Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/Editorial
“The main reason for bullying is that there are opportunities and rewards.” Erling Roland
From time-to-time parents you know write posts on their personal Facebook profiles about the challenges of communicating their child’s concerns to a teacher or administrator. Maybe they’ll share a few posts or even write a blog post. It isn’t as common to see a story about these types of situations brought to the attention of the media. Although the option to take serious concerns to the media is often on people’s minds. This is why a story about a student’s experience in a Greater Vancouver (Coquitlam) school caught my eye. The gist of the story is that a 2nd grader’s parents moved their daughter to a new school after they were not satisfied with how their concern about an incident involving a classmate was addressed. What questions does this story raise about how these types of incidents are addressed in British Columbia’s schools?
People will discuss the “what ifs” and maybes of this situation but that approach means we lose a bigger opportunity. In this case we are given a fair amount of detail in the media story but we don’t have all the information. Instead, I’d like to suggest that parents are operating in an information vacuum. If a serious incident occurs and your child is not the instigator, how do you know how to proceed? Should you speak with a teacher first? Should you go directly to the Principal? Should you put something in writing to the teacher and copy the information to the Principal? Or should you skip the CC? When should you escalate your concerns to the school board level? What if your concerns are not addressed at all? Or what if the course of action taken is much different from what you would expect? How do you know if what you are experiencing is the same standard across all schools or are you experiencing idiosyncrasies related to the culture and climate of your child’s school?
On a broader level, is it OK to discuss your situation on social media? Is going to the media helpful or even appropriate? Or is it inappropriate to suggest that parents don’t have the right to discuss their concerns in a broader forum?
There are all kinds of circumstances happening in schools at all grade levels. To be fair to schools, in any given week teachers and administrators are addressing circumstances at least well enough or even in an exemplary manner. But some of the concerns happening around our province are being mishandled. Families are moving their children out of schools. Children are avoiding school. There are some serious and heart breaking stories happening every day. In some cases, parents are taking school districts to court as a result of their child’s experience in a school.
In our house, we’re big fans of Norway. It all started with a Christmas mouse from Norway who inspired one of my children to find out everything possible about Norway. When we come across new information about Norway, we mentally add it to our discovery list. As I consider this broader topic about communications between parents and education professionals, it’s interesting to learn that Norway has been successful in addressing one top concern – bullying in schools. (See video below.) While the news story from Coquitlam wasn’t, strictly speaking, about bullying, bullying is a top reason for incidents that cause concern in BC schools.
Some schools in Norway have reduced incidents of bullying by 50%. For the record, Norway’s population is a mere 500,000 larger than ours in British Columbia. Not all incidents that occur at school revolve around bullying, but many do. The Zero Programme has moved abroad and is now being used in Chile and the United States. Could your school district benefit from the implementation of a Zero Programme?
Did you see this latest news story in the media? What are your thoughts on this topic? You can comment about this posting in the comment section below or on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!