Antigonish welcomed another opponent of bullying last month as the Edmonton-based Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities (SACSC) put on seminars from Sept. 28 to 30.
SACSC’s trip to Antigonish was organized by Antigonish RCMP Cst. Jennifer Arnold who has been involved in school programs such as X-Out-Bullying and Eliminating Victimization Action Committee (EVAC).
SACSC’s Colleen Soetaert said it was a great three days in Antigonish with engaged audiences that included community members, education students from St. F.X. and students and staff from Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional School.
Her seminar partner Karen Hobbs elaborated on the importance of talking with all those dealing with bullying issues.
“Our whole philosophy and approach is about schools and communities working together to create this safe and caring school culture,” Hobbs said. “It’s about everyone working together here and having all of the partners, shareholders involved.”
Creating safe school environments is the goal of SACSC and Soetaert listed the five topics which are emphasized in their seminars through power-point presentations.
“I’ve done some work on our five safe and caring schools topics which are; living respectfully, developing self-esteem, respecting diversity and preventing prejudice, managing anger and handling bullying, and then working it out peacefully or working it out together,” Soetaert said.
“It’s about having an understanding of those principals and what it might feel like, look like, and sound like for everyone.”
Hobbs said another focus is the importance of adults providing positive role models of proper behavior.
“Modeling the positive prosocial behavior we want to see in everyone,” Hobbs said.
Both women said they were impressed with programs, like EVAC, which are already in place in the local schools and community and that their seminar and messages were just adding to the established tools against bullying.
“Really it’s just building on what they already have,” Soetaert said. “Compounding it.”
The SACSC representatives noted that continued efforts have to address problems relating to cyber-bullying and another type of bullying which has always been around but only recently labeled.
“One of the new types that was discussed this week was relational aggression and that is a term we use for that kind of covert bullying,” Soetaert said.
She listed acts such as, “rolling your eyes a lot, gossiping, spreading rumours, alliance building, leaving people out and exclusion” as prime examples of relational aggression.
“That is a type of bullying,” she said. “It’s not just girls being girls if they’re talking or boys being boys if they’re calling people names. No, it’s a type of bullying and once we identify it, than we can address it.”
Soetaert said, when talking students, many will admit to engaging in these acts but then add they didn’t see it as an act of bullying.
“And I said ‘good for you, now you see that it is and how we can all change the culture,’” she said. “That and cyber-bullying are two of the most pressing bullying (issues) we deal with.”
Cst. Arnold will be giving a presentation for parents on cyber bullying Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the People’s Place Library.