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Efforts to combat bullying continue



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O’Reilly will also be attending the symposium, along with another parent. She says community interest in the bullying issue has not waned, despite the fall-off in media coverage.

"People keep asking if there is anything they can do to help promote safety and teach kids about bullying and harassment," she says. "It’s nice to see a small community that cares."

A subsequent public forum and march against bullying being held in Surrey on March 11 will also include participants from Whistler. The event is being organized by Nasima Nastoh to mark the 12-month anniversary of the death of her teenage son Hamed, who jumped off Pattullo Bridge to escape incessant bullying and teasing at school. The guest speakers include Leanne Du Four from Whistler and other parents whose children have been bullied.

Ted Nebbeling, the West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA, will be attending, along with other opposition caucus members and politicians. Nebbeling says the meeting will undoubtedly yield recommendations that require legislative changes by the provincial government.

"Aside from the Whistler case, I think everybody has been shocked by that incident in Courtney where that kid filmed that fight and was ostracized for it," he says. "He exposed the bully behind that nasty act but was himself treated like the perpetrator – the situation needs to be reversed and we need systems in place to go after the bully."

Likewise Leanne Du Four says a key part of her speech will be pushing for province-wide changes to anti-bullying policies and penalties within schools and the courts.

"What we have now is a lot of guidelines for schools but implementation is not enforced," she says. "A mandatory, provincial policy against violence and harassment is needed if kids are ever to realize they are accountable for their actions."

Included in Du Four’s list of recommended changes within schools is the need for documentation of all bullying incidents, a bully relocation and counselling plan, a victim support service and a full-time trained staff member who parents and children can go to for advice. A safety drill in the event of an armed attack on students is also recommended.

Within the court system, Du Four wants to see reclassification of the term, bullying.

"The term bullying or teasing might apply at elementary school but what is happening at the high schools is harassment, assault, stalking and gang terrorism, and it should be labelled as such."

She says lumping everything under the term "bullying" reduces the significance of what is happening and re-victimizes the victim by making them appear "weak or a loser." Other recommendations include tougher sentences for young offenders, the full disclosure of juvenile offenders’ names, parent accountability and greater restrictions on violence in the media and entertainment industries.

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