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Anti-Bullying Policies in Canadian Sport: An Absent Presence

Lauren Stefaniuk, William Bridel

Abstract


In Canada, it is estimated that one-third of bullying occurs outside of educational settings, including sport and recreation spaces (Shannon, 2013). Beyond important academic literature on abuse in athlete-coach relationships, however, there is little research on peer-to-peer bullying in sport. This is a noticeable absence considering assertions that there is a high potential for bullying to occur (Kerr, Jewett, MacPherson, & Stirling, 2016; Shannon, 2013). Moreover, bullying has been connected to children and youth drop-out rates (Fraser, 2015).

Our interest in this project was to determine how Canadian national sport organizations (NSOs) address peer-to-peer bullying through policy. Although antibullying strategies that rely solely on policy are ineffective (Short, 2013), clearly communicated and implemented policies remain important (Mountjoy et al., 2016; Olweus & Limber, 2010; Walton, 2004). Thus, we focused our analysis on policy documents available to the public on NSO websites.

A total of 118 documents were retrieved, consisting of various codes of conduct and harassment policies. Of these 118 policy documents, only three had been produced that addressed peer-to-peer bullying specifically. In the remaining 115 documents, bullying was mentioned just 19 times and only defined in five documents. The absence of specific policy and policy statement addressing peer-to-peer bullying is important to highlight. Well-written and implemented policies are needed in order to help create safer spaces in sport for children and youth. More specifically, it is imperative for sport and recreation organizations to have clearly defined policies on peer-to-peer bullying, which are openly communicated to members of the organization. It is also important for organizations to make it clear how members should report incidents of bullying.

Finally, policies that adequately define bullying and that address its root causes such as sexism, racism, ableism, and LGBTQphobia are considered best practice as they are determined to be more complete. Policies that highlight the root or ideological causes of bullying may have more long-term impact on reducing bullying behaviours and incidents, as children and youth are encouraged to embrace difference and demonstrate empathy, respect, and compassion (Short, 2013). These policies should co-exist with educational programs on bullying, such as those offered by Respect in Sport and the Canadian Red Cross.

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Keywords


bullying; sport; policy; content analysis

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2018-V36-I2-8439

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