This article was originally published by the William Lakes Tribune on December 12, 2011.
The Ministry of Education put out a request for proposals last week to provide extensive training for the prevention of bullying.
School District 27 superintendent Diane Wright says if the new program supports staff, vigilance and awareness it’s a positive thing, but also notes there are already lots of good things happening in her district.
She says all the schools in the district have a proactive code of conduct around issues of bullying.
“It’s a really clear process and in years without job action that code is discussed by principals with all staff and with the parent advisory councils and they all sign it off that that’s how they are going to work it out through the year,” Wright explains.
The code contains effective and positive behaviour systems about how students should behave with each other and the principals usually refer to them in assemblies. “They have things called ‘caught cha’ draws for good behaviour to build on the positives.
When I went to the schools last year I met with the students and did a quick video interview with lots of schools about what helps students belong, what helps students learn and what else could we be doing to help students and schools,” she says, adding the students could identify clearly all the pieces that the schools are doing to deal with bullying and helping kids belong.
“It was really positive for me to note how effective that was working. Does bullying still happen? Yes. Are we working hard to deal with it as soon as our staff become aware? Absolutely. We have a lot of policies and protocols in terms of a process for suspension if it needs to go that way for students who are really struggling and not able to turn their behaviour around and are bullying other kids,” she says.
A number of schools have started using, with the Communities That Care programs, a piece titled Positive Action that’s show evidence of reducing incidents of bullying in schools.
Teachers use the program for the first 15 minutes, three times a week, to help students identify positive ways to interact with each other.
The research shows not only does the program reduce bullying, but it increases academic success and attendance. Principals, where the program is being used, post a phrase of the week, which they also say during their announcements that week.
Recently the success of the program hit a chord with Wright when she visited Anahim Lake.
There she learned a student at the school had forgotten how to behave.
“The other students, rather than being negative with their comments, said ‘do you remember what we learned this week?’ and they turned it around. I thought isn’t that powerful because it’s giving students the words and the actions for how we need to interact with each other always.”
She says it’s also important that parents and students bring any bullying concerns forward to principals and staff, rather than wait a little while to bring it to the attention of the staff when they have a child who feels bullied.
“The staff are the people who can do something about it,” she says.
Wright admits she has no idea what the ministry will receive for proposals for the program.
“It’s pretty wide open,” she says.