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Andrew Wagstaff
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Cumberland North Academy launches anti-bullying strategy

BROOKDALE – Cumberland North Academy’s gymnasium was a sea of pink this morning, but that is just the beginning of the school’s anti-bullying efforts this year.

Cumberland County’s largest elementary school took the opportunity of the province-wide Stand Up Against Bullying Day to launch efforts that will take place throughout the school year, according to acting principal Tammy Bickerton.

“It’s being launched today, but it’s Sept. 12 and beyond,” she said.

Thursday morning’s assembly saw the students and staff take participate in a musical performance against bullying that saw the entire school step and clap to the accompaniment of vocals and xylophones played by several students.

The students also took in a guest address from Const. Travise Dow of the Cumberland RCMP, who spoke to them about the teacher-based WITS program, which he said fits nicely with the school board’s “Stand Up. Speak Out” initiative.

Cumberland North Academy is one of four schools in the county using the WITS program, which teaches to deal with bullying situations in four basic steps – Walk Away, Ignore, Talk it Out, and Seek Help. River Hebert, Oxford and Wentworth are the other participating schools.

“Everyone cares about issues surrounding bullying and the dangers that can go with extreme cases, and it’s important for students to learn the language about how to report these things,” said Dow, who donned his own pink shirt for the event. “Plus, it’s good for them to know how to deal with it when there’s not an adult around.”

Cumberland North Academy is piloting a new restorative approach this year that encourages students to talk to each other and their teachers. “Check-in circles” start the day, where students can talk about things that happened the day or night before, and how they are feeling today.

“It’s just to build those relationships so they know they can talk to someone, and that others are listening,” said Bickerton. “And it gives teachers an opportunity to see that someone is having a bad day, so they might take the opportunity to provide a little extra TLC.”

Students wore pink on Sept. 12, but will also be encouraged to do so at school assemblies every month, she said. The school’s students’ council will also be aksed for ideas on how to carry on the message throughout the year.

“We want it to come from the kids because that’s where we want to hit.,” she said.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Cumberland North Academy

Geographic location: Cumberland County, River Hebert, Oxford

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