Nova Scotia's anti-bullying plan lacks concrete measures, critics say
Keith Doucette, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 11:40AM AST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:51PM AST
HALIFAX -- A plan aimed at preventing bullying in Nova Scotia's schools lacks the concrete steps necessary to resolve the problem, critics of the initiative said Wednesday.
The provincial government's plan contains 40 measures that Education Minister Ramona Jennex says will tackle the root causes of bullying.
Among those that weren't previously announced include the training of school staff to recognize mental health problems and an annual conference about cyberbullying.
But the man who led a task force that made 85 recommendations to the government last year on reducing instances of bullying said the plan falls short of what he called for.
"Even though it's called an action plan there aren't really enough actions today to save children and students from the corrosive effects of bullying and cyberbullying," said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University.
"I think in some ways it's more of a framework or an agenda than an actual action plan."
MacKay said while the plan adopts some of the tone of his report in recognizing the need for more public education on bullying, it contains "important gaps" such as a commitment to establishing bullying and suicide prevention programs in the classroom as soon as possible.
"It is fairly long-term and it's fairly general in its nature," he said.
He said there needs to be a clear delineation of consequences for bullies as well as an arms-length body that would monitor the government's progress on bullying.
Pam Murchison, whose 15-year-old daughter Jenna committed suicide in 2011 after being bullied, said while the plan was encouraging, she was disappointed because she felt it doesn't put enough emphasis on immediate action.
The Truro, N.S., woman said bullies should face criminal consequences.
"I guess it's up to the federal government to change the Criminal Code," she said.
Jennex said the problem of bullying was complex.
"If there was a law that I could pass that would solve the issue of bullying, believe me I would have done it," she said after announcing the plan at Dartmouth High School in Halifax. "But it's not that simple."
Jennex said the plan would also see the province distribute information encouraging responsible cellphone use to people signing a new contract with a cellphone provider.
The government has previously announced that is requiring school boards to report incidents of severely disruptive behaviour annually. It has also hired an anti-bullying co-ordinator.