The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District and the Ministry of Education are both urging teachers not to show, in class, the YouTube video made by former Maple Ridge and Westview secondary student Amanda Todd.
The video, posted one month before Todd took her own life on Oct. 10, details the harassment she suffered from an online predator and school bullies, how she descended into drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self harm.
The video has now been viewed more than 20 million times.
After consulting with district counsellors, senior staff sent an email to all elementary principals and vice-principals on Oct. 12, strongly suggesting teachers not show the video in their class as it would be upsetting to children and parents, according to district spokesperson Irena Pochop.
“At the secondary level, we communicated to school principals that the showing of any non-ministry approved resources must have a connection to curriculum, and the teacher must have the skills and qualifications both to speak to any questions that a student or parent may have and to handle any issues that may arise,” Pochop said.
“For both elementary and secondary, we wanted to keep the conversations focused on building a supportive community and on cyber ethics and appropriate cyber use.”
Last week, a memo from the Ministry of Education advised teachers that the video may be “traumatic stimuli” for those who are being seriously bullied.
“Of utmost importance for professionals and parents to understand is that high-profile trauma intensifies already existing symptoms in already vulnerable or troubled youth,” reads the memo, written by Theresa Campbell and Kevin Cameron of the provincial ERASE Bullying Strategy.
“This includes those who … identify with the victims and may have their own suicide risk increased and … those who identify with the perpetrators who may increase their targeting of other children and youth through bullying, cyber bullying, etc.”
In an interview, Cameron – who led the crisis response team in Taber, Alta. after the school shootings there in 1999, just days after the Columbine shootings – cautioned schools not to show it in classrooms as a general rule.
“There are some professionals and even parents who feel that just by showing the clip that that is somehow going to teach the kids not to bully,” he said.
The video is not a positive one that shows kids how to manage bullying, he added, but rather one which depicts a situation that ultimately led to a suicide, which other students could end up identifying with.
Showing the video in the classroom may further add to the “justification process” for suicidal behaviour, according to Campbell and Cameron.
“It must be understood that some students may have purposely avoided watching the YouTube video because they know it could be a trigger,” the memo states. “For them, therefore we do not want to inadvertently expose them to it in the classroom.”
Having that choice taken away from them by playing it in the classroom could elevate that level of risk.
“Tragically, one of the most common lines that some adults and even youth alike will use after a tragedy like the Amanda Todd situation occurs, is ‘See, this is what bullying causes,’” Cameron said. “The problem with using that line but not having the skills to follow up with it, is then it embeds in some of our high-risk youth the belief that it is cause and effect, meaning ‘I’m being bullied, this is what bullying causes, and I have no way out.’ ”
While the memo notes that it is preferable for teachers to not show the YouTube clip in class, if exceptions are made it should only be as approved by school administration who are confident that the teacher in question is skilled to respond appropriately to students.
“This is, however, a powerful time to appropriately educate in our homes, classrooms, and society in general,” it states.
– with files