Enough is Enough! Ometz stands up to bullying

Photo: Agence Ometz

by Carol Liverman, Clinical SupervisorAgence Ometz
and Barbara Victor, Clinical Director, Agence Ometz

Bullying has had an increasingly high profile in recent years as people have come to understand how deeply it can wound children and how tragic the consequences can sometimes be.

Bullying is defined as “willful, repeated aggressive behaviour with negative intent, used by a child to maintain power over another child.” While the definition hasn’t changed, the practices certainly have. With the rise of social media and smart phones, bullying has evolved, becoming a far more complex, far-reaching issue. It often allows perpetrators to remain anonymous while distributing damaging messages/pictures to a widespread audience, thereby increasing the amount of “witnesses”. Where a child used to be able to find escape at the end of the school day, bullying and harassment can now follow a victim to his/her home. It has become unrelenting and pervasive, a sad reality facing far too many young people.

Quebec Government and Ometz take a stand

Last June, as a response to the issues of bullying and violence, the Quebec government passed a bill named Law 56. It is designed to make school boards and school administrations responsible for setting up a comprehensive plan to prevent and deal with bullying and violence. This includes analyzing the present culture and climate of bullying in their schools and then using the results to form their “Plan of Action”. Establishing policy, rules of conduct, and preventative and disciplinary measures is the first step in the process. Implementing systems for recording and submitting reports of bullying, and setting out processes for support and supervision to all concerned in any incident of bullying make up the remaining components of the plan.

Ometz, a constituent agency of Federation CJA, offers a complete range of social services in the Montreal Jewish community. We have been on the front lines of the bullying issue, conducting classroom interventions/discussions to both Jewish and non-Jewish schools, organizing after-school social programs, and providing training and workshops to parents, students, teachers, and administrators.


Schools Ometz partners with to address bullying

With the introduction of Law 56, Ometz’s role in curtailing bullying has increased dramatically. We are now called upon and have provided services to over 50 schools in the greater Montreal area. In participation with schools, Ometz has been conducting standardized assessments of bullying culture, following up with an effective, customized plan of action, and bringing in the proper specialists to help put their proposed interventions into practice. Our recommendations emphasize a “whole school” policy, encouraging everyone’s collaboration in creating a “culture and climate” in schools where bullying behaviours are unacceptable.

The tool-kit

In addition to our increased role in the Montreal school system, Ometz has joined forces with Le Foundation Jasmin Roy, Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), and the Consulate General of the United States in Montreal, to produce a comprehensive tool-kit to be used as a primary measure in educating schools about bullying and the best practices to prevent it. The tool-kit will include a DVD, benefitting from the expertise of many renowned specialists in the field, some of whom contributed to the 2011 documentary film “Bully”. Click here for more info on the took-kit.

Future outlook

The goal is, ostensibly, to decrease the incidence of bullying and violence. However, the greater goal is to focus on new opportunities to develop relationships in our communities that foster respect and tolerance. An early step in achieving this is moving past the typical perception of seeing the “school’ as a mere educational institution, when in fact, it really acts as a complex social system.

While we are certainly on the right path, it must be noted that change takes time. With Law 56, we have been able to introduce many more pro-active measures, the benefits of which we will only be able to fully realize in the future. Bullying is a “relationship” problem that requires a “relationship” solution with the participation of not just schools, but the entire community, engaging all stakeholders involved and working together towards a permanent solution.

For more information and resources on bullying, please visit the Ometz website.

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