WITS pilot launched at school

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High fives at the door

BROOKDALE – A pilot program to address bullying in elementary schools was launched locally Wednesday at Cumberland North Academy.

The academy becomes just the sixth school in Nova Scotia with the WITS and WITS LEADS programs.

Bullying has been on the radar for a while, and policies to address it are a work in progress. But Travise Dow, the RCMP constable who organized the ‘swearing-in ceremony’ in the school’s gymnasium, emphasized a new element that WITS offers.

“This one brings in the community aspect,” said Dow.

A wall of prominent public figures lined the path as the students trooped into the gym. Kids received high fives from police officers and fire fighters, EHS paramedics and student athletes from Mount Allison University. The Lions Club’s purple vests formed a seated line along one edge of the student body.

Bullying often relies on peer pressure. This program clearly aims to use peer pressure as a force for good.

“It’s not a police initiative,” said the constable.

It’s built by teachers for teachers, according to Dow, and is created to dovetail with a broader strategy using reading materials in schools.

WITS is an acronym. W: Walk away and tell an adult. I: Ignore and tell an adult. T: Talk it out. And S: Seek help.

The basic program targets K to Grade 3, while the addition of LEADS is meant for Grades 4 through 6 (also an acronym: Look and listen; Explore points of view; Act; Did it work?; and Seek help).

The entire program, including resources for kids, families, schools and community leaders, can be accessed through www.witsprogram.ca.

The swearing-in ceremony, which was attended by all grades, included a salute and oath. Children in Grade 3 and younger received a WITS badge and were deputized as WITS Special Constables.

The not-so-secret password the recruits learned was “Huddy, huddy” – which Dow said was a walrus’s way of saying, “Hey, how you doin’?” (A walrus is the program’s mascot.)

esparling@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Cumberland North Academy, RCMP, Mount Allison University

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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