Bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Some members of Oak Bay High’s junior boys basketball team were recently involved in taking an inappropriate photograph and sharing it through social media. As a result, a fellow student and teammate was bullied.
When the school’s investigation suggested that many on the team were aware of the incident, administrators responded not by sidelining one or two players, but by ending the entire team’s season, just as it was set to embark on playoffs.
We commend the school’s decision.
One of the main messages of the coming Pink Shirt Day and the WITS anti-bullying program presented in local schools is the importance bystanders play in bullying.
WITS – which stands for Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek help – notes that “Peer victimization rarely involves just an aggressor and a victim. There are usually bystanders, and depending on how these bystanders respond, they contribute to either the solution or the problem.”
With this in mind, disciplining the team as a whole recognizes the role of the group in the incident and its members’ collective responsibility to stand up and say “no.”
Teens, both boys and girls, will make bad choices. One of the differences today is that social media spreads the results of those choices so much farther, as apparently happened in this case.
If good can come from this, we hope that parents and children will talk about the implications of those decisions, first and foremost for the victim, but also for the others involved. Players on the team received direct and real consequences for their actions – or inaction – and we trust that will offer the opportunity for positive discussion.
Looking forward, on Feb. 24, students and schools in Oak Bay and across Canada will recognize Pink Shirt Day, raising awareness of bullying in all its forms.
Let’s continue to talk.