EditorialThe Toronto Star
Date Published: Saturday, April 21, 2012
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An important law to curb bullying in Ontario schools was drafted in the aftermath of the tragic suicides of 15-year-old Jamie Hubley and 11-year-old Mitchell Wilson. But now students across the province are in danger of being denied new and necessary protections because Tim Hudak’s Progressive Conservatives are using procedural tactics to block debate at Queen’s Park.
The Tories are delaying all legislative business to protest the government’s handling of the ORNGE air ambulance scandal. There are better ways to express displeasure with the Liberals than this. Legislation that could help children feel safe at school should not be held up with political games.
The days when schoolyard bullying was considered an unfortunate rite of childhood are long over. Bullying is a cruel practice that has far-reaching consequences for the victims and even for the bullies themselves. Opposition MPPs should put the needs of kids ahead of their desire to embarrass the government.
That this particular bill is being held up by the Tories is all the more ridiculous given that they are among the staunchest believers in the need for tougher legislation to protect children from school bullies and force schools to take parents’ concerns more seriously.
If ever there were a law that deserved to pass quickly and in a non-partisan manner, it’s this one. Who’s in favour of bullying children? When politicians can’t find a way to work together on a no-brainer issue, it adds to the public’s already alarmingly high cynicism about the political process.
The day after the Liberals introduced their legislation, Tory MPP Elizabeth Witmer — who has long done good work on this issue — put forward an anti-bullying private member’s bill of her own. The government bill provides for tougher, progressive consequences up to expulsion for bullies, clear expectations for school officials to take all bullying seriously, and more supports for students. Witmer’s bill, among other things, calls for a clearly defined reporting and investigating process for schools, public posting of board statistics on bullying, and enhanced remedial programs for bullies.
Together they’ve got most bases covered. Both fail to do enough to force Catholic school boards to allow students to set up truly supportive gay clubs.
The way forward is clear. Education Minister Laurel Broten has offered to include more than half of Witmer’s bill in an amended government bill. That overture came later than it should have, but it’s out there now. Witmer needs to convince her party to take up the offer and stop delaying debate. That’s the only way an anti-bullying law can be passed in time to protect students this fall.
Repeated and ruthless bullying has made school a misery for too many kids and for far too long. It’s time for the opposition to do the right thing, with Jamie and Mitchell in mind.
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)