HIP HIP Hooray – Two teenagers have been charged under Regina’s anti-bullying bylaw – something the alleged victim’s mother wants to see applied more often.
On March 2, the boys, ages 16 and 17, are alleged to have entered a washroom at a Regina high school and videotaped a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome. The older boys then allegedly shared the video with others.
Because of the ages of those involved, the identifying information is not being published. Regina police spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said the two older boys “instructed (the 14-yearold) to do a number of things” and caught him on camera when he wasn’t fully clothed. Popowich couldn’t offer more specifics, but the boy’s mother said her son was singing and dancing.
“It would be appropriate to say that even though the victim initially appeared to be participating of his own free will, he perhaps didn’t understand what was happening or what the consequences would be, meaning that it was going to be videoed and shared,” Popowich said. The principal of the school was made aware of the video, as were the three students’ parents and the school’s resource officer.
“Once it was brought to their attention, the school’s administration took the matter very seriously and acted quickly,” said Regina Public Schools spokesman Terry Lazarou.
“There is no place for this kind of behaviour in any of our schools, and our students are expected to respect each other and themselves. Beyond that we can’t comment on any disciplinary action that was taken at the school level.”
The 14-year-old’s mother said she was “horrified” when she saw the video.
“This is my child. He has special needs. He doesn’t know how to express himself properly,” she said. “I just started shaking and crying.”
She said her son had a “really rough time” at school for the first few weeks after the incident. While she doesn’t fault the school for its response, she described it as a “slap on the wrist.”
That’s why she chose to pursue the option of a charge under the city’s anti-bullying bylaw.
Enacted in 2006, the bylaw makes it an offence to “bully another person in any public place,” which includes schools, and “bully another person through written or electronic communication.”
Popowich said it was introduced “to be a meaningful sanction that doesn’t necessarily go straight to a Criminal Code charge, especially where you have young people involved and where another response might be more appropriate.”
During the past nine years, “not very many” tickets have been issued under the bylaw and there hasn’t been a successful prosecution, Popowich said.
She said police find the anti-bullying bylaw process “quite cumbersome, and we are working on smoothing that out.”
The alleged victim’s mother said there is value to pursuing the charges, despite the bylaw’s lack of success.
“I just hope this changes the future of this anti-bullying bylaw and with it being in place will eventually at least make a positive step forward so that kids do feel safer – not just knowing that it’s out there, but knowing that it’s now been used,” she said.
Penalties range from a $100 ticket with a guilty plea to a $2,000 fine. Offenders can also be required to take an anti-bullying course, which Popowich said is the preferred course of action.
By sharing her story, the mother said she also wants parents to realize that “we don’t have to sit back and let our kids just be victims,” and for children to learn that bullying “is not just fun and games anymore.”
“We need these things in place for all kids who can’t stand up for themselves,” she said of the bylaw.
Article Courtesy of The StarPhoenix by Natascia Lypny, LEADER-POST APRIL 24, 2015