By Lucie Roy
Morinville – Parents had an opportunity to learn a bit about bullying May 2 during a 45-minute presentation held at École Georges P. Vanier School. The session, put on by Constable Yelena Avoine of the Morinville RCMP, explained why people bully, the signs a child is being bullied, and what parents can do to help their child.
“Bullying occurs in school playgrounds every seven minutes and once every 25 minutes in class,” Avoine told parents, noting bystanders can do much to stop bullying. “Most students fall in the bystander category; they are afraid to associate with the victim. They are afraid to report it. They feel guilty but do not really step in. They feel unsafe and are drawn into bullying behaviour.” One thing Avoine said bystanders can do is to encourage the victim to walk away.
The passive victims do not directly provoke bullies, are socially withdrawn and often anxious, depressed and have few friends. The provocative victims tend to bring out the anger, irritation or exasperation from those around them.
Avoine recommended parents to talk to their children about bullying and that they become aware of the signs to signify if their child is a victim. This could include not wanting to go to school, having a hard time sleeping, nightmares, failing grades, acting out at home after school with unexplained anger, and the child becoming withdrawn. Additional signs include not wanting to take the bus or if they are really hungry when they get home, the latter a sign lunch or lunch money is being taken by bullies. Avoine said it is important for victims to come forward and talk about it. If it drags on for years it can have bad consequences.
The reasons people bully were covered during the presentation and Avoine said those reasons include low self-esteem, social bullying like spreading rumours, popularity attention and power.
Avoine explained bullying is a community health and wellness issue and not just a school issue for teachers to handle. She said there is no economic standing with respect to bullies; they are as likely to come from affluent homes as poor ones.
Regardless of the bully or reason for the bullying, Avoine said it is best not to hit back. There may be cases where people have to defend themselves but in most cases violence only begets violence.
The law addresses bullying through both civil law and the Criminal Code, the latter under sections dealing with assault, uttering threats, damage to property, mischief, and harassing phone calls.
Although verbal, social and physical bullying was once limited to outside the home where the kids were sheltered, now with cyber-bullying it is inside the home as well.
Regardless of what form of bullying is taking place, a parent can start dealing with it by speaking to the school teachers and principal, then the school board and finally the police. Avoine does not recommend parents speaking to the bully’s parents because sometimes it escalates matters.
Additional information and resources on bullying can be found at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/youth-jeune/bully-taxage-eng.htm.