Anti-Bullying Task Force – UPDATE!

It’s been just over a year since grade eight student Bryten Brown took his own life.  Bryten was a student at Lockes Public School and was subject to ongoing bullying.  When his death was announced in the media, I wrote Hypocrites, highlighting the bandwagon that many in the community were riding.  

In the days that followed, the Thames Valley District School Board Superintendent announced the creation of a task force made up of community members.  One Step Forward spoke to my hesitation on the creation of this task force.  It was originally touted as a community task force, but was soon shown to be made up of the heads of existing organizations.  I was not in support of this.  Maybe I am naive in this regards, but the people who are going to know about the effects of bullying are the moms and dads who have to face their hurt and pain that their child faces when he or she returns from school.  It’s the children who are hurt and ridiculed for no other reason than to be hurt. They know what’s happening out there.  They are on the front lines.  What was supposed to be a Grassroots movement, soon took on the look of bureaucracy. 

This is the list of Community Members on the Task Force:

Dr. Linda Baker – Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System
Dr. Karen Bax – Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System
James Daniels – Thames Valley District School Board, Student Trustee
Inspector Jeff Driedger – St. Thomas Police Service
Chief Brad Duncan – London Police Service
Dr. Barrie Evans – Thames Valley District School Board, Psychological Services
Jane Fitzgerald – Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex
Chief Rod Freeman – Woodstock Police Service
Ray Hughes – CAMH Centre for Prevention Science
Dr. Peter Jaffe – Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, UWO
Janice Jeffrey – Thames Valley District School Board, Safe Schools
Cal Johnstone – /A\
Lynne Livingston – City of London
Chief Bill Lynch – St. Thomas Police Service
Corina Morrison – London Anti-Bullying Coalition
Beth Murray – Thames Valley District School Board, Student Trustee
Superintendent John Perry – London Police Service
Dr. Graham Pollett – Middlesex London Health Unit
Rod Potgieter – Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin
Marc Roberts – Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth Centre
Deputy Chief Brent Shea – London Police Service
Jason Smith – Fusion Youth Centre, Town of Ingersoll
Terri Snell – St. Thomas/Elgin Anti-Bullying Coalition
Barb Sonier – Thames Valley District School Board, Superintendent of Education
Director Bill Tucker – Thames Valley District School Board
Barry Wagner – Facilitator
Carolyn Walker – Thames Valley Parent Involvement Committee
Toni Wilson – Thames Valley District School Board, Safe Schools
Kate Young – Thames Valley District School Board, Public Affairs     

In the year that has passed, I would venture that little has changed for the better, with one notable exception.   The principal at Lockes, Dave Westaway, has made strides in his approach to the issue of bullying.  I give him credit for that.

The community has quieted down for now, waiting for the next event in media drama to unfold in the community so they can rise up and yell, for a few minutes anyways.  Very few people have maintained an active role.  I know of at least one person who was raring to go in the early days, only to be outed as a bully himself.  Bullies often rise to power…but that’s another blog for another day.

Today, I received a copy of the task force’s “Report to the Community”.  It opens with these words, “Bullying behaviour and its negative impact on society continues to be of major importance to the Thames Valley District School Board.  On May 19, 2010, following the tragic death of a St. Thomas teen, the Director of Education for the Thames Valley District School Board established a community Task Force to help him in his quest to end bullying” (italics mine).

The Director of Education is Bill Tucker.  He is one of the past Principals at Lockes Public School.

While not a true community driven committee, I do give them credit for this statement, “Representing both current and new partners for the school board, all 29 invited members committed to work together on this special task force.  As a leader within their organization, each representative brought to the table the commitment of their organization to find ways to work together to bring an end to bullying in our community.  As a Task Force, it truly was many voices coming together to work towards one vision to eliminate bullying.”  I hope so.

Short of providing the full report here, I will include the summaries of the responsibilities of each organization involved as per the report:

/A\ London will work with TVDSB to develop a public awareness campaign based on an Anti-Bullying Pledge.  (Note:  The Task Force was very supportive of the idea of a student pledge put forward by /A\ and suggested the entire community should be encouraged to take “The Pledge”).  (See Appendix page 8)

CAMH Centre for Prevention Science has developed a cyber-bullying presentation for Junior-Intermediate students with a follow-up workshop, and a cyber-bullying presentation for parents, designed to promote development of critical thinking skills concerning online safety, privacy and impersonation issues.  (See Appendix page 8) 

Centre for Children and Families in the Justice Systems anti-bullying initiatives in juvenile justice settings and therapeutic group homes will address peer aggression, adolescent suicide, assessments for youth, anti-bullying training for staff, ongoing consultation, and A School Based Anti-Violence Program (ASAP).  (See Appendix page 9)

Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, UWO is planning a forum on media violence for parents and educators on Oct 20-21 which will deal with critical issues in the development and promotion of violent attitudes and behaviours. (See Appendix page 10) 

Family and Children’s Services of St. Thomas and Elgin, the Children’s Aid Society of Oxford County, and the Children’s Aid Society of London and Middlesex have collaborated to develop a position paper outlining their role/involvement in the prevention of and intervention with bullying.  This report is based on their mandate and legislative functions.  (See Appendix page 10) 

Fusion Youth Centre, Town of Ingersoll and thirty agencies have come together to address issues in schools, the community and organizations and are developing a policy.  (See Appendix page 11) 

London Anti-Bullying Coalition will continue to provide service to its community members, such as:  school board/schools, media, community groups, parents, police and students. (See Appendix page 11) 

London Police Servicein partnership with the Thames Valley District School Board, is dedicated to the promotion of safe schools through its collective efforts to eliminate bullying.  These include School Resource and Safety Officers, specific curriculum and a focused approach to bullying situations.  (See Appendix page 12)

Middlesex-London Health Unit has identified both whole school and classroom activities, including supports for individuals, to support schools with their work in promoting positive behaviour and addressing bullying.  (See Appendix page 13)

Oxford-Elgin Child and Youth Centre has worked with the community to develop a group to work with children and parents of victims of bullying.  A curriculum has been developed by the community partners and is being implemented in September 2011. (See Appendix page 15) 

St. Thomas/Elgin Anti-Bullying Coalition will be presenting an eight week session (starting in September 2011) called “Kids Bounce Back” for children 7 – 10 years old who have been bullied.  They have developed two pamphlets: “What Can You Do To HELP?” and “Is Your Child Bullying Others? “ (See Appendix page 15) 

St. Thomas Police Service’s Community Resource Officer and Adopt a School Officers continue to attend senior elementary and high schools on a daily basis, where among many others, programs and resolutions directed at anti-bullying are administered by the Community Resource Officer as well as the Community Services Officer. (See Appendix page 15) 

Thames Valley District School Board will be developing workshops on cyber-bullying and creating educational videos on bullying for students, parents and teachers as well as creating book kits on bullying for its elementary and secondary schools.  A focus for 2011 – 2012 will be on the mobilization of “upstanders”. (See Appendix page 16) 

Thames Valley Parent Involvement Committee (TVPIC) has organized a joint forum on media violence to create the links, supports, and understanding needed to build stronger, vibrant, inclusive communities for all members – and youth in particular. (See Appendix page 16) 

Woodstock Police Service has established programs in the community and is working to accredit the City of Woodstock as a “Safe Community.”  They are working towards establishing a second secondary school resource officer.  (See Appendix page 17) 

I have been skeptical of this Task Force since the beginning.  I feel that key people have been left out of the process, mainly concerned parents who are truly interested in sustaining change.  As the Task Force now dissolves into history, there is a new group developed from those origins that pledges to meet twice a year to ensue that the anti-bullying initiatives will be carried out as intended.  I will watch to see what unfolds.

There also remains an aspect yet untouched, at least to my knowledge, and that is the bullying in the classroom. Bullying in which the adult, the teacher, bullies and targets the children.  Children are excluded, centered out and mocked in the “safety” of the classroom.  This has been brought to me repeatedly, from various people within the community and via email.

I read today that Aylmer teen Arden McAnulty was advised that she was not welcome to attend the Grade 8 graduation at Davenport Public School, one of the schools within the Thames Valley Board.  Arden left the school in grade seven to attend a school in Peterborough in order for her to get specialized treatment for dyscalculia. 

Nick Lypaczewski from the St. Thomas Times-Journal wrote, “When McAnulty left for Peterborough, her biggest concern was that she would still be able to attend Davenport’s graduation dance.”  She was originally approved to attend the party by school officials.  Arden also had signed letter from the school board, but later learned the committee in charge of the dance had voted to turn her away.

According to Mike Sereda, Thames Valley District School Board supervisory officer’s association chairman, the parent committee expressed their disapproval of McAnulty walking across the stage but, in the end, he says the school thought she should be recognized. (italics mine – notice it wasn’t Mr. Sereda that supported the decision to allow her). 

Committee member Maureen Jenkins told QMI Agency, “She has not been a part of the Grade 8 class, and our position is that you had to be a member of the Grade 8 class to attend.”   Arden was not able to access the needed programs at her own school.  She attended Davenport longer than many of the graduating students.  There was Arden, centered out, excluded, by the school board that aims to stop bullying.

Everyone has a story.  This one’s not done yet.


One thought on “Anti-Bullying Task Force – UPDATE!

  1. Pingback: Stand Tall…taller than the snowbanks | Everyone has a story

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