Pierre is a Grade 7 student in a French-language school. Every day, he and his classmates share a school bus with students from the English-language school. The Anglophone students outnumber the Francophone students by a ratio of about three to one, since Francophones are in the minority in this community.
Pierre and his classmates generally sit together out of solidarity and for mutual protection. This is because they have been subjected to bullying every day since the beginning of the school year. The Anglophone students hurl derogatory slurs about Francophones at the small group of Francophone students huddled at the back of the bus. Sometimes, Pierre and his friends feel that they would like to retaliate, but they are fewer in number, and anyways they don’t know any derogatory slurs against Anglophones.
Pierre has always been very proud of his French heritage and language. He has always studied in French-language schools and even went to a French-language daycare centre. But somehow, when he hears the ugly words and sees the derisive expressions on the faces of the Anglophone students, he feels instantly small and stupid. He and his friends don’t talk about it; they just sit silently waiting to get off the bus.
One day, the two schools held a joint, bilingual event, celebrating an important historical day in their community’s history. As the students piled into the venue – a local hall and meeting place - Pierre’s teacher noticed that he and a few of his classmates became very quiet and seemed anxious. Normally a high-spirited and energetic group, they murmured quietly to each other and hung back, glancing about nervously. The Anglophone students arrived and took their seats, and the event took place without any incidents of note, but Pierre’s teacher made a mental note to approach Pierre and his friends and ask them about what he had observed.
As a result of her follow-up inquiries, Pierre’s teacher succeeded in learning about the daily incidents on the school bus. She spoke with the school principal, who contacted the principal of the other school. The two schools realized they needed to develop a whole school bullying prevention strategy, with special emphasis on protocols for the school bus, and sensitization about the importance and achievements of the local and provincial Franco-Ontarian communities.