Bullying prevention programs have been running in schools for years and years, and as the issue persists across North America educators are now taking a different approach than what’s been done in the past.
Rather than simply focus on bullying and the negative connotations that come with the word schools are utilizing programs that focus on respect and treating each other with kindness.
Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools (WRPS) is bringing the Kindness Starts Here program to Clear Vista School in Wetaskiwin, Gwynne School, and Griffiths-Scott School in Millet, this year.
Educational psychologist and mental health capacity building co-ordinator Kristy Gialet says other Kindergarten to Grade 8 schools within the division were introduced to the program last year.
Gialet says the presentations center on a “positive, strength-based focus.”
Kindness Starts Here helps students address the difference between bullying and peer conflict.
“How can we treat one another with kindness?” Gialet added the presentations with teach students how to work through conflict while still treating each other with respect.
“The ultimate goal is to prevent bullying.”
Gialet says bullying becomes a catch phrase in schools and just focusing on the fact that there is conflict without helping students gain the tools to reach a resolution with not better the issues schools face.
Kindness Starts Here also challenges schools to keep kindness and respectfulness at the forefront all year long and not just during the month of February.
While the program takes place at the schools during Pink Shirt Day or week, depending on what actions schools take, Gialet says Kindness Starts Here does not specifically touch on the international initiative.
However, Gialet says students across the school division are well versed in what Pink Shirt Day means.
Pink Shirt Day started 11 years ago in Nova Scotia. Two students organized the first event — a protest — to take a stand against the bullies harassing a boy for wearing a pink shirt. Countries around the world now organizing anti-bullying fundraisers of their own, including Japan, New Zealand, China, and Panama.