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Alberni students lead fight against bullying

ADSS Grade 11 leadership student Mackenzie Wutke leads AW Neill Grade 7 students through an exercise as part of an anti-bullying workshop. - WAWMEESH G. HAMILTON/Alberni Valley News
ADSS Grade 11 leadership student Mackenzie Wutke leads AW Neill Grade 7 students through an exercise as part of an anti-bullying workshop.
— image credit: WAWMEESH G. HAMILTON/Alberni Valley News

A special program funded by the United Way and taught by the Red Cross is allowing Alberni District Secondary School leadership students to teach younger students what bullying is and how it impacts others.

‘Beyond the Hurt’ is an anti-bullying education program that was taught by the Red Cross to 19 Grade 12 leadership students at Alberni District Secondary School last December.

Now certified anti-bullying trainers, the leadership students have fanned out across the school district to bring their message to elementary and middle school students.

The students were at AW Neill Middle School on Feb. 19 and were also slated to visit Maquinna and Alberni Elementary schools as well that day.

“Our students are everywhere every day doing something on bullying. They’re busy but it’s a positive busy,” said ADSS leadership teacher Mike Roberts.

According to the Canadian Council on Learning, bullying has three defining characteristics: the behaviour occurs repeatedly; there is the intent to do physical or emotional harm; and there is a power difference between the aggressor and the victim. Bullying is also a form of child abuse, the council notes.

AW Neill exerciseIn Port Alberni, the school workshops are the culmination of training the students took last December.

According to the Red Cross website, ‘Beyond the Hurt’ is a youth facilitated program focussed on bullying prevention among children ages 11 and older.

The program teaches students what bullying is, how to recognize it, strategies to prevent it and how to report it. “They really get a good sense of what healthy relationships are, and what emotional and playground bullying is,” Roberts said.

School District 70 officials solicited interest in the program to teachers in Alberni Valley schools last fall. “The response we got was overwhelming,” Roberts said. “There was clearly a need to have this discussion.”

According to a Red Cross official, the application from ADSS noted that teachers were seeing an increase in bullying and in relationship violence.“I haven’t seen those numbers personally so I can’t comment on them,” Roberts said.

Bullying has changed with the times. “When I was in school it was face-to-face, now though it’s done from behind a screen,” he said. “I was surprised when we were in a Grade 5 class how much they knew about cyber-bullying, Twitter and hashtags.”

ADSS leadership students brought their message to kids at AW Neill on Feb. 19.

Each grade has planned a series of initiatives leading up to Anti-Bullying Day on Feb. 26 including acts of kindness, guest speakers, and a poster campaign, AW Neill vice principal Ron Behnke said.

Behnke agreed that bullying has persisted despite increased public awareness and initiatives against it. “Bullying is in the culture. We need to work at it when opportunities present themselves, and they present themselves all the time.”

At ADSS, Roberts said the new high school has had an impact on the school’s social culture. “I’ve seen a change, big time, from the old school,” he said. “The common area, where students gather for lunch for instance, has mixed people and they get along better. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was.”

EJ Dunn Middle School has been in anti-bullying mode for the past several weeks, principal Steve Brown said.

Students watched Tagged, a show with an anti-bullying message performed by the Green Thumb Theatre. As well, students are scheduled to work with the ADSS group, and a guest speaker is also being brought in.

And lastly, students will be working on a series of reading and writing initiatives on Feb. 26. “This is something that requires a constant message. Not just one day but continuous events,” Brown said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

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