Teachers talk bullying with ERASE program

East Kootenay educators attend training that combats bullying

Teachers from school districts 5 and 6 attended ERASE Bullying training at the Kimberley Athlete and Conference Centre last week.

The provincial anti-bullying strategy has been newly launched this year as ERASE (Expect Respect and A Safe Education) by Premier Christy Clark. Doug McPhee, director of instruction/safety, is SD5’s new Safe School co-ordinator for SD5.

Elementary school principals plus a staff representative and an Aboriginal educator took part in the training on Monday, October 15. McPhee said the training focused on creating connectiveness in each school. The idea is that students will develop a relationship with a member of school staff who they trust and can confide in.

“Every student who goes through school should be connected with a teacher in school,” McPhee said. But the adult doesn’t have to be a teacher. Every staff member in the school will now receive training from the representatives who attended the conference.

“It could be anybody in the building,” McPhee said. “For example, the school janitor is a very easy person to talk to.”

The goal of the program is for those adults to report any issues with bullying or otherwise that they hear from students so that the proper staff can deal with the issues.

“We’re not intending to build a staff of pseudo-councillors,” McPhee said. “Right now it’s just to look at what’s happening in the building.”

High school and middle school principals, councillors, select staff and Aboriginal educators got the chance to receive training on Tuesday and Wednesday. Their two-day session followed the same theme, but talked about transitioning students from elementary into middle school, and from there into high school. They talked about the threat of violence, risk assessment and investigation protocol, as well as cyberbullying.

“The province of B.C. has an excellent program put in place for all,” McPhee said.

ERASE has been refreshed for 2012, and McPhee said it is sadly very appropriate given the controversy that has been brought up following the suicide of bullied teen Amanda Todd. The training was scheduled well before Todd’s death, but McPhee said the topic certainly came up in discussions.

“You need to re-do a program every once in awhile to bring it up to current times,” he said. “Unfortunately the situation in Vancouver brought some currency – some immediacy to the program.”

In bringing the training back to the schools, McPhee said the district hopes to enlist help from the District Student Advisory Council. McPhee challenged the members to think about what strategies exist in schools to assist victims of bullying, and what ones are working.

“We’re going to eventually engage them in looking at school codes of conduct,” he said, adding that the District Parent Advisroy Council will later be involved as well.

Each school in the districts from Elkford to Cranbrook, Kimberley to Golden, are in different stages of the connectiveness process. McPhee said one of the issues he identified is forming a creative relationship with the RCMP who would be enlisted to help in serious cases of bullying.

“They would be more than likely the first service agency outside the school district that we would reach out to,” he said.

Stopping bullying in its tracks is something that goes far beyond school hours, McPhee acknowledges.

“In a perfect world if a student is having trouble, there’s someone to support them for the whole day, not just the school day,” he said. “It was an excellent opportunity for folks to take a look at what needs to be put in place.”

The ERASE bullying strategy is a once-a-year opportunity for teachers. They will take what they learned last week and bring it back to their schools. McPhee said it is a five-year plan that has simplified older versions of the province’s anti-bullying program.

“It’s taken a lot of bulk out of the reporting format,” he said.

After the training, each district has elected a Safe School co-ordinator and several alternates, and McPhee said both districts are on the right path towards eliminating bullying in their schools.

“It’s a good step in the right direction, and it’s very timely.”

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