It took a broken hand, a concussion and a couple of questionable suspensions for students and parents in the Sea to Sky school district to demand that authorities take a hard look at their anti-bullying policies.
School District No. 48 (SD 48) is being officially asked to take a more aggressive stance against pupils that use violence and intimidation to bully their peers. High school students at Don Ross Secondary and Howe Sound Secondary in Squamish have signed a petition demanding that the district pull up its bootstraps by addressing pervasive bullying issues at elementary and secondary schools in the region.
The petition was started by Grade 10 student Keira Evans, who attends Don Ross Secondary. Though an online version of the petition was launched on Monday, Oct. 18 at http://www.thepetitionsite.com , the paper version circulating in classrooms collected 236 signatures at Don Ross Secondary and more than 50 at Howe Sound Secondary over the past week.
"I decided to start the petition because bullying is a big problem in the schools in Squamish and not enough is being done by the school board to prevent it," said 13-year-old Evans in an e-mail interview with Pique Newsmagazine. "It seems that bullying is not important to teachers or the school district. What is being done right now only promotes bullying by letting bullies know that they will get away with it and letting the victims know that if they defend themselves they will be punished more than the bullies."
The most recent and highly publicized bullying incident at Don Ross left 14-year-old Austin Aldridge in hospital with a broken hand and concussion after he was allegedly forced to fight another student. He received a three-day suspension for participating in the brawl, though his mother had alerted school authorities about plans for the fight a week prior to it taking place. The scrap, coupled with years of alleged verbal threats and physical violence dished out by the same group of hectors, put a number of parents, including Bianca Peters and Austin's mother, Zoe Aldridge, on the offensive.
The pair has been vocally advocating for stronger anti-bullying measures to be adopted by SD 48. They recently started circulating a petition of their own to gage support for a series of strengthening measures to the school district's code of conduct. Their goal is to ensure protection for students who are faced with threatening, physical and sexual assault both on and off school property. Included in the amendment is a rider that states any student over the age of 12 who threatens or physically assaults a peer will be immediately turned over to the police for investigation. They will present the petition, and their proposed amendments to the code at a SD 48 meeting on Nov. 10.