Amanda Todd’s death is forcing the Alberta government to re-focus on a piece of shelved legislation from the spring sitting – the Education Act.
The act, which went nowhere when presented earlier this year, will hopefully be back before the legislature this fall, packed with all the full anti-bullying power it intended originally, making it the toughest anti-bullying measure in Canada, Education Minister Jeff Johnson tells the Calgary Herald.
The act sets out to define the epidemic and lays out the responsibility of all involved, while describing what students can expect when it comes to bullying and what can be done to address the problem head on, Alberta Education Spokesperson Kim Capstick told 660 News.
"The current situation that we face is maybe a wake-up call that we need to stay on top of this, keep moving forward and continue to talk to kids about it," 660 News reported Capstick as saying.
"There is a requirement for school boards and schools to have codes of conduct in place to outline expectations of bullying and outline what happens when someone is bullied on school property.”
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Johnson, who aims to re-introduce Bill 2 in the legislature when MLAs return this fall, told the Herald he would like to see the motion mostly unchanged from its original incarnation.
When the new Education Act was brought before MLAs last February, then education minister Thomas Lukaszuk told CBC he wanted “to make sure that in the province of Alberta we have a uniform code of conduct clearly spelling out what is and what isn't allowable in schools relative to students' behaviour.”
"That will include verbal abuse, physical abuse, homophobic abuse, cyberspace abuse and the list goes on and on."
The problem of bullying, particularly cyber bullying, was nailed to the fore of the collective Canadian psyche last week when B.C. teen Amanda Todd killed herself, mere weeks after posting a nine-minute cry for help on YouTube.
The heart-breaking video shows Todd telling her gut-wrenching story of how one moment of indiscretion led to years of bullying, both physical and online, and how the never-ending abuse led to changing schools, changing towns, drugs, depression and suicide attempts.
The torment took its toll and Todd finally took her life last Wednesday. But the 15-year-old ending her life didn’t end the bullying.
Offensive and crude comments leveled against the teen continue to appear on the Internet, particularly on Todd’s memorial page.
The proposed Alberta Education Act was shelved following discourse among home schooling parents, who charged the act would infringe on their rights, and was finally spiked when the writ was dropped prior to the provincial election, Metro reported at the time.
Over the last few years, as school yard bullying became augmented by cyber bullying, Alberta schools have had to implement cyber citizenship initiatives and introduce empathy into the curriculum in order to address the epidemic.
“It used to be when we went to school that if you had problems at school you could go home and get away from your peers, or people that were bothering you,” Erin Woods School principal Lori Cullen told the Herald.
“Nowadays, you can’t get away. Twenty-four hours a day people have access to you through your cellphone or the Internet.”