HALIFAX – Students, parents and schools know what bullying and cyberbullying look like, but defining them in law will help ensure these serious issues are addressed consistently across the province.
The province has put new regulations in effect to adopt the common definitions for bullying and cyberbullying proposed by the Nova Scotia Task Force.
"Bullying behaviour has grown from students teasing each other on the playground to targeting someone with an unrelenting stream of intimidating messages and actions through cyberbullying," Education Minister Ramona Jennex said in a news release on Friday. "By adopting common definitions for bullying and cyberbullying, we are ensuring all those involved in anti-bullying work have the same understanding."
Common definitions make it easier to ensure consistency in reporting of bullying or cyberbullying across the province. Consistent reporting will provide better data to help determine appropriate responses and program needs.
These new regulations support the province's commitment to address the serious issue of bullying and cyberbullying with students, families, schools and communities as part of Kids and Learning First, the province's plan to help every child succeed.
The legislative framework to support this change was put in place in spring 2012. The province has adopted the task force's definitions with only minor changes to fit regulatory and legal standards.
The new definitions are:
-- Bullying: Bullying means behaviour, typically repeated, that is intended to cause or should be known to cause fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other harm to another person's body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property, and can be direct or indirect, and includes assisting or encouraging the behaviour in any way.
-- Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying means bullying by electronic means that occurs through the use of technology, including computers or other electronic devices, social networks, text messaging, instant messaging, websites or e-mail.
These definitions are comprehensive and provide the appropriate background needed to help determine if a severely disruptive behaviour is bullying or cyberbullying.
The new definition for bullying also includes the role of bystanders. Nova Scotia is the first Canadian jurisdiction to include bystanders, who encourage or in any way assist in the bullying behaviour.
"It is important to anchor the changes in response to bullying and cyberbullying in the law, and these regulations have the full force of law," said Wayne MacKay, chair of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. "The task force recommended a consistent definition of cyberbullying and bullying that must be followed by all within the education system. I am pleased that the definitions adopted are the ones proposed by the task force report."
The province continues to work on several fronts to address bullying and cyberbullying, taking a measured, comprehensive approach to deal with these complex issues. This includes hiring an anti-bullying coordinator, introducing legislative changes, launching a public awareness campaign and developing a provincial action plan which will be released shortly.
For the full regulations, visit www.gov.ns.ca/just/regulations/rxaa-l.htm#educ .