Oct. 19 , 2006

More than 6,000 students rally today against bullying

Yet subject is still taboo for parents, kids, psychologist finds

Hamilton, ON - Amid recent news reports of a terrifying bullying incident that nearly claimed the life of a disabled 14-year-old Manitoba boy, more than 6,000 students take part in an annual anti-bullying rally today, believed to be the largest event of its kind in the world.


Nearly 45,000 students across southern Ontario, from Grades 4 to 8, have attended Basketball vs. Bullying in the last four years at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. This year’s rally will feature basketball performer Q-Mack, TVOntario host Milton Barnes, motivational speaker Johnnie Williams, and a basketball game between the McMaster Marauders and the Alberta Golden Bears. It begins at 9:30 a.m. and continues until 1:30 p.m.


The event is the brainchild of Tracy Vaillancourt, an associate professor of psychology at McMaster University, and a leading authority on what has become a social epidemic.

Despite greater social awareness about the serious and sometimes fatal consequences of bullying, and government initiatives (principals and vice-principals in Ontario are now required to take anti-bullying training) Vaillancourt says the subject remains a strangely taboo one for parents and children.


“I know from the research and from clinical practice that a lot of parents don’t know how to talk to kids about serious matters, like bullying, and lots of kids are just as reluctant to raise the subject with their parents,” says Vaillancourt. “The Raise Your Voice National Youth Study that was sponsored by Motorola revealed that kids feel the best time to talk to their parents about serious issues is when both parent and child are distracted – such as watching TV, playing a game, driving somewhere in the car, having dinner. Direct conversation is uncomfortable for both parties.”


To help start that conversation, Vaillancourt has developed a tip sheet for parents, available at http://www.science.mcmaster.ca/psychology/vaillancourt/Index.htm.


Bullying is a pervasive problem that chronically and ruthlessly affects 10% of Canadian children. Recent Canadian studies highlight how widespread the problem is—more than 60% of students report witnessing someone being bullied at their school over the course of a week. Results from the World Health organization place Canada unfavourably in the top 3rd of 28 countries surveyed on bullying.  


“It is absolutely essential for parents to get a sense of their child’s school culture and establish regular communication about school experiences,” says Vaillancourt. “The key to zeroing in on bullying behaviour is via open and regular conversation with your children. Try not to be judgmental when questioning their behaviour but get the message across in a loving way that the behaviour is unacceptable and needs to be corrected.”


About 500 volunteers from McMaster University and Mohawk College who are trained in bullying intervention and prevention strategies will help facilitate the rally and reinforce the important message that bullying is socially unacceptable.


Basketball vs. Bullying is sponsored by Motorola and its Raise Your Voice campaign in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk College, Hamilton Police Service, and TVOntario.


McMaster University, a world-renowned, research-intensive university, fosters a culture of innovation and a commitment to discovery and learning in teaching, research and scholarship. Based in Hamilton, the University, one of only four Canadian universities to be listed on the Top 100 universities in the world, has a student population of more than 23,000, and an alumni population of more than 120,000 in 128 countries.