A new issue paper from the Law Reform Commission shines the spotlight on the age-old issue of bullying and new problems with online cyberbullying.
Commission members want public input on a number of issues related to bullying as it considers ideas for new policies and legislation to combat bullying.
“The problem of bullying is complex,” commission members write. “Any intervention to address the issues should extend to all of those involved: victims, bullies, school staff, parents, the government and the broader society.”
The Commission notes, “Perhaps there is a need for a strategic and comprehensive approach that consists of both legislation and policy formulated to ultimately prevent the incidence of bullying.”
The report pointed out that there is already collaboration between the schools, police, the Family Resource Centre and nongovernmental organizations.
Acting Chief Education Officer Lyneth Monteith said in an interview Thursday, “This is not something we should be hiding. This is something we should be talking about.”
She said partnerships are an important way the schools try to take on bullying, and it requires taking several approaches at once inside the school. Students can be given detention or a suspension for bullying, Ms. Monteith said, “but that child has to come back to school.” Once back in the classroom, she said, teachers, students and parents have to work together to make sure the bullying does not continue.
“Cyberbullying is becoming an increasing issue,” she said. “Clearly, that’s an area that is difficult to police.”
Online bullying, commissioners note in their report, can have much longer impacts on children because the actions are preserved online. “Given the ability of cyberbullying conduct to spread very quickly and the fact that it can be done anonymously or through impersonation, this type of conduct has the potential to be very destructive. Perhaps even more destructive than ‘playground bullying,’” they write.
Members of the commission questioned whether the legal consequences of bullying behavior are fully understood or appreciated. “Bullying, it is submitted, prompts several legal concerns and is interlinked with a number of areas of law, such as criminal law, civil law, constitutional law, human rights law, administrative law and education law,” they said in the report.
Existing laws on bullying
The commission report notes the Cayman Islands Constitution guarantees anyone under the age of 18 “such facilities as would aid their growth and development and to ensure that every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment or abuse and that the child’s best interests are paramount.”
The Education Law, commissioners write, could cause problems for parents who are concerned about the bullying of a child.
They state, “We question whether a parent would run afoul of the law if he removes his child from school because of his dissatisfaction with how the issue of bullying is being dealt with by the authorities.”
They note that if a parent pulls their child from school because of bullying, they could be breaking the law.
Provisions in the 2012 Children Law, commissioners write, “seem to place the government under an obligation to ensure that bullying, which falls within the realm of abuse, is dealt with in the interests of that child and also to ensure that the bully himself receives the appropriate intervention to address the behavior.”
The Commission presents more than 30 questions for public input about possible legislation to directly address bullying. Among the questions asked are if bullying should be treated as a criminal offense; how bullying should be defined legally; and whether new legislation is necessary.
The commission’s report is available on its website at www.lrc.gov.ky and the public can submit written comments until May 2.