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.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed as Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

A property at 1224 Richardson St. in Victoria is the subject of a rezoning application that seeks permission to build three low-rise buildings with 24 units, including four that would rent for below market rate. (Google Streetview)
Victoria development in Fairfield features subsidized housing element

Public hearings this Thursday (Jan. 28) for proposals on Richardson Street and Heywood Avenue

The Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre will once again be transformed into temporary sheltering for 45 individuals starting in March. (Courtesy of the B.C. Government)
Temporary shelter to resume at Victoria Save-On-Foods arena in March

BC Housing signed lease with GSL Group from Feb. 1 to May 30

Victoria police are seeking a young woman suspected of spitting on a bus driver in October 2020. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
VIDEO: Young woman sought after ‘spitting assault’ on Victoria bus driver

Suspect became irate after bus came to a sudden stop

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(B.C. government photo)
POLL: Would you like to see restrictions on travel to B.C. from other provinces?

With a host of more virulent strains of COVID-19 appearing across the… Continue reading

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Most Read