Back-to-school sparks anxiety for students who experience bullying, harassment

Back-to-school can be an exciting time of year for many students, but for others, it’s the complete opposite.

“It’s kind of sad to say that some children have really benefited from not being in schools,” Dr. Syras Derksen, a registered psychologist in Winnipeg, said. “We want to remain positive about schools, we want to think of schools as being a positive place for kids but for some kids, it isn’t.”

Read more: Coronavirus: A guide to back-to-school rules across Canada

Derksen said children who experience bullying actually thrived with learning from home, because they could avoid bullying at school at focus on their schoolwork.

“Some kids have also done much better being at home — they’ve felt safer, they’ve been able to focus more on their schoolwork, they’ve had less distractions,” Derksen told Global News. “For some children this is going to be quite challenging going back after having a more successful time socially, a more successful time academically being in the home environment instead.”

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Derksen said after more than five months away, the return to the classroom could be stressful.

Read more: Coronavirus: Manitoba unveils four-level pandemic plan and response, masks made mandatory for some students

“It might not look like anxiety, it might look like temper tantrums or delay tactics,” he said. “You might find that it comes out a few days before or the night before they have to go to school.”

Derksen says this is why parents should try to talk to their children before the school year starts on Sept. 8.

Read more: School divisions in Winnipeg release plans for return to classes amid coronavirus pandemic

Pink Shirt Day co-founder Travis Price also says this year COVID-19 may be magnifying the anxiety.

“I worry about the very foundation of what Pink Shirt Day is — we stood up for a kid who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. So what happens if a kid doesn’t show up wearing the best mask or a kid gets a better mask? Just little things like that,” Price said. “I definitely know that the anxiety is there.”

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Price also coaches a girls’volleyball team in Nova Scotia, and says he’s hearing a lot of worries from the team ahead of the school year.

“They’re just kind of worried about the stigma,” he said. “That somebody is going to cough and they’re now going to get negative attention brought to them saying that they have this disease, this virus, and they’re definitely worried about that.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.