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This article was published 26/12/2010 (3783 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A relieved Winnipeg mother says she's satisfied the St. James-Assiniboia School Division is putting an end to the bullying her nine-year-old son has suffered.
The matter is complicated because the alleged older bully is a foster child and a ward of Child and Family Services. At least, the mother says the bully is a foster child -- neither the division nor Manitoba Family Services would discuss the case.
Nor is it clear if anyone violated provincial confidentiality rules in mediating the elementary school dispute.
The mother said the alleged bully began picking on her son, who is both a year and a grade younger, shortly after arriving at the school midway through the fall. She went to the principal, who told her: "He came to us through the system," the mother said. "I assumed it was CFS."
She called the boy a foster child and ward of CFS, and says the principal didn't contradict her.
Meanwhile, her son's teacher told the children they had to reach out to the boy, even though he was a bully, said the mother. The teacher told the class that the bully is hurting in the heart.
"He's a very violent child. I don't like the message they're sending the children," said the mother.
Even after the older boy had been suspended, she said, he made her son's evening at a community centre event miserable: "He followed my son for two hours, tapping his head, slapping his face, saying 'Do you like that?' "
Subsequently, the mother said, she spoke to the boy's social worker: "The principal gave me her number and urged me to express my concern."
He said her complaints could help get more help for the boy, she added.
Thursday, the mother met with a superintendent, the foster parents and the social worker.
She said she's happy with the outcome, though not thrilled the process took so long. "We discussed solutions to the problem, mediation between myself and the (foster) parents," she said. "He is in school and under full supervision" by a full-time teacher's aide.
St. James-Assiniboia superintendent Ron Weston would not discuss the case but said it's not ususlaly shared when a child is in foster care.
The teacher may not even be told, Weston said.
"There's probably a need-to-know basis at the division level. There's a team, student services," to work with a child, if necessary, he said, though foster kids usually just move into the classroom and become part of the group.
Weston said foster children usually attend the school nearest to their foster home, so they automatically qualify to attend that school.
A provincial official said everyone involved in placing a foster child in a school is bound by confidentiality provisions: "As the guardian of a child in care, the social worker would work with the school and the child to ensure issues or concerns are addressed. This can be done without providing information about the child's legal status."
What the law says
Manitoba Family Services says a child in care would attend the school nearest the foster home, unless it's in his best interest to stay at his previous school. Here are some other procedures:
-- The guardian agency of a child in care is responsible for registering children in care in school, therefore the school would be made aware through this process. Depending on the needs of the child the agency may deem it appropriate to share further information about the child in accordance with confidentiality provisions in the CFS Act.
-- School personnel are bound by confidentiality provisions of the Act. As the guardian of a child in care, the social worker would work with the school to ensure concerns are addressed. This can be done without providing information about the child's legal status.