The topic of bullying is very much in the news these days. The death of a young person is always tragic, especially so when it is preventable. We must continue to work together as a community to ensure it does not happen again.
In School District #28, our work around bullying is ongoing. Each year, every school has a plan to develop social responsibility amongst students. These plans range from simple to complex, based on students’ ages and the needs of the school at any given time.
Through lessons and presentations, students learn about bullying; how to recognize various forms of bullying; how to develop empathy; and how to take a stance against bullying from a bystander’s perspective.
There are a number of exceptional programs being used in schools to reduce and eliminate bullying. Some of these include, but are not limited to: Focus on Bullying; Bully Beware; the Kindness Program and Roots of Empathy.
A district-wide bully survey was developed in partnership with the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), the results of which were shared with principals in order to better inform school-level planning. DPAC also plans to bring in presenters to speak with parents about their roles in bully prevention.
Several themes emerged from this survey data. There is a need to continue to develop a shared understanding of the definitions of types of bullying and the difference between peer conflict and bullying. We need to continue to focus on conflict resolution strategies. We should continue to refine school codes of conduct. We need to educate parents about the steps principals take to address and resolve bullying incidents and continue to work with students and parents until the situation is resolved.
There is also work being done at the provincial level to help districts work more closely with community partners to create a more holistic approach to addressing bullying and threats and how better to create that important sense of connectedness for all of our students. This is the ERASE Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education) Strategy which you may have heard about in the news.
Elementary teams (a principal and a teacher) from each school will spend a day focussing on school connectedness research and strategies for schools and staff to measure connectedness, school climate and school culture. Theresa Campbell, the Safe Schools Coordinator from Surrey, will work with elementary teams. Secondary teams (principals, counsellors, District Safe School Team members and community service providers who make up our community threat assessment team) will spend two days training on Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA), which was developed by Kevin Cameron, an international expert on Risk Assessment. Both elementary and secondary teams will be involved in this training in November.
Parents play a key role in helping their children deal with bullying. In spite of all of our ongoing work throughout the school district, there are times when bullying happens. School staff must be made aware of any bullying concerns. Every concern that we see, or are made aware of is addressed. Additionally, we must be made aware if the bullying continues in spite of steps that may have been taken at the school level.
Cynthia Bernier is director of instruction – curriculum and Sue-Ellen Miller is superintendent of schools.