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2013 Atlantic Journalism Awards Finalists


Slug/Label Hidden by a Smile: Bullying in the Nova Scotia School System
Date Aired or Published Tues. June 4, 2013
Media outlet where first aired or published: News95.7
Name of Program: Maritime Morning
If co-produced, list partner: no
Location: Halifax, NS
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio): 18:23

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

The tragic death of Rethaeh Parsons this past April is a chilling reminder of the toll bullying can take on its victims and highlights the need to open the dialogue on this issue. Rethaeh’s passing is a case that has come to represent many bullying victims from across the country and here at home. Hidden by a Smile: Bullying in the Nova Scotia School System is an audio documentary that tells Toni Nicholas’s story. At the tender age of eight it began - having orange juice thrown in her face, called names such as bitch, slut and psycho and having her head smashed off of water fountains so hard that she started to have seizures. Toni almost took her own life four years later. As a journalist putting this documentary together, it was difficult not to be touched by Toni’s story on a personal level. Today Toni is stronger than ever and is now paying it forward. Just over a year ago, she started a support group called Generation Change; a support group that comforts bullying victims by letting them know they’re not alone. While putting this documentary together I wanted to talk to an educator who had firsthand knowledge and experience with bullying. Gilles Boudreau has been a teacher in the school system for the past 17 years and has taught at the elementary and junior high levels and he provided that voice in the documentary. The DeCoste family provided multiple view points on the issue. Parents Shawn and Tina grew up in a different generation and experienced bullying in a different way than their children. They are also dealing with the challenges of currently raising their children and figuring out the best way to protect from the dangers of bullying. Daughter Maya is in the school system and shares her experiences with me. I spoke with Kathleen Richard, Nova Scotia’s first Anti-Bullying Coordinator. Richard provides an official’s perspective and gives the province's stance on bullying. I also reached out to then Education Minister Ramona Jennex who was unavailable for comment. Marilyn More, the then Minister who was in charge of the Status of Women Act, provided a statement. The goal of this documentary was to start a conversation. Since Rehtaeh ’s passing, new laws have been brought in at the federal and provincial government levels and the issue of bullying is being talked about a lot more. On the issue of kids committing suicide as a result of bullying, one of Toni’s quotes is “no one knows know how much pain is hidden by a smile.” I spoke to Toni before Rethaeh’s death. Toni is someone who is wise beyond her years and provides great insight into the issue.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

This entry was written and produced by Reporter/Producer Jennifer MacNeil.

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