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Adults face bullying in schools

Exchanges common among staff, parents

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Manitoba's efforts to stamp out bullying in schools are overshadowing another troubling and emerging issue in the education system -- adults bullying adults.

Within parent councils and in exchanges between parents and teachers and administrators and parents, people in the education system are noting an increasing level of hostility -- and bullying.

"I just think the way that society is set up right now... everybody is in everyone's face," said Judith Cameron, president of the Manitoba Association of Parent Councils (MAPC). "It's just this adversarial kind of tone to conversations. And, of course, everyone is right."

She said she knows of instances where parents have bullied parents; parents have bullied teachers and administrators; and teachers and administrators have targeted parents.

Often, children witness these exchanges between adults and replicate the bullying behaviour, said Cameron, who has raised the issue of adult bullying in the school system with Education Minister Nancy Allan.

The problem -- or increased awareness of it -- has reached the stage it became the subject of a workshop sponsored by MAPC in November. The group is contemplating another forum on the issue this fall.

The matter will also be raised this weekend at the Manitoba Association of School Boards annual meeting, where an official from Safe Schools Manitoba will conduct a workshop on respectful communication between trustees, administrators, principals, teachers and students.

Cameron said adult bullying can take many forms, from confrontations between parents and school officials, to the alienation of certain parents and online browbeating and intimidation.

"I've been harassed by adult bullies as the president of MAPC," Cameron said. "I've had people go on my Facebook page, comment on a post I made about my daughter and send a complaint letter to the minister of education on it."

Allan, who was at Pinkham Community School on Thursday to announce more supports to help parents deal with child bullying, acknowledged adult bullying exists within the education system.

"We don't believe it's widespread, but we know there are situations like that," the minister said, adding she hopes a respectful environment can be created for both students and adults.

Dr. Mary Hall, an expert on bullying and bully prevention who will be conducting the workshop at the school boards association convention in Winnipeg this weekend, said it's only in recent years society has started to acknowledge adult bullying occurs.

"I've talked to people in business and all kinds of workplaces, and almost everyone has a story of someone in their workplace who's a bully," she said Thursday.

All adults need to be positive role models, she said. "If we want children to be caring and respectful to one another, then we have to do the same."

Paul Olson, president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society, said 94 per cent of teachers reported dealing with angry, abusive or bullying parents at some point in their careers.

Olson said one of the good things about the debate over Bill 18, the province's anti-bullying bill, is it focuses public attention to the issue of bullying. "There's a lot of emotion and drama, but it is a really healthy conversation."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 A3

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