You are hereCriminalize cyberbullying, teachers' proposal urges
Criminalize cyberbullying, teachers' proposal urges
Globe & MailJuly 12, 2008Cyberbullying is so serious and harmful it should be made a criminal offence, according to a far-reaching policy that a national teachers organization is expected to endorse today.In adopting the document, the Canadian Teachers' Federation plans to urge the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to include cyberbullying, saying current laws do not provide police the tools they need to investigate online harassment.
"We feel that there's not enough teeth in the Criminal Code right now for cyberbullying," president Emily Noble said. In recent years, teachers organizations have increasingly highlighted the issue, saying both students and teachers are being targeted through e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites. The harassment, they say, negatively affects learning environments and should be viewed as a serious occupational health and safety issue.The highest-profile incident of online bullying was the case of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old Missouri girl who hanged herself in 2006 after connecting with a 16-year-old boy on MySpace. The boy, who turned out to be a neighbourhood mother in disguise, quickly turned nasty.A recent study by University of Toronto social work professor Faye Mishna found the Internet has extended bullying beyond the schoolyard by creating new tormentors. Three-quarters of online bullies would not pursue their victims offline, she found, perhaps because of a false sense of anonymity and detachment on the Internet.In an interview yesterday, Prof. Mishna said while online bullying is extremely serious, it largely happens among peer groups and is best targeted through education and intervention. Criminalizing it would not be effective, she said, except in extreme cases.The Canadian Teachers' Federation is considering the draft policy today at its annual general meeting in Moncton. The policy has already been approved by the group's board of directors and is expected to be "overwhelmingly supported" by delegates, Ms. Noble said.The policy calls for provisions in collective agreements that recognize teachers' right to work in environments free from cybermisconduct and cyberbullying. The group also wants provincial education ministries to provide "explicit protection" for teachers and students against such behaviour.As well, the policy calls for amendments to workers compensation legislation to include protection from cyberbullying.