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Anti-bullying law forces schools, parents to deal with abusive behaviour
The new provincial law to tackle bullying in Quebec's schools is a huge concern for parents, teachers and students.
Bill 56 imposed a raft of anti-bullying measures that require schools to report all cases of bullying, both to the provincial ministry and to parents, and to take steps to stop threatening behaviour.
But the law allows schools a fair bit of leeway, and many parents are still unaware of what those changes mean for their children.
Wanting to learn more about the new law and how they can protect their children from bullying behaviour, several dozen parents attended an information workshop hosted Tuesday by the Quebec Federation of Home and School Associations.
Schools throughout Quebec are now in the process of choosing anti-bullying programs, either by using Ministry of Education resources or hiring private firms to create plans.
Consultants Deb Kellman and Mona Segal say schools will have a legal obligation to tell parents about bullying, and that parents of a bully may have to meet with social workers.
"It is the legal obligation to report and address bullying and intervene," said Kellman.
One key change is that schools will no longer be able to hide behind privacy rules. Victims of bullying will have a right to know how their tormentor is being dealt with.
"Parents of a child who's been bullied are going to have a right to know what are the consequences for the student who's done the bullying behaviour. In the past that information was confidential," said Segal.
Some parents at the meeting like the law, but others feel too much of the solution depends on students reporting the problem.
"Even though they're doing the education for the child, will all children understand the difference between bullying and violence?" wondered Patricia Saputo.
Those who work in schools are glad the government is providing the assistance.
Alana Leroux, the principal of John Rennie High School is glad that parents will have to be part of the process -- and that neither parents nor schools will be able to ignore a child with problems.
"I think that because there is more of a collaborative approach with the parents, that has to be taken as encouraging," said Leroux.
All schools in Quebec were required to adopt anti-bullying and anti-violence plans by Dec. 31, 2012.
They will also have to send yearly reports to the Education Ministry about the state of bullying.