“Bullying is a form of abuse at the hands of peers that can take different forms at different ages. It is targeted and repeated. It involves power, aggression, intimidation and shame. It preys on vulnerability and exposes both children who bully, and those who are bullied, to a number of social and mental health problems and a lifetime pattern of abuse. Any abuse - in particular the kind of abuse that can lead a child to contemplate suicide - is anything but harmless.” – bullyingcanada.ca
The issue of bullying continues to be a concern of educators, students, parents and community members. Much research has been done in the area of bullying to better understand what interventions make a difference and help to create safer and healthier schools.
In Grand Erie, all of us have a responsibility to work together to create healthy and safe school environments. In schools, bullying behaviour affects everyone involved, not only the students who are victimized, but also the bystanders, both students and adults in the school and community. Over the years, bullying has become more understood and defined and is not accepted as a “harmless” part of growing up. Bullying behaviour takes many forms, such as physical, verbal, emotional, or cyberbullying. It can be subtle or it can be direct, and is often hidden from adults. Those who use bullying behaviour are essentially using their power in controlling and/or hurtful ways. We see this behaviour being used throughout the life span of many individuals in our communities.
According to PrevNet, Canada’s experts on bullying prevention, bullying is essentially a relationship problem. Therefore to successfully prevent bullying, we need relationship solutions. We need to teach our students about healthy relationships, and help them develop social skills and empathy. We need to teach assertiveness skills and help students learn to stand up for themselves and others. We need to teach students problem solving skills, so that they can learn to solve problems without aggression. As a school and community, we need to develop a sense of social responsibility to one another, and a commitment to promote healthy relationships and eliminate violence.
The Safe Schools program of Grand Erie provides intervention for those students directly involved in long term suspensions or expulsions, which may result from serious bullying behaviour. Bullying behaviour is dealt with through progressive discipline, which seeks to change the behaviour of the student through both disciplinary measures and offering supports. Working collaboratively with the school, Police, court and community agencies, the program seeks to ensure that students are given opportunities to both correct and change their behaviour.
Safe Schools also continues to promote training in effective bullying prevention, through offering up to date training and resources. Internet Safety resources, along with professional development sessions will be provided this year to intermediate teachers. These sessions are designed to support teaching our students about the potential risks involved in online communication, such as cyberbullying, social media, and fraud. The importance of understanding responsible digital citizenship will also help students prepare for their future. Resources for parents will also be provided as part of this package for schools.
Safe Schools continues to promote “restorative practices”, where students can have an opportunity to come together and resolve relationship problems through a respectful and reflective process. Students are invited to be part of this process, and have a choice to participate. Through asking a series of questions, students are encouraged to develop skills of empathy as well as consider the impact of their actions on other people. Many administrators in Grand Erie have taken the Restorative Practices workshop through Safe Schools and are using these approaches daily in their work with students.
Also in the area of prevention, Safe Schools has sponsored the “Taylor the Turtle” program in Brantford schools. This school year, this program will be expanded to include all schools within Grand Erie, focusing on grade 1 teachers. This program is designed for primary students, and teaches skills of emotional literacy, self-expression, awareness of one’s rights and responsibilities, as well as respect for self and others. Designed as an abuse prevention program, it teaches young students basic social skills that will increase their self-esteem and relationship skills.
There are many programs and activities throughout the schools in Grand Erie that address bullying prevention. The important message to remember is that although Bullying Prevention is celebrated for one week during the year, it is the daily work of our educators, students, parents and communities to create safe and healthy environments for our students.
Good Websites to visit for helpful resources: