Manitoba’s controversial anti-bullying legislation was proclaimed law on Thursday.
Bill 18, which the NDP government passed in September, came after several public hearings and petitions for and against it. The Bill allows for gay-straight alliances to be formed in schools and protects children from all forms of bullying, including online. Opponents of the legislation, particularly in faith-based schools, have said the Bill violates their religious freedoms.
“Every parent knows the impact that bullying can have on their children and their ability to learn,” Education Minister Nancy Allan said on Thursday, during an announcement at Kelvin High School. “In recent years, the face of bullying has changed so much with the spread of cellphones and social media, and parents expect action. That’s why I am proud that we have a new law in Manitoba that builds on our Safe Schools Charter to protect every child from bullying online and in the classroom.”
Bill 18 requires schools to:
- Report and act on cyberbullying incidents even if they take place outside of school or after hours
- Expand policies related to the appropriate use of the Internet in schools to include social media, text messaging and instant messaging
- Accommodate students who want to establish and lead activities and organizations that fight all forms of bullying, and accommodate any student-led groups that want to use the name gaystraight alliance or any other name consistent with the promotion of a positive school environment that is inclusive and accepting of all students
- Establish respect for human diversity policies that are consistent with the principles of the Manitoba Human Rights Code and create a safe and inclusive learning environment that is accepting of all students
The province will also hold seminars with school administrators this fall to support schools with developing diversity policies, while also providing training for teachers and other staff about bullying prevention and strategies for promoting respect for human diversity and a positive learning environment.