Minister Expresses Thanks to Cyberbullying Task Force Members

Department of Education (to March 26, 2013)

March 27, 2012 12:43 PM

NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Education Minister Ramona Jennex.

Bullying, in all its forms, is a heartbreaking and complex problem with no easy answers.

That's why Nova Scotians owe a debt of gratitude to the members of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. Their hard work has set us on a path toward addressing many of the underlying issues that contribute to bullying.

It was an exhaustive endeavour delivered under a very tight time-line.

I want to publicly thank Wayne MacKay, members of the task force and working group for their dedication. I also want to thank the thousands of Nova Scotians who shared their stories and offered their input into the report.

Acting on the recommendations is an important part of Kids and Learning First, our plan for education. Department staff are analyzing each of the recommendations and working on an action plan.

Our approach will be collaborative. Everyone needs to understand that bullying and cyberbullying are societal problems and it will require a community response.

We will meet with partners, in and outside of government, and identify first priorities. We can get to work right away on rolling out school-based services to youth through the expansion of SchoolsPlus. We can engage students directly to create their own exciting public awareness campaigns, and we can move forward with the task force recommendations that expand mental health services to students through government's mental health strategy and Kids and Learning First. We can begin delivering on the recommendation to collect and act on the vital data the task force said we need, using our new student information system, INSchool.

At the same time, Nova Scotians need to understand that we may not be possible to act on all 85 recommendations, exactly as written. Our goal is to capture the spirit of them.

The task force recommended establishing an office of anti-bullying co-ordinator. I firmly believe we can use existing resources and expertise to fulfill the mandate of that recommendation without creating an extra layer of administration in the civil service. Nova Scotians want action on the issue -- not more administrators. I agree that someone should be appointed full-time to co-ordinate provincial and community-based anti-bullying initiatives.

The other issue that has captured some attention is the task force recommendation to ban cellphones in classrooms. Educating students about using technology responsibly is the best course, I believe. Technology is such a huge part of our lives and mobile devices are rapidly becoming valuable learning tools in the classroom. Cellphones have more technology in them now than the computers used to send a mission to the moon.

We are in the 21st century and learning has changed. Cellphones are tools. Cellphones don't cyberbully, people do. We must focus our attention on those using the technology responsibly. Schools have rules and policies around appropriate use of cellphones, and they manage them very well. Education needs to harness rather than ban such computing power for the benefit of students.

I look forward in the weeks and months ahead to work with parents, students, school boards, educators and other departments to deliver on our mandate of keeping children safe.

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Media Contact: Peter Mclaughlin
              Department of Education
              902-424-8286
              E-mail: mclaugpx@gov.ns.ca