Greater Victoria school district takes on bullying amid digital evolution

School trustee aims to broaden the policy reach that covers bullying to include cyberbullying

A Greater Victoria school trustee says she’s disappointed the district isn’t taking a proactive approach when it comes to tackling bullying.

Edith Loring-Kuhanga says the existing policies are completely outdated, and don’t take into account the fact that a lot of bullying is done online or through digital means these days.

“There are many issues that our students are facing in our school district, and it’s really up to us to take the leadership role and start addressing it through our policies,” she said. “There’s nothing in the policies that actually address the whole idea of what cyberbullying is and whether students could be suspended for that. There’s also nothing on prevention and promoting safe use of social media and technology.”

It’s a sentiment shared by the mother of a Greater Victoria teen who last month was found guilty of possessing and distributing child pornography, after she texted naked pictures of another minor found on her boyfriend’s cellphone.

The woman, who cannot be identified because her daughter is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, says the situation her daughter got involved in was the result of two-way bullying.

“This was bullying between a group of teenagers, from both sides. This involved private Facebook messages, public comments on Twitter. This involved cellphones, social media,” she said. “It’s not that the children weren’t aware what they were doing was wrong, they weren’t aware there were legal consequences.”

She says technology has evolved faster than most parents, school districts and the legal system – let alone teenagers – can react.

“Make your child aware that there are consequences for even being a small part of something. Let your kids know that if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” she said. “In a world where you raise your kids with good values and morals and you trust them as a person, they can still get involved in a situation that’s more mature than they are and they don’t know how to handle themselves appropriately.”

Earlier this month Loring-Kuhanga brought forward a motion at the school board to revise a number of school district policies to bring them up-to-date. The District Leadership Team will review existing policies and come back to the board within a couple of months with recommendations.

“I think it’s all of our responsibilities, no matter who we are, to take action on bullying and cyberbullying and start addressing it, whether it’s within our own families, within our communities or within our workplace,” Loring-Kuhanga said.