The BC Teachers’ Federation today welcomed the announcement by the provincial government that it intends to implement a 10-point antibullying strategy.
“For many years now, the BCTF has been calling on the province to take a leadership role on harassment and intimidation in schools,” said BCTF First Vice-President Jim Iker. “Teachers have long been concerned about the racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination that students face on a daily basis in school and in the community.”
Iker said the lack of a strong provincial strategy has allowed inconsistent and inadequate responses to serious situations. “So far the only movement has come from individual districts, thanks to the work of youth, teachers, some trustees, and community members, not because of provincial government action,” he said. “The BCTF has been calling on the province to take action specifically on the racism that Aboriginal and cultural minority youth face, as well as the toxic school climate facing LGBTQ youth.”
Iker noted that the Safe Schools Task Force reported back in 2003–04 that discrimination and bullying were substantial issues in all school districts—large and small, urban and rural. The experience of teachers and the continued research by the McCreary Society for Children and Youth reinforced evidence of the pervasiveness of the problem.
“We’ve been concerned that the existing standards have been too weak and the government has not enforced them consistently around the province,” Iker said. “Now we expect that the legal framework should be tightened and enforced province-wide.”
Teachers also believe that systemic change must be made a priority by ensuring that the curriculum and learning resources reflect the diversity and the lived realities of students. In addition, cuts to specialist teacher positions such as school counsellors, learning assistance, and special education teachers, have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable students. Students often cite the support they receive from these teachers as crucial in helping them cope with bullying situations.