About Kings South by Ramona Jennex
Education Minister Ramona Jennex. FRED A. HATFIELD PHOTO
Any parent with a son or daughter who has been a victim of bullying knows how heart wrenching and frustrating it can be to find peace and justice for their child. This is a situation too many parents and children are finding themselves in and it has to change.
I want to share some information with you about what the NDP has done, in partnership with so many other dedicated people and organizations, to make that change happen.
Although school had been addressing bullying, the nature of bullying has changed with technology. Concerned with the tragic consequences of bullying, I spoke up and called out for help in 2011. The response from Nova Scotians was overwhelming and we have been on track to combat this together since.
In 2011, we established a Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. We were the first province to take such a bold step forward. From that an action plan was developed, Speak Up: An Action Plan To Address Bullying and Cyberbullying Behaviour.
Many steps we’ve taken include hiring an anti-bullying coordinator, a public awareness campaign designed by students called Unlike Cyberbullying, public awareness on where to access help, defining bullying and cyberbullying in the Education Act, revising curriculum to strengthen responsible digital citizenship, providing resources to support teachers’ professional development in digital citizenship and anti-bullying, increasing mental health supports, suicide-risk identification and assessment, co-location of mental health clinicians in schools and the launch of a comprehensive website for students, parents and educators.
This spring, we also introduced legislation to ensure all Nova Scotians have a place to turn when they experience or are aware of cyberbullying. The Cyber-Safety Act created a CyberSCAN unit to investigate complaints of cyberbullying. This unit is the first of its kind in Canada. Anyone — young people, parents, teachers, principals, or other members of the public — can call CyberSCAN to file a complaint about cyberbullying. Changes to the Education Act also give more clear authority to school principals to deal with bullying, whether the bullying occurs on or off school property.
Another new law, which recently came in to affect, allows victims to apply through the Justice of the Peace for a protection order that could place restrictions on, or help identify, cyberbullies. It also gives victims the ability to sue alleged cyberbullies or their parents, if those accused are minors. These actions help to send a clear message - cyberbullying is a serious act with serious consequences.
In addition to the new civil laws, Premier Darrell Dexter led discussions on actions to address cyberbullying at Council of the Federation meetings Ontario in July. Premiers acknowledged his national leadership and endorsed initiatives he brought to the table such as strengthening the criminal code to make distributing intimate images without consent a crime. The federal government is now looking at those recommendations.
As chair of the Council of Ministers Education Canada (CMEC), I have had the opportunity to lead this discussion with every Education Minister in Canada. All provinces are sharing information and are following the lead Nova Scotia has taken with this serious issue.
This week, we are preparing to hold Nova Scotia’s first anti-bullying leadership conference, Speak Up, Aug 16-17 at Mount Saint Vincent University. Speak Up aims to teach community members how they can help reduce bullying in their schools and communities. I’m looking forward to being a part of this important conference.
We must continue to work together - families, youth, community organizations, educators, and law enforcement – to find ways to conquer bullying in our society and continue to develop respectful relationships.
I encourage you to check out the website, http://antibullying.novascotia.ca/, for more information. If you wish to receive a copy of the action plan ‘Speak Up’ please contact me at 681-3741 or by email at email@example.com. This is a social issue and by working together, we can make positive changes for our children.