FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government introduced several comprehensive, multi-faceted initiatives today to address bullying in schools.

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Jody Carr introduced amendments today to the Education Act that place greater emphasis on prevention, reporting, investigating and taking action when bullying occurs in schools.

The amendments define bullying as a serious misconduct, which include those incidents that happen outside of school hours and off school property to the extent they affect the school climate; mandating annual reporting by the minister and district education councils; establish clearly defined discipline and intervention protocols; and enhance the roles and responsibilities for principals, educators, parents, students and parent school support committees.

Principals would be mandated to report all incidences of bullying to the superintendent; they would be obligated to develop and implement a school-based positive learning and working environment plan in collaboration with students, teachers and parent school support committees.

"This legislation will increase the shared responsibility at all levels of the school system," said Carr. "It would also mean schools will have a consistent approach for how to handle bullying."

In addition to the legislative amendments, the minister announced further action that the department will undertake, including the naming of two provincial anti-bullying co-ordinators and the creation of an annual Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week.

The two provincial anti-bullying co-ordinators, one for each linguistic sector, will be hired to oversee and co-ordinate bullying prevention and awareness across schools and districts, and they will ensure the new discipline and intervention protocols are in place and closely monitored.

These initiatives reflect feedback from the Ministerial Advisory Committee on a Positive Learning and Working Environment.

Once the committee submits its final recommendations, the department will release further actions that will complement today's announcement.

"Solving the problem of bullying requires a multi-faceted solution where everyone works together," said Carr. "The provincial government supports anti-bullying initiatives at all levels of the school system by working with districts, schools, principals, educators, students, parents and communities on a multi-phased approach to create safe and healthy learning and working environments."