Bullying conviction sends message 

Leanne Dufour hopes the conviction of a teen in the Lower Mainland for bullying will send a strong message to anyone who takes part in that type of behaviour.

"I think it is just fantastic and will send a message out that they are going to be held accountable by the courts," said Dufour, who is suing the Howe Sound school district for failing to protect her daughter from bullies at Whistler Secondary.

Her daughter, 15 in August of 1998 when her nightmare began, was stalked and viciously beaten, then harassed and bullied for years all over a case of mistaken identity.

One of Dufour’s greatest hopes has always been that school administrators and school board officials would accept accountability for what happens in the school.

She singled them out in a presentation to the standing legislative committee on education last December, asking they be held accountable for not enforcing a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behaviour in school.

"I hope the court case sends a big message to the schools," said Dufour.

"Our case adds to that in saying we not only want the courts to hold people accountable we want the schools to be accountable.

"As far as our case goes I hopes it helps it. It is sending the same message.

"And I am also hoping it starts sending a message to the parents that will be held accountable. I hope that is the next thing we will see.

"This is the first big step in the right direction and long overdue."

On Tuesday a 17-year-old girl, who cannot be identified under the Young Offenders Act, was convicted of criminal harassment of a former friend and classmate at Mission Senior Secondary, Dawn-Marie Wesley.

She is facing up to six months in jail.

The decision was handed down by Judge Jill Routhwaite sitting in Abbotsford.

Wesley killed herself in the basement of her Mission home Nov. 10, 2000. She was just 14-years-old.

In a suicide note she said she was being bullied and identified several of her harassers.

Another girl was acquitted of uttering threats on Tuesday and a third is awaiting trial.

It’s believed to be the first time students have faced criminal charges following a suicide in B.C.

Ironically, this week the government cut the $40,000 funding for an anti-bullying program, Focus on Bullying. The award winning program involved lesson plans and a special training session for teachers.

Whistler Secondary principal Ken Davies said he believes the ruling sends a strong message to all schools.

"I think it will have an effect on how schools perceive bullying in the future," he said.

"There will be an obligation, a clearly stated obligation, by schools that they must proceed and deal with any bullying or harassment issues and if it is shown that a school does not deal with bullying or harassment issues, and it has been brought to their attention, then that will have significant repercussions for the school and the system.

"This has now made it very, very clear that whenever an allegation is brought forward it must be taken seriously and must be investigated.

"In concert with our teachers and students and parents any time a harassment or bullying issue is brought forward we will pursue it as far as it needs to be pursued."

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