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B.C. College of Teachers to investigate 1998 bullying incident at Whistler Secondary

For years Whistler mom Leanne Dufour has been at the forefront of the fight...



For years Whistler mom Leanne Dufour has been at the forefront of the fight to have bullying recognized and dealt with properly at the school level and beyond.

For the most part her victories have been pyrrhic. And in some cases they have ended in defeat.

But this week Dufour got some good news.

The B.C. College of Teachers informed her that the organization plans to launch an investigation of the actions of its members with regard to the bullying of her then 15-year-old daughter at Whistler Secondary in 1998.

"When you have tried to get acknowledgement through as many sources as we have and everyone has failed you, you are not optimistic and this is the last source," said Dufour.

"But I have my fingers crossed. If they are truly going to offer a fair investigative source that is what we have fought so hard for and I am really happy."

Dufour approached the college last summer after changes made by the provincial government to the Teaching Profession Act mandated the college to investigate parent complaints through a clearly defined avenue.

"It sounds like this is a place for parents to go to complain," she said of the college’s new complaint’s process.

Five teens – two males and three females – were involved in the initial attack on Dufour’s daughter, which took place in a local park in August of 1998. The teen sustained a concussion, two black eyes, and numerous other injuries. There was evidence that the attackers attempted to strangle the victim.

Dufour’s case resulted in criminal convictions against two girls. But the mom maintains the harassment continued after the attack and the unprofessional conduct of some educators forced her daughter out of Whistler Secondary and made the family’s experience with the school system intolerable.

"I have always maintained that my daughter did not have to leave the schools because of the bullies," said Dufour.

"She had to leave the school because people didn’t do their jobs."

The college’s investigative process can only look at the standard of conduct of its members.

Dufour has appeared before the provincial task force on bullying and has become an outspoken advocate for changes to the system, which would lead to more effective anti-bullying strategies.

In her own case she followed every procedure outlined for dealing with bullying cases, which took her to the school principal, on to the school board, then to the provincial Ombudsman’s office and even the police.

She was the first parent to ever try and sue a school board over the violence and threats directed at her daughter by fellow students.

Even more encouraging, said Dufour, is the decision by the college to release the names of teachers when publicizing disciplinary actions.

"It sounds like there are changes here and to me this is really important.

"This shows me that teachers are going to be held accountable.

"So this is really, really good news."

College registrar Marie Kerchum could not discuss the Dufour investigation since it is on going.

But she said the complaint’s process takes all parent concerns very seriously and they will be investigated where appropriate.

The college has always been able to investigate parent complaints. But as there was no clear process to do it, these types of investigations were rarely done.

"This is a more clearly defined avenue to make a complaint to the college now," said Kerchum.

"This is not discretionary. Any person complaint that comes to the college, the college has a duty to consider the complaint."

Complaints must be made in writing to the College ( ) which will acknowledge it and notify the member in question. The intake officer will collect the information and forward it to the registrar, whose duty it is to decide whether to refer it to the discipline process.

If an investigation is ordered it will be handled by a preliminary investigation sub-committee, which is comprised of three members of the college board.

There are many outcomes of the process, said Kerchum, the most serious of which is a teacher loosing their right to teach.

That is one of the reasons why the process must be fair and the college must follow strict legal rules that uphold the member’s right to due process.

Also said Kerchum, complainants must realize that the process "belongs" to the college and cannot be orchestrated by the person writing the complaint.

Since the "person complaint" process was legislated the college has received 60.