Cyber-bullying law introduced at Queen's Park
Cyber-bullying will be added to a list of behaviours that could land a student in serious trouble at Ontario schools, including being suspended or even expelled.
The changes are part of legislation being introduced into the provincial legislature on Tuesday.
"Bullying is bullying," whether it happens in the school yard or on the Internet, Premier Dalton McGuinty said, adding it still hurts.
The premier said he is proud of the move Ontario is making with the legislation, which is the first time either physical or online bullying will be formally prohibited in provincial schools.
Students who use popular social networking or other websites to bully classmates or teachers could face disciplinary action, according to Education Minister Kathleen Wynne.
The law will also have mechanisms to find cyber-bullies and bring them to justice.
Wynne said she wants to talk with students about the new regulations because adults did not grow up with Internet technology that gives potential bullies instantaneous and global reach to harass their victims.
The Canadian Safe Schools Network is supporting the legislative change. Network president Stu Auty said many teens do not know how hurtful they are being when posting negative comments about other students or teachers.
The legislation replaces Ontario's zero-tolerance policy under the old Safe Schools Act. Zero-tolerance policies had been criticized as unfairly targeting visible minority and low-income students.
Under the new bill, schools will have options to deal with troubled students and help them complete their education, according to Wynne.
"It's a stronger and more rational approach to discipline,'' she said Monday.
And the government is getting input from the tech-savvy generation that most often uses the types of websites in question.
"So I'm bring together some students from around the province, my staff are working on it right now, and we're going to start a discussion about how it actually feels to live with the kind of intrusive technology that kids live with now."
Wynne added that the legislative changes will give schools more options than simply suspending or expelling troubled students.
OPP Insp. Mark Allen agrees children need more protection against bullying.
"A student may have been bullied at school, but they could at least go home to the sanctuary of their own home," he said.
"Now, we have students who not only are afraid to go out for recess or get on a school bus, but they are afraid to go home and turn on the computer."
With a report from CTV's Paul Bliss and files from The Canadian Press