When it comes to topics such as bullying and anti-bullying, Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools (WRPS) looks to add focus on teaching students the skills they need to enjoy healthy relationships rather than just concentrating on bullying.
“We want our students to know how to manage this successfully, without being abusive or victimized,” said Nina Wyrostok, director of support services.
“We know that if we talk about bullying, bullying, bullying the kids and parents will focus on bullying, bullying, bullying,” she added.
Wyrostok says the division teaches students the difference between bullying and conflict. “Because there will be conflict.”
“We also want them to know that they are not being bullied just because someone disagrees or argues with them. We are working with parents to help them also understand the difference between conflict and bullying – they don’t always understand the difference,” she added.
Within the division, students are taught through a variety of programs the essential skills needed to handle conflict in a healthy, safe manner and environment.
Such programs include but are not limited to: Effective Behavior Supports, HUB, Roots of Empathy, MindUp curriculum, 40 Developmental Assets, Character Education, Virtues Programming, Project Respect, D.A.R.E., Friends for Life, Restorative Justice, Brain Gym and Fill Your Bucket.
“But, in the event that a student is being bullied, we expect our staff to address it as quickly as possible and make it stop,” said Wyrostok. The division’s Bullying Prevention administration procedure states there is zero tolerance for bullying and for ignoring and failing to address bullying incidents.
The procedure states, “At the beginning of each school year, students shall be informed that bullying behavior is not acceptable and that they are encouraged to inform teachers, the principal or their parents if they experience bullying or become aware that students are being bullied.”
It continues, “Principals will ensure that corrective measures are in place to deal with bullying and that supportive measures are in place to assist students to deal with normal conflicts. Principals shall ensure that all incidents of bullying are investigated fully. Such reviews should take into account knowledge of previous behavior and may involve interviews with students, parents, and school staff. It may also be necessary to peruse school records; contact previous schools attended, and identify relevant family matters.”
Along with skills and conflict management programs the division also uses programs that specifically address bullying.
Ecole Queen Elizabeth School recently hosted a large, two-day Dare to Care event, involving both staff and students. “They will continue working with a leadership team of kids to reinforce the concepts of standing up to bullying for the rest of the year. They have made a commitment to doing this training with all students and staff every other year for multiple years,” said Wyrostok.
Alder Flats, in partnership with Wetaskiwin County, participates in an intense, internationally known anti-bullying program called Olweus.
Wyrostok says each school in the division is also required to create a three-year plan to develop positive school climate. “Where students feel valued and learn from their mistakes.”
The division also had its own positive school environment plan, encompassing 2014 to 2017.
Black Gold Regional Division
The Black Golf Regional lays out a policy framework that encompasses creating welcoming, respectful and healthy school communities.
Within the policy is states trustees, employees, students, parents, volunteers, contractors and visitors are all beholden to the key messages outlined and must share in the responsibility to eliminate bullying, discrimination, harassment, violence and other disrespectful behaviors.
The policy states, “The board prohibits bullying, harassment, discriminatory and violent behaviors and expects allegation of such behaviors to be investigated in a timely and respectful manner. Threatening, harassing, intimidating, assaulting, bullying, in any way, including aggressive behavior such as cyber hate massaging and websites created at home, cyber cafes or other other setting by any person within the school community is prohibited.”
The division uses a plethora of programming to engage students in a healthy school community, including: Grow the Green Kit, Mindup and Pink Shirt Day. The division wants to extend student education past a simple focus on bullying to help develop the needed skills to build relationships and eliminate bullying, aggression and increase a students ability to academic succeed.