The province used the occasion of anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day to announce additional funding to combat cyberbullying and cyberstalking – something 19 per cent of Canadian children have experienced.
On the steps of the B.C. legislature Wednesday, Premier Horgan and Minister of Education Rob Fleming joined anti-bullying advocates, local students and MLAs to announce the Ministry of Education is investing $160,000 to provide online safety sessions to students throughout the province.
“We know that cyber bullying, unlike other forms of bullying, doesn’t end at the final bell of the school day,” said Fleming. “Cyber bullying can follow its victims around 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can target, it can isolate, it can humiliate its victims and we have a responsibility, each and every one of us in society in B.C., to combat bullying.”
The sessions – which are an expansion of the ERASE strategy – will provide students with information on positive digital reputations, protecting privacy online and how to use the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) anonymous-reporting tool for bullying and other concerns.
“Cyberbullying is hurtful and it can have lasting effects,” said Carol Todd, a parent who founded the Amanda Todd Legacy Society after losing her daughter to suicide in 2012 due to bullying. “For social media posters we want them to think before they post and we want them to ask themselves if it is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.”
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The event included a spoken word presentation from Reynolds Secondary school student Shauntelle Dick-Charleson, a dance performance from Northridge Elementary school students and a choir performance by Central Middle school students.
Reynolds Secondary grade 12 student Isabella Laughey also attended and shared her experience of being bullied in school.
“Although elementary school is now just a distant and unpleasant memory, it affected me many years after I left,” Laughey said of facing bullies in elementary and middle school. “But now I’m here. And I couldn’t have imagined that I would have been chosen out of my whole graduating class to speak at such an important event. It means a lot to me to be able to share this and hopefully to inspire others to shine a light on such an important issue and to be the change you want to see.”
Premier Horgan shared his own story of being bullied when he was a student at Lakehill Elementary in Victoria. While the bullying stopped for him when he got “older and bigger” he said it continued all around him.
“I’ve made it my mission as I’ve gone through the world to make sure I do as much kindness in a day as I can,” said Horgan. “It really is days like this that remind all of us, no matter where we come from, that we have not walked a mile in our neighbour’s shoes. We don’t know what they are feeling on any given day.”
Pink Shirt Day began in 2007 in Nova Scotia when two high school students, Travis Price and David Shepherd, organized a protest at their high school in support of a Grade 9 boy who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They bought and distributed 50 pink shirts at school to show the boy he was not alone.
“Pink Shirt Day is an important reminder of the work that has been done and why it must continue in conversation and action,” said Todd.
A parent guide with tools to support children and protect them against cyberbullying is posted on the ERASE website at www.erase.gov.bc.ca.
A set of SOGI resources for parents, including a brochure and online videos can be found on the SOGI 123 website at bc.sogieducation.org.