Police help spread word for Pink Shirt Day

WITS programs helping to crack down on cyberbullying

Oak Bay High Grade 12 students Pascall Morell

Students across the community will don pink shirts Wednesday to battle bullying.

Oak Bay Police leaders, Chief Constable Andy Brinton and Deputy Chief Kent Thom, will support the cause participating in a unified National Anti-Bullying Pink Shirt Day event at Reynolds secondary school in Saanich.

They’ll be alongside Nick Ross, who knows childhood bullying isn’t what it used to be, as social media, anonymous apps and other tools make it difficult for many parents and teachers to keep up, let alone take action.

But as the Saanich Police Department’s school liaison supervisor, Ross is literally paid to keep up with the latest technology and lingo, so he can stay ahead of the bullying curve.

“When someone was having trouble at school, they used to go home and it may not start until the next day. But with online stuff, they can go home, log into their computer, check an app and suddenly, there’s 10 more messages that are targeting them,” Ross said. “It’s really taken away that safe haven and the impact is so much more widespread.”

Ross and his fellow officers are donning appropriate attire for the annual Pink Shirt Day, an anti-bullying initiative that began in Nova Scotia in 2007 and has since spread to more than 25 countries.

A big piece of Saanich PD’s fight against bullying in schools are the WITS programs, national anti-bullying education campaign that began in 1993 at Esquimalt’s Lampson elementary. The acronym stands for Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help.

“We’re trying to get everybody to use a common language, and to understand that getting help is normative. And that includes educating adults to not say, ‘You’re tattling, that’s wrong,’” said University of Victoria psychologist Bonnie Leadbeater, WITS Programs principal investigator.

Today, the kindergarten to Grade 6 programs have spread to more than 600 schools across Canada and the U.S., with a unique model that pairs online resources with learning plans and books.

“WITS is totally online. We’ve identified about 50 books that deal with peer conflicts, and most of them are in school libraries at this point. Teachers then use a lesson plan to connect those books to the program,” Leadbeater said.

The partnership with local police agencies and the RCMP is what makes the program so successful, she said. Police teach the WITS basics then “deputize” kids to uphold the values as they go through their day.

While Ross is pleased with the level of anti-bullying support, he said there’s still a long way to go to educate both kids and parents.

“It’s so tough to be a parent as well, because you have to make a commitment to be aware of what’s out there and how quickly it changes,” he said.

Ross is often dismayed when parents complain about their kids being on a smartphone or electronic device all day.

“One of the hardest things for me to hear is when parents say, ‘I don’t know anything about my kid’s phone and what they do on it.’ It’s like dropping your 10-year-old off at the mall without having any discussion about it. Are you going to just open the door and not have a curfew, or are you going to ask who they’re meeting, what time they’ll be back? Online activity has to be viewed in the same light,” Ross said.

Leadbeater said WITS includes plenty of cyberbullying resources on media literacy, Internet literacy and to address parent concerns.

“In this age group, kids are really just getting exposure to cellphones and the Internet,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to help kids understand what the role of the Internet is.”

The majority of kids online use social media and other apps in a positive way, Leadbeater stressed.

“Cyberbullying is not that different from traditional bullying. It’s just a new tool for how to be mean. But the incidents of kids who use them for cruel means is not huge.”

To learn more about the WITS program, visit witsprogram.ca. See more about Pink Shirt Day fundraisers at pinkshirtday.ca.

 

Just Posted

‘Two ducks, five bucks’ for annual rubber duckie race in Bowker Creek

Oak Bay High Environment Club host event Saturday in celebration of vital Oak Bay creek

Esquimalt council green-lights first mass-timber building on Vancouver Island

Mayor appreciates 12-storey structure’s proximity to naval base, graving dock and Seaspan

Victoria beaches 1,560 pounds lighter after Surfrider cleanup

200 people came out to clean the beach on Earth Day

Sooke makes call for regional fire dispatch

Some municipalities decide to take service off-Island

Greater Victoria School District adopts new dress code policy

Two years in the making, SD61 moves to more inclusionary guidelines

Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

Accidental overdose has Elliot Eurchuk’s parents seeking change to B.C Infants Act

Amalgamation Yes hosting citizen’s assembly info meeting Wednesday at Vic High

Mayors of Victoria and Saanich will be on hand to give updates to residents

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of April 24

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

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

B.C. Hells Angels invited to rally by anti-SOGI organizer

The Culture Guard group has helped Hells Angels in the past, said its executive director.

Most Read