Bullying is everyone’s problem!

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Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor

Last week featured a sure sign that fall is on the horizon as dozens of school buses marked the start of a new school year. This year was a bit different at my house, given that my oldest son was hopping on a school bus for the first time.

Allyson Beauregard
Rédacteur / Managing Editor

Last week featured a sure sign that fall is on the horizon as dozens of school buses marked the start of a new school year. This year was a bit different at my house, given that my oldest son was hopping on a school bus for the first time.
Education is the first step to success and I look forward to watching my children learn and grow, but the anxiety about my son starting school is more than just a realization that he’s becoming more independent or a reflection on how quickly time passes and things change. It’s about sending him into a world that isn’t always kind; one where bullying is common, which can drastically alter a child’s self-image and success in school.  
According to Prevnet.ca, a national network of researchers and organizations working together to stop bullying in Canada, bullying rates in Canada are higher than two-thirds of OECD countries and more than half of students report it’s a problem at their school; 75% of Canadians have experienced bullying and 78% believe not enough is done to stop it in their communities.
Why is bullying so pervasive and what can be done to curb it?
Addressing bullying requires much more than zero-tolerance policies and interventions need to move well beyond school property.
It requires concerted effort from all of us – parents, schools/teachers, the community, and governments. 
Improvement begins by altering beliefs that bullying is naturally endemic to childhood, that ‘boys will be boys’, or that it occurs when children are not resilient enough. It means acknowledging the seriousness of the issue and attacking the culture that allows it to persist; being role models through actions and words (promoting healthy relationships, concern for the well-being of others, denouncing violence, etc.); and recognizing and stopping the problem before it starts – at young ages at home, in the community, and on school property – quickly, decisively and consistently. 
Zero tolerance in schools is a great slogan, but responses to bullying must move beyond mere punishment because studies have shown it not only fails to address the source of the problem, but can actually make it worse by increasing aggression and encouraging more “under the radar” bullying.
Serious thought needs to be given to creating, implementing, enforcing and regularly updating school policies that focus on working collaboratively, solving problems and providing support to both victims and bullies; school-wide training, individualized interventions, social workers and guidance counsellors, addressing behavioral and emotional problems, social skill building, etc. Ultimately, it’s the province’s job to ensure effectiveness is not limited by strapped budgets. 
Without investing, coordinated and concerted effort into addressing the problem, bullying will remain a societal plaque. This school year, we all have a job and homework to do!