More than once during our school years, most of us have been teased, made fun of, and laughed at by colleagues or friends. Usually this is not harmful and is meant to be nothing but a joke. However, when this behaviour becomes incessant and purposefully hurtful, it turns into bullying which should be stopped right away.
As we all know, bullying has many faces: verbal, physical, and psychological. Spreading rumours, name-calling, inappropriate photos, and exclusive cliques can hurt our feelings, lower confidence, and affect our future relationships. One-in-three Ontario students are reported to have been bullied.
Over time, many incidents related to bullying have caught headlines. Last week, in a small Quebec town, 15-year-old Margerie Reynold took her own life, apparently after being bullied by her classmates. She left a suicide note stating that she could no longer endure the psychological and physical abuse. This incident, along with recent Ontario suicides like the ones of an openly gay 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy with a disability, sparked public outrage that drove the proposition of a new anti-bullying legislation.
Would this newly proposed legislation stop bullying? Would the school boards and teachers properly enforce it? Under the new legislation, punishment could be not only suspension, but also a mandatory “individual learning program”. In certain cases, for the safety of the victim, the bully could be permanently expelled from school.
Cyber-bullying should also be part of this bill. On November 1st, Reynold’s alleged bully wrote on Facebook, weeks before the victim committed suicide: “Suspended 5 days! Ahahaha! Not bad.” Bullying has always existed in the past; but now, because of social media, there are more ways than ever to be subjected to bullying, and it’s harder to escape from since it could also happen outside of school.
Quoting from a recent Toronto Star article, “Anti-bullying bill is overdue but blessed”. Let’s hope that this new legislation will be a big step forward in our fight against bullying