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Community-wide participation key to undoing bullies

Posted on March 6, 2014 by Westwind Weekly

With the necessary tools one can accomplish almost anything, which is why Raymond Elementary School hosted a bully-proofing seminar for eager parents last week.

“Those that came were very impressed with the presentation, it was an incredible job,” said principal Marlin Hogg. “We probably had 40 to 50 parents here and 15 staff members. Some were from Stirling, it was a joint, three-day project between us and Stirling.”

First the staff were trained on the Dare to Care program, on Jan. 31., then during the week of Feb. 24 to 28 students participated in the actual Dare to Care program itself.

Designed to be a fully-comprehensive approach the program involves students, teachers, parents and the community in an effort to eliminate bullying.

This will ideally remove bullying from a school environment and in turn create an atmosphere of both respect and tolerance for one another in other social settings.

However the first step is to say something. There is a vast silent majority, almost 80 per cent of kids, who sit and watch bullying or other dangerous acts go on.

“And that’s where the focus is. We have to stand up and stop it,” said Hogg. “The (presentation) even went into the definition of bullying and we misconstrued it quite a bit. We went into what bullying is and what straight conflict is.”

Although the Dare to Care program has never been held in RES, it has had much success in previous locations, such as Raymond Junior High School and Magrath Junior/Senior High School.

“It’s a constant thing, being the school principal,” Hogg said of the complaints he receives of bullying. “We always get parents coming in and saying ‘my kid is being bullied.’ And honestly, I don’t think they understand it as well as they could, it’s usually between friends, and most of the time they just got mad at each other and called each other names.”

Bullying, was described to the children and staff as more of a targeted, repetitive and planned out activity. The kids were also told because conflict and bullying are different, they each need to be solved differently when situations with either occur.

“Not that RES has a bullying problem -every school should have this in it – but we are looking at, in the future, bringing the presenter back as a refresher because the message is so incredibly strong,” he said of the presentation.

“There are two things (that are most important). She gives the kids the tools they need if they are being bullied to know how to handle it. The presenter shows the kids if they see something, this is what you say, don’t just think someone else is going to do it, you have to. (Bullying) isn’t just a school problem, it’s a community problem, bullying is a learned thing and honestly the presenter says it starts at home. She was very blunt about it.”

The program itself has become known for working alongside grades Kindergarten, all the way up to Grade 12 to create “a common language,” which allows a certain amount of regular interventions to take place.

“. . . fortunately what is learned can be unlearned and by acknowledging that bullying exists and by mobilizing the children, parents and school staff into action, significant changes can be made in the climate of the school and community,” said a press release sent out by the elementary school, advertising the bully-proofing seminar Feb. 25.

The 150-minute long information session provided concerned parents about the scope of the problem currently facing schools today, in addition to explaining the difference between a normal peer-to-peer conflict and an actual act of bullying.

“Because every child will have at least one encounter with a bully during their school career, parents will also learn six strategies to teach their children. These strategies are non-reactive and will likely result in fewer opportunities for bullying to continue,” the school stated in their press release.

“Including parents within the school community is integral in the success of the Dare to Care program. The development of a clear message from the school to the parents regarding bullying is a fundamental first step.”

For more information on this program please visit http://www.daretocare.ca, or contact Darwin Skretting, guidance counsellor for RES and school liaison for the Dare to Care program at 403-752-3004.

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