‘Prevention is the key’ in bullying fight

We are writing in response to a Nov. 7 letter to the editor

Dear Editor:

We are writing in response to a Nov. 7 letter to the editor, entitled “Schools need to jump on board in the fight against bullying students.”

As current administration at Stettler Middle School, we cannot speak to bullying that occurred in Stettler schools 15 years ago. We can only speak to what is currently the practice at Stettler Middle School. Our school does everything that we can to provide a safe and caring atmosphere for all students who attend, and we have incorporated a number of programs and activities to address bullying in the schools.

To pretend that bullying in schools does not exist would be naive. However, to believe or suggest that the problem of bullying is solely the responsibility of the schools is equally as naive.

Bullying is certainly an issue, but it is not confined to the school or the playground. Nor are bullying behaviours confined to school-age students. Bullying is a societal issue that we deal with regularly at the schools, and to suggest that the schools do not respond to issues of bullying is unfair.

Stettler Middle School has a procedure in place wherein a student or a parent, on behalf of a student, must report any incidence of bullying directly to the principal of our school. That way, the principal is made aware of all bullying issues and, most importantly, repeated bullying issues. All issues that are brought forward are investigated and dealt with.

Consequences for bullying may include a verbal reprimand, counselling services, suspension, recommendation for expulsion, or even criminal charges. Unfortunately, the investigation and consequences are a reaction to the bullying that has already taken place and cannot erase from memory the words or actions that hurt the victim involved.

Also, many times, parents of victims want to know what has been done following the investigation, but privacy laws limit what information can be shared regarding other students. Not being able to share consequences with the victim’s family does not mean that the bullying was not dealt with.

When it comes to bullying, prevention is the key. Videos and guest speakers are one component of educating students and adults on the reality of bullying, the importance of reporting it, and how to be resilient in the face of bullies both at school and in our community.

We also continue to work closely with our Family School Wellness Worker and community agencies such as Alberta Mental Health and AADAC to provide services for students that we feel may be prone to bullying or students who would benefit from those outside agencies.

Other programs in Stettler schools, such as Alberta Mental Health’s “Friends For Life” instructional program for grades five and seven, the HEaRT (Healthy Empowered and Resilient Teens) program, YCAT (Youth Cultural Ambassadors in Training) group, and Challenge Day, are also designed to create opportunities for students to be taught to identify, prevent, report and be resilient in the face of bullying.

SMS also has many other clubs and programs in place for students to develop a sense of belonging. Some of these include boys’ group, girls’ group, building club, and our newly implemented CIA (Characters in Action) classes. In CIA, every student has been assigned a teacher mentor or advisor. That teacher takes a special interest in each of his/ her students and provides an opportunity for students to investigate topics, such as exploring strengths, self-esteem, organization, relationship building, tolerance and resiliency, etc.

Our school welcomes and encourages parents to come in and to report any issues that their children are facing, and we will continue to work with parents and our community to take on tough issues like bullying that we are faced with in our society today.

Respectfully submitted,

Mr. Jeff Lee and Mrs. Sharon Fischer

Stettler Middle School administration

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