School resource officer combatting bullying
Pink Shirt Day: St. Mary's Grade 4 students to go pink for program
Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 06:00 am
Okotoks’ school resource officer will be handing out pink shirts at St. Mary’s School to combat bullying next week.
Const. Rita Gillis will distribute the shirts on Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 28 as part of a program she teaches Grade 4 students at the school.
The WITS program emphasizes four simple strategies for resolving conflicts: walk away, ignore it, talk it out or seek help.
“I teach a class as well where basically we read a book together that has to do with bullying,” said Gillis. “We discuss the book, have various discussion questions and a class discussion about it.”
This year the program is sponsored by the RCMP foundation and engineering firm Fluor to provide students with the t-shirts.
Gillis said it’s important to start young in combatting bullying.
With previous generations, she said children were able to leave bullying behind when they went home at the end of a school day.
However, due to social media and digital devices, what was once limited to the schoolyard now often follows children home, said Gillis.
“The Internet gives 24-7 access to people, so they don’t get that reprieve when they leave the school grounds,” she said.
Gillis said instances she has seen are generally harassment behaviors.
“Sometimes it hasn’t necessarily crossed the line into something criminal, it might just be extremely rude, belittling type of comments made to individuals,” she said. “It is a slippery slope and it can easily turn criminal.”
Gillis said being in the schools on a regular basis allows her to create relationships with students when they’re younger. Her position in the schools allows her to meet with both victims and bullies themselves.
“I think that any time there’s an incident or an issue in the schools, having me in the position as a school resource officer, I’m able to go to the schools, sit down and speak face-to-face with students,” she said.
For parents, Gillis said it’s important they have open communication with their children.
She said there is no such thing as privacy between parents and children when it comes to online activity.
“The parents needs to be fully engaged in what their child is doing online,” said Gillis. “Whether that means they have their user names, they have their passwords, check your child’s accounts, see what kinds of conversations their child is having.”
Gillis said young people themselves need to be able to stand up to bullies and let them know their behaviour is not acceptable.
They can combat cyber-bullying by being responsible digital citizens, she added.
“This behaviour, individuals being cyber-bullied or harassed or bullied stops with each one of us, if each one of us takes a standpoint that this is not acceptable and it’s not going to be tolerated within our peer groups, within our school, within our community,” said Gillis.