Students taking ownership of eliminating bullying | Video

posted on November 20, 2014

By Austion M. Davis, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

By Austion M. Davis, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

REGINA — When a new immigrant student was being shunned for her language skills by another student, a pair of sisters at Winston Knoll Collegiate had a simple solution to demonstrate that any type of bullying would not be tolerated in their school.

“We told a bunch of our friends about what was happening and none of them were OK with it either,” says Kevina Mullock. “We didn’t want this new girl to start her school with already being treated disrespectfully.”

Kevina, her twin sister Kenda and their friends ignored the bully — who was also a friend of theirs — and started hanging out with the new girl.

“We made sure she was accepted in the school right away,” Kenda says.

In the end, the Mullocks said, the bully realized there was no reason to try to exclude the newcomer.That situation wasn’t a recent example. Kenda and Kevina, now in Grade 12, say bullying at Knoll is rare, due in part to the RespectED program that teaches students about bullying and harassment prevention. They joined the program in their first year of high school, learning about bullying, prevention and respect.

“Being in Grade 9, I know I’m going to be here for the next four years and I want the whole school to be a comfortable place, not just for me but for everyone,” Kenda recalls of why she was interested in joining the group.

Once they had the proper training, the 10 student members of the RespectED group at Knoll planned assemblies and delivered presentations at their school and elementary schools.

“We learn how to be these leaders and we take (the program) to as many schools as we can and spread this positivity and bully-free atmosphere,” Kevina says.

The RespectED program is offered through the Canadian Red Cross, a partner with Regina Public Schools, but the training was focused on guidance counsellors and teachers who would give workshops to kids.

“The Red Cross has really changed its approach with that,” says Sue Burns, the division’s bullying consultant. “What they’re doing now, and what we’re doing with Regina Public, is training staff who can then in turn train youth and sort of do the workshops via a peer-to-peer (approach).”

She says more than 60 staff members have been trained over the past three or four summers, meaning more than half of Regina Public Schools have a RespectED-trained teacher. But the program is most effective when kids take ownership of promoting safe environments and healthy relationships.

“The feedback that I used to get from kids was: A. You don’t know what’s going on, and B. I don’t want to be the next one that’s targeted,” Burns says.

She says providing students with the education to identify bullying, the desire to monitor it and the tools to intervene without getting someone in trouble or becoming the next victim are the essential components.

“Empowering the kids is huge. We know, we were all in high school. If you have a strong group within the school that is promoting healthy relationships, it’s just a benefit all the way around,” Burns says.

She was quick to praise the group at Knoll and one activity where 250 students wrote a label or a mean name they had been called that had hurt them on a balloon. Kenda and Kevina say it was an emotional and vulnerable exercise but students were supporting each other. On cue, all of the students let go of their balloons, releasing their labels.

To hear the Mullock sisters tell it, the program has helped Knoll undergo a culture change regarding acceptable behaviour.

“Bullying is becoming less of a thing people do to be cool and it’s more of the anti-bullying that’s really popular,” Kevina says.

“Now it’s cool to be respectful,” Kenda says.

Follow Austin Davis on Twitter

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

Original source article: Students taking ownership of eliminating bullying

Read more: