By Laura Bickle
The recent spate of teen suicides due to cyberbullying is a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Stu Auty. As the founding administrator of Brampton’s Vanier School for Young Offenders and former chair of the Ontario Safe School Task Force, he’s been an active presence in addressing bullying for more than 20 years. Now the president of the Canadian Safe School Network (CSSN), Auty takes a moment to discuss the problem with technology, the difference a dollar can make and what happens when you reunite perpetrators with their victims.
How have the issues changed since you founded the CSSN?
Whether it’s the Internet, video games, movies or television — students today are soaked in violence. It’s little wonder that many react violently in difficult situations.
What is key to dealing with school violence?
It’s multi-dimensional, however, three areas stand out. The first is principal leadership. It involves role modelling and engaging staff, as well as explaining rules, policies and regulations to students.
The second is community and parent engagement. If our children are to be truly safe we must support them in their risks and mistakes, so they can discover who they are emotionally and intellectually.
The third is early intervention and prevention programs. Economically speaking, it’s understood that $1 spent on these resources is worth $8 spent on corrective interventions as children enter into adulthood.
Any advice for teachers whose students are being bullied?
Become an engaged participant. Get to know your students, familiarize yourself with the various aspects of bullying and learn about the technologies that drive cyberspace. You’ll then be able to provide the necessary direction they require.
What role should restorative justice take in schools?
Restorative practice is a progressive disciplinary technique that has met considerable success. It brings both the perpetrator and victim together and is used alongside or independent of the traditional suspension methodology. The exercise provides accountability for the perpetrator and repairs harm done with minimal recidivism.
Tell us about your annual Safe Schools Conference in Toronto.
On February 25, experts will discuss topics that include adolescent mental health, bullying, restorative justice, legal issues, emergency and disaster planning, gender- and sexuality-based violence, and how social media can save lives. [For more info, visit bit.ly/1aEaZEW.]
Share a CSSN success story you’re particularly proud of.
Our direct involvement in the Child Development Institute’s SNAP for Schools behaviour modification program rollout was a definite highlight. It was first offered in 2009, in English and French, to over 6,000 students in the Greater Toronto Area. The National Crime Prevention Strategy funded this research project as an essential evidenced-based early intervention program.