Racial Bullying in Schools.

AuthorTuttle, Myrna El Fakhry


Reading Time: 4 minutes

Studies show a majority of students have witnessed or experienced racism at school, with implications for both students and teachers.

A majority of students in Canada have either witnessed or experienced racism at their schools, according to a 2021 survey by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia (ARI/UBC Survey). In this context, racism likely means racial discrimination as opposed to systemic racism.

The ARI/UBC Survey said 58% of respondents had seen kids insulted, bullied, or excluded based on their race or ethnicity, and 14% had experienced bullying themselves. Visible minority students were three times as likely to say they had been bullied.

The ARI/UBC Survey also reported that "half (54%) say kids name call or use insults based on racial or ethnic background at their school, while smaller proportions say kids are made to feel unwelcome (38%) or are bullied (42%) based on their racial or ethnic background."

Students who experienced or witnessed racism at their school said teachers usually tried to discourage the behaviour and talked to the bullies about it. The school usually suspended or punished the bully for their racist (discrimination based on race) behavior. However, three-in-ten victims of bullying said teachers or school staff either ignored racist behaviour (racial discrimination) or were unaware of it (ARI/UBC Survey).

What is bullying?

According to the Government of Canada:

Bullying is characterized by acts of intentional harm, repeated over-time, in a relationship where an imbalance of power exists. It includes physical actions (punching, kicking, biting), verbal actions (threats, name calling, insults, racial or sexual comments), and social exclusion (spreading rumours, ignoring, gossiping, excluding)... Boys tend to be more likely to bully and be bullied, usually in the form of a physical attack and exhibition of aggressive behaviour. Alternatively, girls appear to be more prone to indirect bullying in the form of social isolation, slandering and the spreading of rumours.

In Alberta, the Education Act is the legal framework for education. It sets out that students must learn in a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe environment. The Education Act defines bullying as:

repeated and hostile or demeaning behaviour by an individual in the school community where the behaviour is intended to cause harm, fear or...

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