Parents form anti-bullying group 

All parents are encouraged by organizers to attend a special bullying awareness forum in Whistler this Wednesday (April 18) at Myrtle Philip Community School. The meeting was originally scheduled to run last month, but was cancelled due to a bereavement.

Speakers at the event will include Patti O’Reilly, representing the Parent Advisory Council’s sub-committee on Safe Schools, and RMCP staff sergeant Hilton Haider, who will outline a proposal to install a police liaison officer within local schools.

Organizer Leanne Dufour says the forum is aimed primarily at parents, but anyone with an interest is welcome to attend.

"The goal is to raise awareness about bullying and to encourage parents to speak up instead of hiding the problem, because this just empowers the bully," Dufour said.

Dufour has become heavily involved in local and provincial efforts to curb bullying in schools, following her own daughter’s experience of alleged bullying by peers at Whistler Secondary. A civil case is now pending against school authorities.

Dufour says last weekend she attended small, private meeting in Vancouver of parents whose children have been bullied, in a bid to organize better bully prevention. Among the parents at the meeting was Cindy Wesley, who lost her daughter Marie Dawn to suicide because of bullying, and Jane Forin, whose son left school due to threats after videotaping a school-yard fight. Nassima Nastoh, the mother of another high profile bully suicide victim, communicated with the group via telephone but was unable to attend.

Dufour says the meeting attendees have decided to establish an organization called Parents Against Violence Everywhere – or PAVE – to prevent bullying through education as well as act as a lobby group. She says PAVE will be registered as a non-profit organization and is likely to lead to satellite groups such as SAVE – Students Against Violence Everywhere – for example.

"Since myself and some of the other parents have gone public, people are coming forward all the time with similar stories of bullying and harassment," she says. "Many parents need help on how to deal with these problems and we expect the membership will grow rapidly."

Dufour says PAVE aims to host forums in communities throughout the Lower Mainland initially over the next couple of years, for both students and parents. The group also hopes to bring a suicide prevention specialist onto its board of directors, she added.

"At the meeting was B.C principal Cindi Seddon who has just written a book entitled How Parents can take Action Against Bullying," Dufour said. "There are plenty of good ideas out there and it’s just a matter of bringing it out into the open so people know they are not alone."

She says PAVE will also help distribute her own petition advocating new anti-bullying measures in provincial schools and changes to how the courts deal with bullying.

The Whistler forum will run from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 in the Toad Hall room at the school.

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