WITS program recognized for proactive approach

The well-known locally grown bullying prevention program is said to be the best of its kind

Evert Lindquist

News intern reporter

The Victoria-based WITS initiative has been declared the best international bullying prevention program from among six others evaluated by Dalhousie University researchers.

Of the programs studied, WITS – which stands for Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek help – was the only one that could be recommended in terms of its effectiveness.

More than 600 Canadian schools have used WITS, while another 280 schools in British Columbia are currently using it.

“Promoting healthy relationships is the very foundation of WITS,” says Bonnie Leadbeater, University of Victoria psychology professor and co-developer of the WITS program.

“The Dalhousie study is the first review to really recognize the value of our positive approach to ending bullying by promoting caring relationships and responding to children’s requests for help with peer conflicts.”

The WITS program was created at Lampson Street Elementary School in Esquimalt in 1993 by principal Judi Stevenson and school police liaison Tom Woods, founder of the Rock Solid Foundation.

Leadbeater joined the team in 1998 and continued to develop, evaluate and implement WITS.

With WITS, “We want to know if someone’s having trouble with (peer conflict) or if someone’s being repeatedly victimized, and we really want to be able to do something about that.”

Now, 23 years after its founding, WITS is said to be the best of its kind in Canada.

The program provides a number of books that depict conflicts and situations students may face, along with online training for elementary school teachers to incorporate its fundamentals in their classrooms.

The well-known acronym – WITS – also helps children discuss and respond to bullying.

“The mission of the program is to create responsive environments for the prevention of peer victimization,” Leadbeater says.

“So it’s a program that really helps the communities (and) schools to help children to report if they’re being victimized – seek help – and also beginning strategies to deal with it: so if someone’s bothering you, you can walk away, you can ignore, you can talk it out.

“But eventually…kids are really in the power to seek help… That’s kind of the idea of the program.”

Leadbeater also said that WITS “works through enhancing emotional responsibility.”

Additionally, WITS is working with LEADS: Look and listen, Explore points of view, Act, Did it work? and Seek help.

Together they provide strategies and resources for older elementary school students (Grades 4 to 6) to become “WITS LEADers.”

The program also teaches the five strategies previously mentioned to help this age group problem solve conflict (likely among younger elementary school students) properly and effectively.

Although WITS is used throughout Canada, it’s mainly based around British Columbia.

“Most of the schools in Victoria have used (WITS) at some point or are still using it, and our greatest expansion has been to British Columbia,” Leadbeater says.

“We have a not-for-profit group that brings funds for the WITS program, particularly for books and schools…rural and remote schools or schools that don’t have very much funding for a library, and so they do a lot of work and their attention has mostly been focussed in British Columbia,” she says.

Why is WITS seen as more effective than other programs?

“I think what the Dalhousie study was arguing is that a more proactive approach is a better way of preventing bullying and peer victimization than the approach to sort of identify the kids as bullies or label them as bullies and try to address the problem…once it’s already occurred, as opposed to preventing it,” Leadbeater says.

Leadbeater acknowledged that “there are kids who are highly aggressive (and) they need to learn not to be aggressive. Sometimes that takes some higher level care or intervention than you get out of a universal program like WITS.”

However, this program is both a very popular and effective tool throughout Canada that can greatly minimize instances of peer victimization by simply teaching children how to act and respond in those situations.


For more information about the WITS program, visit witsprogram.ca.



Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in Saanich parkland

The birds don’t often touch down in the south of the Island

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

(Victoria Cool Aid Society/Facebook)
Victoria food drive aims to feed those also struggling with housing

Quadra Village furniture store hosting drive-thru event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Victoria police are asking for witnesses who might have information about this tricycle that was stolen in downtown Victoria on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Police seek witnesses after downtown Victoria company’s tricycle stolen

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on Thursday

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

Most Read