Fighting back Against bullies

New provincial website to report a bully similar to website created in 2009 by Summerland teacher

B.C. students looking to report a bully now have two online options available, the newest of which closely resembles an earlier tool created by a Summerland teacher.

On Tuesday, the online reporting component of the provincial government’s new ERASE Bullying strategy went live. It allows students to anonymously report incidents during which themselves or others have been bullied. The reports, captured through www.erasebullying.ca, are then sent on to a co-ordinator in the student’s  school district for action.

The Okanagan Skaha School District has appointed director of instruction Don MacIntyre to the position. He said he will forward complaints he receives to the appropriate school administrators for investigation and then report their findings back to government.

It takes about an hour for a report to reach MacIntyre, who encouraged students who do file complaints to include as much information as possible, including names, to aid the investigation.

He added that most of the measures in the ERASE Bullying Strategy already existed in one form or another, but “this just makes it a little bit slicker.”

Bullying, MacIntyre continued, is something schools have long been trying to combat by teaching compassion and getting kids to connect with each other in person, which has become even more important in the online age.

“Because they don’t feel connected, we’ve got a generation of kids that are oftentimes looking down more than they’re looking up,” he said.

“So part of what schools have been doing for a long time is to force kids to look up and get to know each others as individuals, because the more you know about other kids the less likely it is you’ll mistreat them.”

The new ERASE Bullying reporting tool is similar to the Stop A Bully website created in 2009 by Summerland teacher Trevor Knowlton. He said Stop A Bully bid on the new ERASE Bullying contract, but lost to a research unit of the University of B.C.

“I can see the confusion already starting, but I guess it’s not a bad thing. There’s two options (now) for British Columbia students,” Knowlton said.

Stop A Bully is slightly different than the new site because it only allows students from the current 62 member schools across Canada to submit reports at www.stopabully.ca that are forwarded directly to school administrators.

Traffic to the site tripled in October following the well-publicized suicide of B.C. teenager and bullying victim Amanda Todd, Knowlton said, and the site had to shut down when join requests poured in from 100 new schools.

Since then, the website has received a software upgrade from Kelowna company Syndicate Theory.

Unfortunately, Knowlton said, there is plenty of demand for both the Stop A Bully and the new ERASE Bullying websites.

“It’s disheartening to see young people putting each other through what they’re putting each other through,” said Knowlton, who this fall received a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of his anti-bullying efforts.

He said, however, that Stop A Bully is still a couple months away from receiving charity status that should open up new fundraising opportunities, so in the meantime he’s seeking financial help to keep the system afloat.

“We’re committed to moving forward and building a better service,” Knowlton said.

 

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