Bullying and violence should never be tolerated. Students have a right to get help if they are the victim of bullying or violence at school. There can also be serious consequences for those doing the bullying.
For Quebec schools, the law defines bullying as including these elements:
- repeated actions or words
- the behaviour excludes or hurts the victim and makes the victim feel powerless
- the bully has power over the victim
Behaviour that includes these elements is bullying even if the bully does not intend to cause harm.
Behaviour can be bullying even if the victim is not present. For example a bully could say hurtful things about the victim to someone else, and the victim could find out about it later. Bullying can also take place over the Internet. It’s called cyberbullying.
Violence is the use of force against someone. Unlike bullying, violence is always intentional. It can be
- verbal or written,
- psychological, or
Violence can be used against people or their property.
Just like bullying, violence hurts victims and makes them feel powerless. This is why Quebec schools must have a plan to take steps against violence and bullying.
The School Must Act
The law requires every school to have a plan that includes steps to prevent and stop bullying and violence. The plan must include these things:
- steps to prevent bullying
- a procedure for reporting cases of bullying
- measures to make sure complaints remain confidential
- the action to be taken against bullies when bullying is reported by a student, teacher, friend, etc.
- ways to support victims or witnesses of bullying or violence
The plan must be sent to the parents. Students must be given training on bullying and told what action will be taken against bullies.
School Employees Have a Duty to Act
School employees must protect students from violence and bullying.
Public school principals must receive complaints of bullying and violence and then let the parents know.
In a private school, a member of the board of governors must promptly tell the parents when bullying or violence is reported and explain what action will be taken.
Consequences for Bullies
The school’s plan against bullying and violence must also include the action to be taken against students who are bullies or are violent. The action depends on how serious the behaviour is. It can include detention, a letter of apology, suspension and even being expelled from the school.
Important! Serious acts of bullying or violence can be crimes. In these cases, the police will get involved.
Complaints Against a School’s Decision
Students can file a complaint if they feel that their rights have not been respected. For example, students could complain that an action was taken against them before they had a chance to explain, or that the school didn’t act fast enough to stop the bullying.
How to make a complaint depends on whether the student goes to a public school or a private school.
- Public schools: Make a complaint to the school board. If you’re not satisfied with what the school board does, contact the school board’s Student Ombudsman.
- Private schools: Make a complaint to the school’s board of governors. If you’re not satisfied with the action taken by the board of governors, you can file a complaint with the private education section of the ministry of education, called the Direction de l’enseignement privé (Web page in French only).
Students being bullied can talk to their parents, friends, teachers and school support staff. Once school employees are aware of a situation, they have a duty to help.
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.