B.C.’s schools launched a concerted effort to tackle bullying in the aftermath of the violent death of Reena Virk, the 14-year-old girl beaten and drowned by her peers in Saanich. Now 15 years later, confronted with another horrific death of a bullied teen, B.C. Premier Christy Clark maintains that the education system holds the key to combat bullying.
Ms. Clark, who has waged an anti-bullying campaign since her days as a radio talk-show host, announced a series of initiatives in June to tackle the “culture” of bullying and to give students new online tools to get help.
But the 10-point plan is still in its infancy, coming too late to help Amanda Todd who apparently took her life after enduring years of bullying, much of it over the Internet.
Even two years ago, anti-bullying literature in B.C. schools focused on access to home computers. Today, students armed with smartphones and other mobile devices can communicate in ways that are more difficult to track and monitor.
Wearing a pink T-shirt with a “Bullying Stops Here” logo, the Premier on June 1 vowed that B.C. would lead the country with “the most comprehensive training program” for educators and others in the community.
In response to Ms. Todd’s death, accompanied by a wrenching video the youth had posted recounting three years of physical and online bullying, the Premier promised that the school-based initiative will deliver results.
Here’s an update on what the B.C. government has done to live up to that commitment:
That is how many educators and others are expected to receive training under the Erase Bullying initiative. The training began two weeks ago in Terrace and is not expected to start in the densely populated urban school districts until next year.
The budget, over five years, for the Erase Bullying campaign. That works out to $440,000 per year. The program will teach educators to foster safe caring school communities and to assess the risk of violence when bullying is detected.
It builds on anti-bullying efforts that are already in place in schools, including the Roots of Empathy program that teaches students to develop compassion and to build positive peer relationships. In 2011, Ms. Clark announced $800,000 per year to expand the program, and 11,000 elementary age students are expected to take part in the current school year.
Funding, over five years, to develop and roll out an online reporting tool – a smartphone app – as another way for students to reach out if they are experiencing bullying or know someone who is. That app is still being developed and is expected to be launched in November.
Professional development day each year to be spent updating teachers on anti-bullying skills. A cabinet order requiring school boards to devote the time was signed months ago, but the “resource package” that will guide the curriculum is expected to be sent out Monday.
“What happened to Amanda shouldn’t happen to any child,” Ms. Clark told reporters last week. “The worst part about it is it is totally, totally preventable.” She promised to review the case to determine if more needs to be done.