The Government of Ontario has designated the week beginning on the third Sunday of November as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week to help promote safe schools and a positive learning environment. During Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week students, school staff and parents were encouraged to learn more about bullying and its effect on student learning and well-being. The lessons learned by students over this week need to be re-emphasised throughout the rest of the school year by parents, teachers and community leaders, wherever possible.
Bullying is defined as a form of repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour directed at an individual or individuals that is intended to cause (or should be known to cause) fear and distress and/or harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem or reputation. Bullying occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.
Schools are encouraged to use this opportunity to explain the different forms bullying can take. The issue of bullying in schools, as well as in the wider community, has been a problem for generations, and it is hard to see how it can ever be completely eliminated. However, initiatives in the schools, such as Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week help to underline to young people that bullying is not an acceptable, or kind, activity.
Bullying comes in many forms:
Physical – hitting, shoving, stealing or damaging property
Verbal – name calling, mocking, or making sexist, racist or homophobic comments
Social – excluding others from a group or spreading gossip or rumours about them
Electronic (commonly known as cyberbullying) – spreading rumours and hurtful comments through the use of cell phones, e-mail, text messaging and through social media.
Safe Schools Teams were encouraged to plan activities or launch initiatives that heighten awareness of bullying and its impact on the school community. Each school in Ontario has a safe schools team working to promote a safer and more welcoming learning environment. Teams include the school principal, a teacher, a student (where appropriate), a parent and a member from the broader community.
By organizing Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week activities, schools hope to effect positive change in student achievement and well-being. The good work done through this initiative also needs to be supported in the home and community, so that everyone knows that this is something that is important for everyone.