Anti-bullying initiative shown

An anti-bullying initiative which began in Summerland has gained national attention.

An anti-bullying initiative which began in Summerland has gained national attention.

Trevor Knowlton and Hal Roberts of Stop A Bully were in Ottawa at the end of April to present information on their program to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.

Knowlton, the president of Stop A Bully and a teacher at Summerland Secondary School, started the initiative in May, 2009 after he received an anonymous e-mail from a student about a bullying video.

The student sent the e-mail because a video of an assault at the school grounds was being circulated on Facebook.

Knowlton launched the online bullying reporting program four days later.

The site, at stopabully.ca, allows students, parents and others the ability to safely report incidents of bullying and cyber-bullying to school officials.

The site now receives complaints of bullying in all parts of Canada.

“Since launching Stop A Bully three years ago, I have learned more than I ever wanted to about the pain and suffering that is being caused by youth bullying,” Knowlton told the senate committee. “Over these years I have also heard the sheer desperation from parents who are trying to protect their children and their message since the beginning has been loud and clear — more needs to be done to stop this.”

He said the number of incidents of bullying tends to peak among Grade 7 and 8 students, dropping off in high school.

While there is much awareness of the problems of bullying, Knowlton said cyber-bulling is becoming a growing problem.

Cyber-bulling involves posting degrading information or spreading rumours online. In some cases, another student has gained access to a student’s Facebook account while in other cases, derogatory comments are posted elsewhere.

Because of the global nature of the Internet, the damage to a student’s reputation can be far-reaching.

While 61 per cent of bullying incidents among students are perpetrated by male students, 68 per cent of cyber-bullying reports have started from female students, Knowlton said.

He added that because of the website, one principal received complaints of online bullying at 4 p.m. on a Friday. By 10 a.m. the following day, the problem had been addressed and the offending content had been shut down.

“By default, schools are the only structures in our society which are able to deal with cyber-bullying,” Knowlton said. “Quite often it is the same bullying that’s going on during the day.”

Following the presentation to the senate committee, Knowlton and Roberts had a private meeting with Sen. Nancy Greene. Knowlton said Greene was excited about the initiative and has written a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking for support of the program.

With corporate backing, Knowlton said the Stop A Bully initiative can become more effective.