Walk away from bullying

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Program returns to county schools

Young students at three Cumberland County schools are receiving anti-bullying training through the WITS program.

OXFORD – Students at a trio of Cumberland County elementary schools got a lesson Wednesday on keeping their wits when being bullied.

Cumberland County RCMP joined with other community stakeholders in launching the WITS program at the Oxford Regional Educational Centre.

WITS, or Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek Help, is entering its second year in Cumberland County elementary schools, including Oxford, Wentworth and River Hebert.

“It’s an anti-bullying program for children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 that creates a common language for children to take home, and creates a positive atmosphere for them when dealing with peer conflict,” Const. Travise Dow of the Cumberland RCMP said.  “It’s all about resolution without violence.”

Dow said the program was developed in the 1990s in British Columbia through the University of Victoria. Its purpose is to combat the issue of bullying behaviour through the philosophy of walking away, ignore, talk it out and seek help.

“It’s based on a series of books that are integrated into the school curriculum in every province,” Dow said. “In the Maritimes, specifically, it relates with health curriculum and building on healthy relationships and positive friendship foundations.”

Dow said it gives children an opportunity to voice their opinions and teaches them the language on how to express themselves and how to explain themselves within their peer groups and with their parents when they go home.

The program was first introduced last November at the three schools and Cumberland North Academy in Brookdale and is supported by the RCMP, Amherst and Oxford Lions clubs, fire departments, Natural Resources, Emergency Health Services, Mount Allison University athletes and local sports teams.

“The program was well received last year and it’s very easy for the children to know how to use their wits,” Dow said.

During Wednesday’s launch, students seen a couple of inspirational music videos, repeated the WITS slogan and were sworn in as WITS special constables.

With the headlines surrounding bullying and teen suicides relating to bullying and cyberbullying, Dow said the WITS program reaches out to children at the elementary level so they know how to handle bullying situations when they get older.

“They learn what’s proper behaviour from an early age so when they get older and go to middle school or high school and become adults it’s already ingrained in them how they should behave, what’s appropriate behaviour and language. It gives them the skills to succeed,” Dow said.

Cpl. Christine Hobin, the community policing and diversity co-ordinator with RCMP H Division, said the program has been well received across the province and said Cumberland County is considered a leader.

Hobin said when the program was first introduced last year, Dow was instrumental in introducing the program in Cumberland County with great results.

“If the police can work with the communities and the schools and nip it in the bud and work from the preventative end we won’t always have to be reactive as much,” she said. “Our feeling is WITS is a good use of police use in schools.”

Hobin agreed with Dow about the importance of reaching out to children at a young age. She said the program also empowers the young students so they have the skills how to deal with bullying.

“Why not give them the tools to use and let them know there are supportive and caring community leaders and people in their lives who are willing to help them,” she said.

She hopes the children will use their WITS skills in their every day lives and as they get older.

Hobin said the program is also being used in Meteghan, Middleton and Antigonish and should soon be introduced to a First Nations community.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Oxford Regional Educational Centre, University of Victoria, Cumberland North Academy RCMP Emergency Health Services Mount Allison University First Nations

Geographic location: Cumberland County, OXFORD, River Hebert British Columbia Brookdale Meteghan Antigonish

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