Moms stand up to bul­ly­ing

Re­ports of as­sault, ha­rass­ment at CBN schools prompt re­ac­tion

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

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.

More needed

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.

COM­PASS FILE PHOTO

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