GOVERNMENT leaders on Wednesday joined together with students and education advocates to introduce new online safety sessions to help support and protect students against cyberbullying.
“We all have a responsibility to combat bullying, whether it’s online, in our homes, workplaces or schools,” said Premier John Horgan. “We need to support those being bullied and show them they’re not alone, and that we will stand up with them. I’m so proud to see all the students here today taking a stand against bullying.”
The Ministry of Education is investing $160,000 to provide over 190 online safety sessions to more than 19,000 students in grades 3-12 throughout the province. The sessions will provide students with information on recognizing the importance of a positive digital reputation, protecting their privacy online and details on how to use the ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) anonymous-reporting tool in response to bullying and other concerns.
Horgan and Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, hosted B.C.’s 12th-annual Pink Shirt Day event at the Parliament Buildings to proclaim Bullying Awareness Day. They were joined by local students, MLAs and Carol Todd, parent and founder of the Amanda Todd Legacy Society. The event included a spoken word presentation from a Reynolds Secondary school student, a dance performance from Northridge Elementary school students and a choir performance by Central Middle school students.
“Bullying knows no boundaries – the technology our kids are using today has presented challenges that we could not have imagined years ago. The expansion of ERASE will provide our students with additional tools to help combat against bullying,” said Fleming. “If we all stand together and say no to bullying, we can make a major difference in our schools and communities.”
The new sessions are part of the ERASE strategy, which is being expanded this school year to be a more comprehensive resource to better represent the issues facing youth and their communities today. ERASE will now also focus on social media and online safety, mental health and wellness, substance use, gang prevention and supporting students of all sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI). New ERASE resources and training for students, parents, educators and community partners are being launched during the current school year.
Since the 2018 Pink Shirt Day event, the ministry has made strides to combat bullying. A new ERASE website was launched in November 2018, as well as an updated online safety reporting tool, offering students an opportunity to notify an adult member of their school community about something that is worrying them.
The ministry also provided $100,000 to the B.C. School Superintendents’ Association to offer 80 social media education sessions to more than 3,500 parents in every school district, providing them with the tools they need to support their children and protect them against cyberbullying. The parent guide from the sessions is currently posted on the ERASE website and additional online resources for parents who were not able to attend the in-person sessions will be launched in fall 2019.
Last year, the ministry, along with the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils and the ARC Foundation (Awareness/Respect/Capacity), developed a new set of SOGI resources for parents, including a brochure and online videos found on the SOGI 123 website: https://bc.sogieducation.org
Those in attendance at the Pink Shirt Day event in Victoria were encouraged to speak out against negative online posts, post Pink Shirt Day event photos and spread positivity, using the hashtags #ERASE and #PinkShirtDay.
Carol Todd said: “It is wonderful to see that the Ministry of Education, through the ERASE strategy, is prioritizing the importance of providing our young people with the knowledge they need to safely navigate the digital world. Educating youth about the ERASE Report It tool will further help to ensure the personal safety of our children and the overall safety and well-being of school communities throughout the province.”
* ERASE, launched by the Ministry of Education in 2012, is a comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy designed to foster school connectedness, address bullying, prevent violence and provide support to school districts during critical incidents.
* ERASE has received national and international recognition for its work in keeping students safer.
* Pink Shirt Day started in 2007 with two Nova Scotia high school students, Travis Price and David Shepherd. The students organized a protest at their high school, which involved participants wearing pink t-shirts in support of a Grade 9 boy who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The protest was successful and the student was not bullied again.
* 19% of Canadian children have experienced cyberbullying or cyberstalking.
* Research suggests vulnerable youth are at a greater risk of mental-health challenges and may be more susceptible to bullying and cyberbullying behaviour.
Pink Shirt Day: www.pinkshirtday.ca/
SOGI 123: www.sogieducation.org/