Banishing the Schoolyard Bully

Bullying is aggressive behaviour that is typically repeated over time. It is meant to cause harm, fear, and distress or create a negative environment at school for another person. Bullying occurs in a situation where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.

A person does not have to be physically hurt to be bullied. While bullying may include physical aggression it can also be done through communication. A verbal bully may name call, mock, or make sexist, racist or homophobic comments. A social bully may exclude others from groups or resort to written and/or other electronic means to spread hurtful or insulting comments.

While bullying is not a new phenomenon, the dawn of the internet era has brought the issue of bullying, particularly in schoolyards, to the forefront. On February 1, 2010, the Education Amendment Act (Keeping our Kids Safe at School), 2009, came into force. This amendment requires that any employee of an Ontario school board who becomes aware that a student has engaged in bullying type activities shall report the matter to a school principal as soon as reasonably possible. The principal, or their delegate, is then obligated to conduct an investigation and potentially hand out progressive discipline in accordance with required anti-bullying policies.

Nearly one in three Ontario students (29%) reported being bullied at school in a 2011 study. These students who are bullied often experience social anxiety, loneliness, withdrawal, physical injury/illness, and low self-esteem. The physical and emotional trauma that is suffered can result in dropping grades, absenteeism and a decision to leave school altogether.

As a parent or guardian it is equally important to teach and supervise our children in a way that prevents or discourages them from causing losses or damages to others. This obligation has been codified in the Parental Responsibility Act. Under this Act, a parent of a bully can be liable for damages and economic losses suffered by a child who was the victim of an intentional act such as bullying.

Oatley Vigmond is Ontario’s Personal Injury Law Firm. If you suspect that your child has been hurt or injured by a schoolyard bully, Oatley Vigmond may be able to help protect their legal rights.

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