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District School Board of Niagara
Policy School Operations

G-29 Safe and Accepting Schools: Bullying Prevention and Intervention

Date May 2023
Review May 2028


The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) believes that a safe, inclusive, and accepting learning environment that promotes healthy relationships and behaviors is essential for student success and well-being. A whole-school approach to an inclusive school culture based on caring and respectful relationships among and between students, teachers, other school staff, parents, and school administrators is a necessary supporting condition for learning.

The DSBN recognizes that:

  • bullying adversely affects a student’s well-being and ability to learn;
  • bullying adversely affects the school climate, including healthy relationships; and
  • bullying, including cyber-bullying, is a serious issue and is not acceptable in the school environment (including virtual), in a school-related activity, or in any other circumstances that will have an impact on the school climate.

Definition of Bullying

In the Education Act, ““bullying”” is defined as aggressive and typically repeated behaviour by a student where,

  1. the behaviour is intended by the student to have the effect of, or the student ought to know that the behaviour would be likely to have the effect of,
    1. causing harm, fear, or distress to another individual, including physical, psychological, social or academic harm, harm to the individual’s reputation or harm to the individual’s property,
    2. creating a negative environment at a school for another individual
    3. AND

  2. the behaviour occurs in a context where there is a real or perceived power imbalance between the student and the individual based on factors such as size, strength, age, intelligence, peer group power, economic status, social status, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, family circumstances, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, disability or the receipt of special education.

This definition includes the use of any physical, verbal, electronic, written, or other means. It also includes electronic means (commonly known as cyber-bullying), including,

  1. creating a web page or a blog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person;
  2. impersonating another person as the author of content or messages posted on the internet; and
  3. communicating material electronically to more than one individual or posting material on a website that may be accessed by one or more individuals.


Cyber-bullying is the act of engaging in bullying behaviors through electronic means such as social media platforms, email, text or direct messaging, digital gaming and/or communication applications.

Examples of cyber-bullying may include:

  • sending or sharing hateful, insulting, offensive, and/or intimidating electronic communication or images via text messages, emails, direct messages
  • revealing information considered to be personal, private, and sensitive without consent
  • making and/or engaging, and/or participating in fake accounts on social networking sites to impersonate, humiliate and/or exclude others
  • excluding or disrupting access to, a student on purpose from online chat groups, access to accounts and during digital gaming sessions

Increasing the use of digital platforms enhances the threat of cyber-bullying as well as other safety risks.

Bullying, including cyber-bullying, may intersect with other forms of sexual exploitation including, but not limited to, sextortion and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. Traffickers and other sexual predators are increasingly using fake accounts to pose as acquaintances or friends of children and youth to lure, groom and recruit them into engaging in sexual acts or services. Children and youth who experience bullying are at increased risk for being sex trafficked. (See PPM No. 166, “Keeping students safe: policy framework for school board anti-sex trafficking protocols.”) .

Identity-based bullying

Identity-based or bias-based bullying refers to any form of bullying related to an individual’s social identity/ies (actual or perceived) or minority status, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, cultural practices, ability/disability, gender, or sexual orientation. This form of bullying is characterized by:

  1. the targeting of an individual due to an aspect of their social identity, and/or by content of bullying that focuses on identity characteristics;
  2. a reflection of negative attitudes towards an entire group, as opposed to only a single individual;
  3. the perpetration of physical, verbal, social, and/or psychological harm that is rooted in discrimination and racism.

Sexual harassment and sexual bullying

Sexual harassment is a form of bullying or harassment that involves unwelcome and unwanted attention, both physical and verbal. Also described as sexual bullying, sexual harassment refers to bullying or harassment that is sexualized in nature, related to sexuality, and/or related to gender expression or identity. It can have the effect of hurting a person’s dignity and making them feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

Engaging and Notifying Parents and Families

Parents play a critical role in the lives of students. It is vital that all those involved in schools are confident with the measures in place to protect students from harm.

This policy and its accompanying DSBN Bullying Intervention and Prevention Plan provides information on who to contact, as well as additional resources on bullying prevention. Parents should contact the school to report incidents of bullying.

Following a serious incident of bullying, including cyber-bullying, the school administrator will notify parents of the involved students, except in certain circumstances, and will invite parents to discuss supports for their children. Requirements for notifying parents are outlined in PPM 145.

Prevention and Awareness Strategies

The DSBN utilizes several evidence-based strategies in bullying awareness and prevention aimed at all students. These include establishing and enforcing school rules, as well as promoting safe and healthy relationships through curricula and school activities.

Expectations for appropriate behaviour are set out in Policy G-08: DSBN Code of Conduct for Schools, which is based on PPM 128. All DSBN schools have a link to Policy G-08 on their school website.

