All schools in Ontario have developed policies and procedures related to prevention and intervention in situations of bullying and inequity. Furthermore, within each school and school board, there is a logical chain of communication to follow when trying to resolve a problem. This is comprised of a series of people in specific positions to contact in sequential steps within an established hierarchy.
Schools can vary, particularly between the elementary and secondary levels, but each school has established systems and procedures to facilitate communication. Generally, beginning with the school staff members who have the closest relationship with the student (often teachers) is most effective. Follow up with principals is necessary and legally mandated in bullying situations. Communication with school board staff should only occur after all the appropriate steps have been taken within the school.
For many parents and caregivers, schools represent intimidating and forbidding institutions. They keep their distance since they don’t know the first step to initiate contact. Others may jump up the hierarchy very quickly, skipping steps and levels along the way. For example, they may contact the principal directly before contacting the teacher, who is most likely to know about the situation. At both the elementary or secondary school levels, a parent or caregiver may start out wanting to speak to the school board superintendant.
In some instances, a parent or caregiver may approach the School Council seeking support to resolve a bullying situation. Their needs may not be met since school councils generally focus on broader planning and action, rather than specific situations. Other parents or caregivers may be seeking a forum to raise a whole school issue and not be aware that the school council can play this role.
Equipping parents and caregivers with information about the school’s structure, communication systems and procedures for intervention helps to strengthen the connection between home and school. Particularly at the secondary level, where parents and caregivers often stay in the background, such information can help them to assess when and how to take action should their child become embroiled in a difficult situation such as bullying.