When it comes to standing up to bullying, Beaufort Delta District Education Council takes an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Superintendent Devin Roberts listed 11 different programs active across the district, both in nurturing safe environments and addressing bullying when it happens. Among the programs he cited were the school district’s Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) and the “Walk Away, Ignore, Talk it Out and Seek Help” (WITS) programs.
“GSAs provide a safe, supportive environment for students of diverse genders and sexualities to meet, discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues, and form a community. GSAs also welcome straight, cisgender ally youth,” he said. “The WITS Programs bring together schools, families and communities to create responsive environments that help elementary school children deal with conflict and peer victimization, such as discrimination and bullying.
“(A third program,) LEADS challenges students to become leaders in their community. It encourages understanding of different perspectives by using five problem-solving strategies: Look and Listen, Explore Points of View, Act, Did it Work? and Seek Help.”
Getting feedback from student councils and assemblies, Roberts said all BDDEC schools have a Safe and Caring School Committee, designed to ensure schools have healthy programming and were positive spaces for everyone inside them. BDDEC also commits to safe school plans that report, document and respond to incidents of bullying. Individual schools identify specific issues to target strategies, though Roberts noted preventing bullying is a community-wide effort.
Consequentially, the school district uses its programming to target the entire learning community to promote healthy relationships, as well as teach students proactive incident reporting skills and safe intervention tactics, as well as conflict resolution.
As part of the effort to promote a safe and healthy culture, two schools are going the extra distance in the lead-up to Pink Shirt Day, which is Feb. 22. Moose Kerr School in Aklavik will have an Acts of Kindness and wisdom week staying Feb. 27 to promote kindness among students. Meanwhile, an Random Act of Kindness month is already underway at East Three Secondary school.
Programming is administered with a holistic approach in mind. Roberts noted three healthy relationship programs were directly oriented towards stopping bullying before it starts, including the Fourth R Program, which uses a thematic approach to reduce aggressive behaviours in youth and substance abuse. A second program, the WiseGuyz program, targets teenagers and helps guide them through the chaotic world of dating.
“Importantly, many of these adolescent risk behaviours overlap because they occur in the context of relationships,” said Roberts. “The Fourth R program addresses these adolescent risk behaviours by focusing on relationship goals and challenges that influence their decision-making.
“WiseGuyz is a healthy relationship, life skills program for male-identified individuals in grade nine. WiseGuyz is an evidence-informed participatory program designed to promote healthy relationships and prevent adolescent dating violence. The program provides a safe space for participants to reflect on the impacts of harmful gender stereotypes and build essential relationship skills.”
A Healthy Relationship Plus program is also in effect, which follows principles of skill building and awareness. It aims to prevent violence by promoting healthy relationships.
Roberts added that, in addition to the school board’s anti-bullying and healthy lifestyle programming, in the event a situation spiralled out of control there is an Emergency Response Plan as an absolute last resort.