BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Schools across the country will be recognizing National Bullying Awareness Week, Nov. 13th-19th with a variety of activities, programs and services.
The Wolf Creek Public School District (WCPSD) has a number of activities planned for this week that was designated by the province in hopes of bringing attention and prevention strategies to the issue of bullying.
According to WCPSD District Social Worker Barb Reaney, school divisions are now required to have a definition of bullying in place, and schools are now taking action to put those definitions into practice through programs and events such as the Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week upcoming in the district.
“That definition is needed so that students, parents and staff are providing a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe school environment that respects diversity and nurtures sense of self,” Reaney said.
“On the Alberta Education web site, there is a definition of bullying as well as a variety of resources available to help build on that definition. Each school division and school board must build, establish and maintain related policies to adhere to that,” she added.
For the WCPSD, a policy known as Policy 22 has been enacted to address this legislation.
“We are calling our events the Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week. Across our division, we have adopted the theme of ‘ERASE bullying’, where each of the days of that week follow the letters of the word ‘erase’,” Reaney said.
“On Monday, we are educating our students, our staff and our community on the topic of bullying. Tuesday is the ‘r’ letter, which means remember. In our division, we will be wearing orange to remember the Aboriginal children who attended residential schools, and the effects of those schools.
“Wednesday is our action day. There will be events all across our schools that relate to the prevention and awareness of bullying and get the students involved in an active role. We don’t have school Friday, so the Thursday and Friday have come together for the final letters ‘s’ and ‘e’ under the umbrella of setting an example.”
Reaney said it’s important for the district to carry through these activities so that students and staff alike can learn about the relatively new legislation and how to address the issue of bullying within their schools.
“We will be addressing the important of ensuring we create a safe and caring environment. We want to remind people to act with empathy and practice respect so that they ensure each student and staff member feels welcome in the school.”
“Our focus is on prevention and we want to really address that within our district during that week.”
Social workers within schools are often charged with managing programs that encourage welcoming and inclusive spaces. These might take the form of after-school programs or clubs, as well as offering counselling and education opportunities for staff and students.
“One of the popular programs in our division is called Roots of Empathy. It’s an evidence-based program that focuses on empathy and helps people understand how to relate to one another when dealing with bullying and preventing it,” Reaney said.
“As a division, we really want to put the focus on the welcoming, caring and respectful environments within our schools. We want all of our students and staff to feel that way when they enter the building, and we want parents and community members to feel that way as well.”