The bullying experienced by Nathan Dowden over the past two years has been so extreme it required investigation by the London Police Service.

Nathan, now 11, was a Grade 4 Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) student, when a boy forced his scrotum into Nathan’s mouth. A separate incident involved another child forcing Nathan to touch his penis.

Nathan doesn’t hate the boys who have bullied and abused him; however, he does hope they get some help.

“I am mad at them, I don’t hate them though. I would like them to get help,” Nathan said. “It was tough going to school, not knowing what was going to happen next. The support I got has helped.

“But I agree with my mom, they (the bullies) need help too.”

Providing support for the bully is one of the things Anne Dowden, Nathan’s mom, said was missing from the recently unveiled TVDSB Director’s Community Task for on Anti-Bullying. That missing component is just one reason Dowden says she believes the report won’t make a tangible difference.

“I don’t have any expectations this report will make a difference,” Dowden said. “It’s been a living nightmare. It’s been exhausting. We have lived and breathed it. And Nathan is a happy-go-lucky kid, thank God, but that doesn’t mean it is okay. People say he is OK, but he’s not. It is damaging him.”

The people Dowden refers to include members of the TVDSB that she says simply haven’t understood the severity of what her son has had to deal with. She says one board official even went so far as to ask her what was wrong with her son that he would be bullied so often.

Another incident with her son’s principal left her further dumbfounded.

“I’d have to be on him, ‘Did you call the police? Did you suspend these kids?’ When the one boy put Nathan’s hand on his privates, he said to me, ‘Well Nathan seemed okay.’ I said to him that Nathan doesn’t even realize how wrong it is,” Dowden said. “It is the action that is being done, and not how the person is reacting to it. That has nothing to do with it and I’ve had to point that out several times.”

For his part, TVDSB director Bill Tucker said the board has always focused on consequences for bullies.

“Consequences, and consistency of consequences, is very important. Consequences, when I was a principal, would range from always a phone call to the parent, right up to suspension,” Tucker said.

“My experience has been that when students see consistency of consequences, that plays a significant role in reducing bullying. But as a board, we are not into punishment.”

Dowden says had it not been the support from the London Anti-Bullying Coalition (LABC), she would have long ago been at her wits end.

The coalition, perhaps ironically, was one of the 25 community agencies who were called together to help create the 2,000 suggestions contained in the 22-page report.

Corina Morrison, co-founder of the LABC alongside Kathryn Wilkins, said that while she believes the task force members were all committed to making the situation better, there is very little in the report to help ease the minds of parents – and children – currently dealing with bullying.

“At the end of the day that report makes no difference. There was a lot of talk. There were a lot of partnerships made, which is fabulous. But for those kids who are home, afraid to go to school, that report means nothing,” Morrison said.

“I want to be hopefully optimistic that there will be some changes coming from all this. The parents though who’ve read the report, and emailed me about it, are not happy with it. There are no immediate solutions. The report doesn’t go into enough detail.”

Tucker said he believes the report not only provides details on how the community must pull together to stop bullying, but also offers more than just lip service to the actions he says must be taken.

“I think it superseded any expectations I had. Not only does it reflect current initiatives, but it has also been a springboard for new initiatives,” Tucker said. “The fact the three Children’s Aid societies from across the region got together for a unified response is an innovative approach. Our report… reinforced the value of community police officers in our secondary schools. I think it has been a great springboard for new initiatives, long-term initiatives.”

As someone looking for more immediate solutions, Dowden says greater attention needs to be paid to the one group she says is not addressed in the report, the bully.

“I saw Bill Tucker on the news, talking about the bystanders. And in a lot of my experiences they are talking about the victim. But where is the bully in all this?” Dowden said.

“These bullies who are suspended, they need the help they aren’t getting. There is too much focus on everyone except the bully and those kids are crying for help.”

It is a point Morrison is quick to agree with.

“We keep talking about, especially for the elementary kids, there should be something in place at the school to wrap around the bully. If they need anger management, get them anger management,” Morrison said. “That is where all these different community stakeholders can come into play.

“Our teachers just want to teach, and should teach. So if there is another community organization they can refer children to, then all the better.”

Tucker says one key group that has to be brought onboard any anti-bullying effort must be the parents of children who exhibit bullying behaviour.

“We need to get parents of the bully on board. There has to be a recognition that bullying behaviour is a learned behaviour, and can be changed,” Tucker said.

“I have heard some people say we will never eliminate bullying, but my approach is we aren’t going to eliminate some bullying in some places. I believe the goal has to be eliminating all bullying in all places.”