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Canadian Teachers Put Foot Down on Cyber Bullying


An old rite of passage
finds digital transcendence

Teachers across Canada are increasingly concerned about online bullying, reports The Globe and Mail, and this week, they will try developing national policy for protecting students and educators from the tactic.

A Toronto-based gathering of the Canadian Teachers' Federation will try to tackle the elusive problem of bullying over the Internet. The Federation is comprised of over 215,000 teachers and will meet Wednesday through Saturday.

"Cyber bullying is without boundaries, it's without borders," said President Winston Carter of the Canadian Techers' Federation.

Cyber bullying can occur over e-mail, cell phones and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. After a series of school-related incidents that occurred in recent months, teachers decided it was time to address the issue head-on.

In February, 19 Toronto students were suspended complaining about their principal. And two 13-year-old girls were suspended in Quebec last November for posting a YouTube video of a teacher shouting at a student.

The teacher is now on medical leave, and the school has exiled electronic devices.

In early June Ontario passed the Safe Schools Act, which forbade students from engaging in physical or online bullying. Breach of this legislation can lead to suspension or even expulsion.

"What we write and post and do online has real implications for real people," said Bill Belsey, webmaster of cyberbullying.ca. He added that children must understand "you can't take back" what you say, even on a medium as fluid as the Internet.

"One of the things that makes cyber bullying different is the speed with which this can happen," he added.

"The bully's audience can be as wide as the Internet itself, where traditionally it might have been in a classroom or a school yard or a hockey locker room."

If a student is being cyber-bullied, Belsey advises keeping copies of each instance and telling a parent, a law enforcement officer or even their local ISP.

The Canadian education system is by no means unique in its attempts to counter new instances of cyber warfare. In the UK last month, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers requested that mobile phones be classified as "potentially offensive weapons" in schools. And in May the country of Estonia suffered a "cyber attack," presumably by Russia.

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