has four children, all of whom have experienced bullying in some form or another, she told The Compass last week at her home.
Most recently, an incident involving her youngest child Danny created a social media frenzy. His account of a physical assault was posted to Facebook and shared over a thousand times. Hundreds of messages of support accompanied the post.
Danny is in high school. He explained he has been picked on over the years, and this school year started off no different.
“I used to get picked on everyday,” Danny said. “I used to text my mom to say I was sick to get her to pick me up.”
Leanne didn’t realize he was being picked on, but earlier this month that changed. Danny said he was grabbed by a student in his school and punched in the face. Several derogatory words were also used, he said.
“My son shouldn’t have to get up in the morning and go to school to get called gay, fag, ugly, fat,” Leanne stated.
The mother and son reported the incident to the Trinity Conception RCMP. The RCMP and school adminstration investsigated the situation, and diciplinary action was taken, a spokesperson for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District said.
“In general, a school’s response to any discipline issue is governed by the provincial Safe and Caring Schools policy and the District’s Suspension policy,” explained Ken Morrissey in an email to The Compass. “If during the course of an investigation of an incident, the school administration discovers that something of a criminal nature may have occurred the police will be contacted.”
Leanne wants parents to keep an eye out for their children’s behavior and try to openly communicate with them so if they are being bullied they will have a better idea.
Not just a teen issue
The mother of a primary school student from the same region also reached out to The Compass last week after her child was sent home from school.
The daughter was visibly upset when Brenda arrived to pick her up.
“My child had to be brought home twice,” Brenda said. “She shuts down emotionally and refuses to speak to anyone about the situation.”
It was only after speaking with another parent that she learned her daughter was the target of a group of children intentionally trying to make her cry, she said. When she spoke with school staff, no one seemed to know about the incident, just that her daughter was having a “tantrum.” She doesn’t understand how no one saw what happened.
She said there are other students in the same situation. Others were being picked on in class, and parents want more done.
Morrissey confirmed each school in the Conception Bay North area has a Crisis Prevention Institute trained team of teachers and staff members, in case of serious situation. It is an intervention program to help during incidents of physical bullying.
Help is out there
A provincial government initiative against bullying — outragenl.ca — describes bullying as consisting of “many forms of violence, including physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and spiritual violence as well as verbal and financial abuse.”
“Stand up. Reach out. Step in. Stop the violence,” is the slogan for the organization.
“Most of the time, you’ll stop the abuse in less than 10 seconds if you step in. Everybody has the right to feel safe at home, at school, at work and in the community,” the website says.
Other forms of assistance include contacting the school’s administration or, if necessary, the local police department.
Leanne and Danny want to see more programs for children to get involved in, so the students will feel more comfortable opening up.
“What I’d like to see is an assembly at school to show how bullying affects people,” Leanne said.
Community policing officer Const. John Clarke from the Trinity-Conception detachment speaks with students from all of the 15 schools and two post-secondary institutions every year about bullying.
“Basically I cooperate with the school with any of the programs they have,” Clarke explained. “I have (anti-bullying) programs for all ages.”
With the older students, Clarke focuses on Internet safety and cyber bullying, but touches on physical, emotional and psychological bullying as well.
For the younger children, like Brenda’s daughter, there are display boards and lessons about making friends.
Normally he attends schools during Bullying Prevention Week in February, but will also do presentations if requested by the school administration.
Danny wants the school to have anti-bullying rallys, student support groups and other ways to report bullying. He also believes security cameras would be beneficial. Several schools in the region already have some security cameras.
The school board is on board for addressing concerns as well.
“Our administrators and staff are certainly willing to discuss this issue with their school communities and address questions, issues and concerns that they have and we strongly feel that working with our school councils and school communities is an effective way to ensure the message of acceptance and creating a safe, caring and socially just environment is heard, understood and acted upon each and every day,” Morrissey explained.
Leanne and Brenda have also supported an idea of an anti-bullying rally in the region held at a neutral location, and different leaders and organizations have already agreed to come on board. Morrissey said the school board also encourages the school community to take a stand against bullying.
“We have to do what’s best for our kids,” Leanne said.