#PinkShirtDay: Evaluating bullying legislation

bullying, Pink Shirt Day, antibullying, cyber bullying, anti-bullying research, Queen's University, PREVNet, Dr. Wendy Craig, Linnea Kalchos, education

Linnea Kalchos (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Bullying rates in Canada are among the highest of Western countries—a statistic confirmed by the work of tireless researchers who have devoted themselves to understanding the bullying and victimization faced by Canadian children. One of these researchers, my supervisor, Dr. Wendy Craig, is the co-scientific director of PREVNet (Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network) and a professor of psychology at Queen’s University. Through the collaborative efforts of PREVNet’s researchers and partners, we now have a national authority on research and resources for bullying prevention.

Bullying negatively affects the health of thousands of Canadian children. It leads to poorer physical and mental health, such as depression, anxiety, headaches, and stomachaches. The bullied are also at greater risk of suicide and more likely to use drugs, alcohol, and engage in criminal activity. Canada has taken steps to protect its children through legislation, most of which was passed in 2012, mandating safe schools and deterring bullying and cyberbullying behaviours. Most recently, policies implemented refer to promoting safe schools, with a focus on defining and reporting bullying, and emphasizing the importance of a safe, caring, and supportive school climate.

Under the Queen’s Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowship program, and the guidance of Dr. Craig and PREVNet, I conducted a research project that examined the relationship between the rates of bullying and victimization and how evidence-based the legislation is in Canada and across the United States. The study coded provincial and territorial bullying and safe schools legislation, as well as American policies, and analyzed the quantity of evidence-based policy items in comparison to bullying and victimization outcomes in each region. The study utilized the 2014 Health Behaviours in School-Aged Children survey (HBSC). Students in Grades 6 to 10 across Canada participated in the survey and answered questions about their experiences with cyberbullying and cyber victimization, and their opinions of their school to get a measure of school climate.

The study found that Canadian bullying legislation and policies generally contain more evidence-based policy components than those of the United States. Additionally, Canadian legislation and policies place a greater emphasis on modelling behaviours, stakeholder involvement within schools, school climate, and policy review. We also found a negative relationship between the number of evidence-based policy items in Canadian legislation and the prevalence of bullying and victimization within that province or territory, suggesting that as the quantity of evidence-based elements in the policy increases, bullying, victimization, and cyber victimization decreases.

This is an exciting opportunity for Canada to reflect on both the successes and next steps needed in our bullying legislation so students can feel safe in their school communities and staff can continue to help students build positive relationships. Bullying and victimization are significant problems children face daily and evidence-based policies will directly improve the lives of Canadian students. It is only through a collaborative effort between researchers like those in PREVNet’s network and policy makers that we can create a future without bullying in Canadian schools.

Linnea Kalchos is a fourth-year concurrent education student at Queen’s University. She completed a summer undergraduate student research fellowship with PREVNet in Dr. Wendy Craig’s lab.


Tagged: Building Community, Health & Wellbeing

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