Preventing Bullying: Who is Responsible?

  • Schools
  • Teachers
  • Administrators
  • Politicians
  • Communities
  • Parents
  • Students

Addressing bullying in schools is everyone’s responsibility. It takes the entire community and school to determine the problems, how to combat these problems, and take action to end bullying.

Human Rights Legislation

 Alberta Human Rights Act — Areas

Provincial human rights covers:

  • Publications, notices
  • Goods, services, accommodation
  • Tenancy
  • Trade unions
  • Employment

Some bullying may also be a human rights violation. The Alberta Human Rights Act covers five areas. Schools often fall under services. A person can only make a complaint under the Alberta Human Rights Act if he or she is covered under one of the areas listed above and one of the grounds listed below.

For more information contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission

Source: Alberta Human Rights Act, R.S.A. 2000, c.A-25.5.

Alberta Human Rights Act — Grounds

  • Race
  • Colour
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Gender (includes pregnancy, sexual harassment, transgender)
  • Age (over 18 years; age is protected in signs, trade unions and employment)
  • Physical / Mental disability
  • Religious beliefs
  • Marital / Family status
  • Source of income
  • Sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual)

These are the grounds covered by the Alberta Human Rights Act. You will notice that the Act does not cover discrimination against a person under the age of 18 years in the area of services. However, a youth under the age of 18 years may make a complaint under another ground such as race or religious beliefs. They just cannot make a complaint based on being discriminated because of their age only.

Human Rights & School Responsibility

  • A human rights complaint is made against the school or school board and not just the teacher, staff person, or volunteer.
  • It is a school’s responsibility to create a safe and caring environment free from harassment. This is a pro-active responsibility and not just a reactive one (Jubran, 2005, BCCA).

The Jubran case is a landmark case for bullying in a school environment. A young student, named Azmi Jubran, was taunted and teased for five years with gay slurs, cigarette burns in his shirt, and things being thrown at him. The British Columbia Court of Appeal found that school boards have a “duty to provide students with an educational environment that does not expose them to discriminatory harassment.”  In this case the school did try to address the bullying each time it occurred by reprimanding students. However, the bullying continued on for 5 years. The Court noted that the school did not seek outside training on anti-homophobia and bullying until after Mr. Jubran filed a complaint. The school should have made more efforts to prepare its teachers and staff on how to address bullying against the LGBT communities.

North Vancouver School District No. 44 v. Jubran, [2002] B.C.H.R.T. 10 at para 116, affirmed by British Columbia Court of Appeal in [2005] B.C.C.A. 201, [2005] S.C.C.A No. 260 leave to appeal to Supreme Court of Canada dismissed.

Other Interventions

  • School Resource Officer
  • Counsellor
  • Other Professionals
  • Police

While creating a policy and addressing bullying at the school level is encouraged, there will be instances when other interventions are necessary to address the problem or to support the student.

Deciding how to address a bullying incident.

The Alberta Education website says:

As schools develop their own guidelines or steps for responding to a student who has bullied, they may wish to consider the following components:

  • ensuring the safety of other students
  • helping the student who bullied to change his or her behaviours and attitudes
  • taking immediate action to stop the behaviour (e.g., sending the student to the office or another predetermined location) identifying and applying the appropriate level of intervention depending on the nature, degree and duration of bullying behaviours, for example:
  • pointing out the impact on the student who was bullied and any observers
    • reminding the student of the school’s rules or behavioural expectations
    • imposing consequences (e.g., loss of privilege)
    • reporting or referring to police, counsellor or other professionals
    • creating an individual safety and support plan
  • contacting the student’s parents regarding the incident and the school’s response.
  • tracking the incident using a form or other method.

Source: Government of Alberta Education