The Mission School District is taking the first steps to address bullying after a series of assaults earlier in the month sparked outrage in the community. / Kevin Mills File Photo

The Mission School District is taking the first steps to address bullying after a series of assaults earlier in the month sparked outrage in the community. / Kevin Mills File Photo

Mission School District taking steps to address bullying, fallout after community outrage

Administration seeking specialists, holding forums, taking suggestions from parents

The Mission School District is taking the first steps to address bullying after a series of assaults earlier in the month sparked outrage in the community.

Following the assault of a transgender student on Jan. 11, the district sought to handle the immediate situation, said the board of education’s chair, Tracy Loffler, but are now working to address the issues on a community-wide level.

She said the board has always been unified in creating inclusive and safe environments, making the recent events “disheartening to see.”

MORE: Two students arrested

“There is a gap,” she said. “We have these programs in school, we have this education. Kids know that it’s not okay. Why is it still happening? That’s what we need to get to the bottom of.”

Superintendent Angus Wilson penned a letter to parents and the wider community on Jan. 21, setting provisional plans and assuring reviews of current practices, policies and protocols around bullying.

The administration has been offered support and guidance from many organizations, including the RCMP, the ministry of education, Safer Schools Together, Indigenous organizations, SOGI Collaborative, Out in Schools, UBC and UFV, the District of Mission, and others, Wilson said.

Wilson had meetings with different departments at UFV that focus on anti-bullying and reached out to specialist organizations, who are coming in to do support work, he said.

In the near future, a virtual forum will be held with parent representatives from every school and a panel of experts. Informally, parents are being encouraged to contact Wilson directly with ideas and suggestions.

READ: A culture of bullying

But he said it’s not as simple as expelling every student involved in a physical altercation, as some parents have suggested.

“I understand the sentiment behind that, I really do, but then what?” Wilson said. “It doesn’t get rid of violence in school by doing that.”

Saying the school district does not tolerate violence is not the same as having a zero-tolerance policy, according to Wilson. “Zero-tolerance” in educational parlance is decades old and out of date, Wilson said, adding it’s been massively misinterpreted.

For example, if a student was being verbally picked on everyday, then snapped and physically lashed out, a strict zero tolerance rule could see the victim expelled, Wilson said.

While he said the assault on Jan. 11 was “cut and dry,” but many bullying incidents are filled with nuance and complications. He said they’d rather work on finding constructive solutions for the majority of the cases.

“When a child is in Grade 2, or even Grade 8, are we really cutting them off from education and interaction with human beings?” he said.

MORE: Another student arrested

The assaults have triggered a mostly positive response from the community: Anti-bullying events are starting conversations, parents are forming groups to share experiences, and a parade of thousands of cars drove through Mission’s waterfront to show solidarity with the assaulted teen.

But the reactions have also gone to the extremes, Wilson said, such as posting the names of two middle girls accused in the bullying to social media, parents have showed up at playgrounds to yell at others, and support staff have receiving threats and accusations.

“Some of the things that they think are the solution or not the solution,” Wilson said. “The response should not be to bully others.”

Cindy Gale’s daughter, Dawn-Marie Wesley, committed suicide in Mission in 2000 after being bullied by her peers. She said people are quick to blame the education system, but the issue of bullying is often at the community level.

“We need to do this as a society. We have to look at this like a societal issue.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. amid heavy rains on the 29900 Block of the highway, near the Silverdale community. Shane MacKichan photo.
VIDEO: Late-night rollover crash on Lougheed Highway in Mission sends 2 to hospital

Jaws of Life used; patients sustained non-life threatening injuries

Photo courtesy of the Mission RCMP.
Mission RCMP request public’s assistance in search for missing man

William Joshua Bowles last seen March 4 at Haven in the Hollow shelter

Animal control in Mission, by the numbers

March 1 report to council shows steady decrease in dog licencing over the last 5 years

Missionites protest logging of old-growth forests outside MLA Pam Alexis’ office

Protests in solidarity with logging blockaders on Vancouver Island; injunction heard in court today

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read