COLUMN: A wake-up call for all

Amanda Todd's suicide is a tragic reminder of the devastating effects of bullying.

In the wake of the Amanda Todd tragedy, campaigns against bullying are being held across the country. Politicians are responding to the heart-wrenching story and many Facebook pages have been created to remember Amanda Todd.

Though it is important to remember her and create strategies to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future, it is equally important that all of us continue to remember this incident and not forget about the issue of bullying as media attention declines in the coming weeks and months.

Quebec NDP MP Dany Morin’s anti-bullying motion to develop a bullying prevention strategy is definitely a step in the right direction, although more needs to be done to prevent bullying throughout Canada. A generic anti-bullying strategy will not solve the problems of such a diverse country.

City-wide and school-wide strategies to curtail bullying are equally important. Regional demographics dictate the type of bullying that occurs and the different strategies that need to be implemented.

For instance, in ethnic enclaves such as Surrey, it is vital we address the issues that face immigrant students – students who are often teased, even by those of the same background, but don’t know how to raise their voice against such torment.

Premier Christy Clark suggested last week that a debate be held on whether cyberbullying should be criminalized. MP Morin, on the other hand, feels that anti-bullying strategies should focus on prevention.

Although it is important that we try to prevent bullying in the first place, it is equally important to punish those who have committed acts of cyberbullying. Often times, suspensions and expulsions aren’t enough to deter bullies.

In addition to the serious political conversation that is occurring around anti-bullying strategies, the major responsibility to remove this disease of bullying from our society rests in the hands of students.

We often hear of how students should stand up and report any incidents of bullying they observe. Many times, these students are labelled as “tattletales” or “snitches” if they report an incident.

Though these labels might seem trivial or playful, they often lead to a pattern whereby students become bystanders in bullying incidents. These labels discourage them from helping their fellow students, and preventable incidents turn into tragedies.

Teachers and administrators must work to prohibit the stereotype of “tattletale” or “snitch” in their schools. Not only will such a strategy lead to more reporting of bullying incidents, but it will also help to eliminate a type of bullying in which those who report an incident are ostracized from the group.

Certainly, a smartphone reporting app being developed by the province will help in anonymous reporting.  However, schoolyard bullying still needs to be combatted. The issue of bystanders needs to be addressed, so that bullies don’t get the fuel for their hate from those in the silent majority.

The recent tragedy of Amanda Todd’s death is a wake-up call to all of us, reminding us about the seriousness of bullying and the dire effects it can have on society as a whole.

It is time to respond to this issue on every front and keep anti-bullying strategies on the top of our agenda.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.

japreet@live.ca

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