Students and staff are provided with resources and strategies for recognizing the various forms of bullying and the actions that can be taken by those witnessing the behaviour, as well as those for promoting the development of skills for healthy relationships.. Classroom instruction and school-wide activities include social-emotional (SEL) curricula, as well as learning grounded in the principles of equity and inclusion.. Resources and special activities are also highlighted on DSBN Recognition Days/Weeks (e.g., Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week, Wear Anything Pink Day, and Mental Health Week).

Equity and Inclusion

The DSBN respects and upholds the importance of equity, inclusion, dignity, and human rights in all learning and working environments so individuals from all social realities and lived experiences are valued. The DSBN aims to support each individual learner in a way that promotes their inclusion and full participation in learning. The principles of equity and inclusion are embedded in the learning environment to foster a positive school climate and a culture of mutual respect.

Culturally Responsive Approach to Bullying Prevention and Intervention

The DSBN advances a whole-school approach to bullying prevention and intervention that is guided by a framework of Culturally Responsive and Relevant Pedagogy (CRRP). A culturally responsive approach to establishing a positive school climate ensures that all student identities and cultures, along with those of the wider school community, are affirmed and validated. A CRRP approach to bullying prevention and intervention encompasses the following areas: classroom instruction and climate; school climate; supportive interventions; student voice; parent/family relations and outreach; community connections; and professional development.

Trauma-Informed Approach to Bullying Prevention and Intervention

The DSBN’s focus on bullying prevention and intervention is guided by a trauma-informed approach, which recognizes the impact of trauma in students’ lives and different bullying scenarios. A trauma-informed approach involves creating safe and caring school climates to prevent re-traumatization or trauma-related triggers and providing students with the necessary professional support that will help them to develop skills to manage stress, form healthy relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Interventions, and Other Supports

DSBN employees who work directly with students – including School Administrators, teachers, and other school staff – must respond to any student behaviour that is likely to have a negative impact on the school climate. Such inappropriate behaviour may include bullying. DSBN employees take all allegations of bullying behaviour seriously and will act in a timely, sensitive, and supportive manner when responding to students who disclose or report bullying incidents. Schools will establish procedures to allow students to report bullying incidents safely and in a way that will minimize the possibility of reprisal.

A variety of supports and interventions are made available to students who have been bullied, witnessed incidents of bullying, or engaged in bullying. Supports are individualized based on the circumstances of the incident (from early intervention to more intensive interventions). Where bullying behaviour has occurred, a progressive discipline approach will be applied, which includes a range of interventions, supports, and consequences with a focus on improving behaviour.

For students with special education needs, all interventions and supports will be differentiated based on student strengths, needs, and learning profile.

Reporting to School Administrators by School Staff

Serious incidents are reported by staff to the school administrator(s) to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to address the incidents and protect students. Reports to the school administrator by school staff are made as soon as possible, and no later than the end of the school day. If the incident is violent, the school principal will follow the DSBN Police Protocol with regional police.

Suspensions and Expulsions

The school administrator will respond to bullying incidents through a framework of progressive discipline. Where a student in grades 4 and 12 engages in bullying, the school administrator may suspend the student or refer the student for expulsion, after an investigation, in accordance with the Education Act. Students from kindergarten to grade three who engage in bullying are typically provided with learning and behaviour supports in the school setting as an alternative to suspension. Policy G-28: Student Discipline is aligned with Ontario Regulation 440/20 Suspension of Elementary Pupils.

Professional Development Strategies for Administrators, Teachers, and Other School Staff

The DSBN provides annual professional development programs to educate administrators, teachers, and other school staff about strategies for promoting a positive school climate to prevent and reduce bullying. This includes training grounded in the principles of equity and inclusion and culturally responsive and relevant pedagogy. A component of Safe and Accepting Schools is to assemble a Safe and Accepting Schools Team who is responsible for fostering a safe, inclusive, and accepting school climate. The Team should be chaired by a staff member and includes at least one student, at least one parent/caregiver, a teacher, a non-teaching staff member or, community partner, and the school administrator. An existing school committee (e.g., the Healthy Schools Committee) can assume this role

Communication and Outreach Strategies

The DSBN actively communicates policies and plans on bullying prevention and intervention to school administrators, students, parents/caregivers, teachers, and other school staff. This information is also provided to the board’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), Indigenous Education Advisory Council (IEAC), School Councils, Parent Involvement Committee (PIC), Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Community Advisory Committee (EIARCAC), and other appropriate community partners.

Monitoring and Review

The DSBN School Culture Student Survey is an anonymous online survey that provides families and students with an opportunity to provide input on the school culture. It fulfills the Ministry of Education requirement that all schools in Ontario implement a school climate survey for students every two years.

Building a positive school culture requires a collective commitment where the voices of students, families and school staff are essential. Data collected,

  • Guide decision-making for school planning
  • Specify areas of growth and strength at your school
  • Set collective goals to support an inclusive school culture and enhance student success