The suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd after posting a You Tube video describing years of torment at the hands of bullies and an online predator has led Kamloops schools to tread carefully into the issue.
Some teachers decided to show Todd’s nine-minute video in class, but that tactic to address bullying isn’t always wise or welcome.
It’s not clear which schools’ students were shown the video, but many say they viewed it on their own.
A majority of 17-year-old Tiana Piva’s friends watched, but she is among those who avoided it because she was afraid of the emotional impact it would cause.
“I just didn’t think I could handle it,” the Valleyview Secondary student said.
School staff doesn’t always know what can trigger dangerous emotional behaviour, said Karl de Bruijn, Kamloops-Thompson School District assistant superintendent, so the district is asking teachers to consult with principals if they intend to show the video.
“I don’t think many of us (teachers) would consider ourselves experts in child psychology,” said de Bruijn. “So we’re really worried that we’ll find ourselves in a situation that we’re not professionally equipped to deal with.”
The few instances where teachers have shown the video in Kamloops classrooms “was handled very well,” said de Bruijn, adding he hasn’t had any feedback from parents or students.
Willemyn Lonquist, head of the Kamloops-Thompson District Parent Advisory Council, said she wasn’t aware of the issue and didn’t return follow up calls for comment.
Kamloops-Thompson Teachers Association president Jason Karpuk could not be reached.
A provincial memo sent to school districts on Oct. 14 asked that teachers not show the video in class.
“Being caught within the ‘impact zone’ of a high profile trauma means that some youth who have kept the secret about their own victimization may identify with the YouTube video and by showing it in the classroom it may even further add to the justification process for suicidal behaviour,” states the memo.
The memo’s lead author is J. Kevin Cameron, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response and crisis trauma response consultant for the B.C. Education Ministry.
He also helped develop B.C.'s recently adopted ERASE (Expect Respect And a Safe Education) strategy, which addresses bullying and other harmful behaviours.