Killings spark discipline drive;Briefing;International

28th May 1999 at 01:00

Better policing, more anti-bullying programmes for pupils and school uniforms are being demanded in Canada following the shooting of a teenager in Taber, Alberta, a week after the Columbine massacre.

The spotlight has fallen on the small-town culture that may have contributed to the killing of 17-year-old Jason Lang, a pupil at WR Meyers high school, by a 14-year-old who cannot be named.

Responding to pressure from students and members of the legislature, Gary Mar, Alberta's education minister, has agreed to bring in uniforms. He accepted that they might reduce violence by making socio-economic differences between students "less visible".

This view was supported by Ian Weetman, a 15-year-old at Ernest Manning school in Calgary, Alberta, who has been leading a campaign for school uniforms. He said most bullying in schools was over the way children dress, a sentiment echoed by students interviewed across the country.

In the largest province, Ontario, the police-in-schools programme is being expanded.

Two high schools in Collingwood, a rural town, have seen a 20 per cent drop in reported crime since an officer was assigned to them. In the city of Ottawa police are already assigned to every level of schooling and give lectures on bullying and interpersonal relations. by the time students reach high school, officers already have a rapport with them.

Constable Tracey Butler explained: "I don't have to start from scratch every year figuring out who the movers, shakers or trouble-makers are. More importantly, kids who know something is up know me and trust me."

Reports that the Taber gunman had been teased has led every province to review anti-violence programmes. Alberta's premier, Ralph Klein, has announced a shift of emphasis from career counselling into programmes which identify potential problems.

Experts have warned that anti-bullying work is needed just as much in small towns as big urban centres, where the social and political structures, including higher gun ownership and less tolerance for difference, may lead the alienated to lash out.

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