Expert says despite Pink Shirt Day, bullying rates still high in Canada

Expert says despite Pink Shirt Day, bullying rates still high in Canada

WATCH: On B.C.’s 11th Pink Shirt Day a UVic psychologist says bullying rates are the same today as a decade ago. April Lawrence reports.

Wearing their brightest pink, students from Reynolds Secondary sang a powerful song about acceptance on the steps of the B.C. Legislature on 11th annual Pink Shirt Day.

The focus this year is cyberbullying, something grade 12 slam poet Victoria Croden is passionate about.

“I see it on Instagram, on Facebook almost on every social media account because people are anonymous, they have the opportunity to say it behind a screen and not say it up front,” she said.

But while the province focuses on anti-bullying each year on this day, one expert says it’s not enough.

“The rates of bullying haven’t changed,” said UVic Psychologist Bonnie Leadbeater.

Leadbeater says a Unicef report ranks Canada among the worst of developed countries for rates of bullying.

“We’re a culture that in contrast to some of those countries who are doing better don’t have a national strategy, we have a day a year that may or may not help,” she said.

She says without a government prevention plan, it’s often up to individual schools to create anti-bullying programs.

At Monterey Middle School Wednesday the Youth Creating Inclusion Club planned a Pink Shirt Day assembly.

“About bullying and LGBTQ problems and solutions and how you can fix it,” said student Jessie Hutcheson.

And while the students and teachers admit bullying is still very much an issue, especially online, Principal Ken Andrews says he has seen things change in his 18 years in education.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that things have gotten better, I see kids who are way more socially aware, way more inclusive,” he said.

Education Minister Rob Fleming announced Wednesday the government will invest $100,000 this year for social media education sessions for parents called Raising Digitally Responsible Youth. It will be offered to parents in every school district in B.C. through Parent Advisory Councils.

“I think today’s announcement is about doing more and working more closely with parent organizations so they can be aware of some of the perils of social media and how cyber bullying can be targeting their kid and they may not even be aware of it,” said Fleming.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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