The mother of a 12-year-old bullying victim in New Brunswick is sick of school officials acting like her son is the one with the problem.
Having a full-time staffer follow her son Dominic to all his classes, acting as a bodyguard, is only making his life worse, she said. Dominic’s peers torment him for being overweight, gay and just plain different.
"My son doesn’t need an attendant. My son needs to feel safe. He needs people to stop bullying him," she told QMI Agency.
Dominic, who attends L’Ecole Samuel-de-Champlain in Saint John, N.B., was appointed an attendant at his parents’ behest after spending months being home-schooled on the province’s dime.
But it’s only served to exacerbate the situation and his parents say the school board refuses to budge.
"I have asked them to back off and the school board’s response was that they are happy to keep things the way they are," Dominic’s mother said.
It’s a move that has school safety experts and anti-bullying advocates scratching their heads.
"I can’t imagine a situation where I’d want to further centre out a child who’s been bullied. It provides more opportunity for stigmatization that otherwise wouldn’t be there," said Stu Auty, president of the Canadian Safe School Network.
The school board paints a different picture.
"You must understand the school board does not assign bodyguards. I believe that was misinformation that has been circulating. We assign education assistants. Their roles are to create an intervention plan that best suits the student," board superintendent Diane Albert-Ouellette said in French.
"The school board takes very seriously the service that it gives to its students. Inevitably, with budget restraints, it is not always easy. But we do what we can to offer the best service possible because that is what our students deserve."
Albert-Ouellette wouldn’t comment on the specific case, citing privacy concerns.
"However what I would like to stress is that it is very important that we collaborate with the parents. The parents are not satisfied, it is very important that we listen as to why they are unsatisfied. We have to work together," she said.
Wendy Craig, a bullying expert from Queens University said these problems require a school-wide approach.
"My guess is that the student needs support being reintegrated into the school classroom and that is not being accomplished with the attendant," she said. "What is required is a relationship solution, a solution whereby the student is being supported in interacting with the other students."
The boy’s mother also accused the school board of treating her son like the problem instead of focusing its energies on reprimanding his bullies.
It’s gotten to the point that even changing schools wouldn’t help, she said.
"They have built a file so thick to make my son not normal, that it’s like a criminal record and it will follow him wherever he goes. I don’t have the heart to sit their and defend my son to people who don’t even know him," she said.
Auty, too, wonders where the discipline is, and warns that allowing alienated children to get angrier and angrier can turn the victim into a victimizer.
"The school has the power to stop this and it’s a matter of focusing on it, bringing the people together and ending the problem," he said. "And providing the appropriate consequences where necessary."
— with files from Charles-Antoine Gagnon