In 1997, the British Columbia Ministry of Education collaborated with the Ministry of Attorney General and began a Safe Schools Initiative that addressed student safety in BC schools and communities. In December, these two ministries opened a Safe Schools Center that provides information, resource materials, and examples of successful practices to address safety issues such as personal safety, violence prevention, early intervention for youth at risk, encouragement of social responsibility, diversity, and a positive school atmosphere (British Columbia Ministry of Education & Ministry of Attorney General, 1998). In addition to the Safe Schools Initiative and the Safe Schools Center, the ministry of education and the Attorney General decided to expand these initiatives by developing a violence prevention program for BC schools.
Throughout the following year, the government of British Columbia announced a plan to help prevent bullying in schools. As a result of this initiative, the Vancouver School District developed and ‘piloted’ a new program that targets bullying in BC Schools (BCME & MAG, 1998). This program was titled Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities. On November 16th, Education Minister Paul Ramsey and Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh launched this program at Hastings Community School in Vancouver. In a news release provided by the Ministry of Education, Dosanjh states that “we must do everything we can to prevent violence and fear from occurring…schools should be safe and nurturing environments where children can learn and grow into healthy, productive members of society” (Dosanjh, 2). As a result, the Ministry of Education, in partnership with the BC Safe Schools Center, the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the British Columbia Principals’ and Vive Principals Association, have supported the implementation of this program by sending a copy of this resource to all of the Superintendents in British Columbia.
Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities was designed to address major issues in education while promoting a safe, comfortable environment for children. This program intends to help build a school community that understands the acts and issues that surround bullying and harassment, while strengthening the social skills of the students. In addition, this proactive program provides a step-by-step process for creating a school-wide plan for the prevention of bullying while offering strategies for responding to incidents of bullying and/or harassment (BCME & MAG, 1998).
The first section of this resource provides educators with a rationale, information, and myths on bullying. In 1997, the National Crime Prevention Council of Canada reported that approximately 8.6% of children in grade one through eight admitted to bullying others during a six week time period while 15% of children reported that they were victims of bullying during the same time frame. Although this statistic seems alarmingly high, many incidents involving bullying are not reported regardless of whether it is physical-aggressive behavior or emotional abuse. In addition, several longitudinal studies conducted over two decades have recognized bullying behavior as a precursor of violent behavior and criminal activity in adult life (BCME & MAG, 1998). Therefore, this program offers suggestions for responding to bullying incidents from the perspective of the bully, the victim, and the witness.
Focus on Bullying provides a seven-step process that will aid in the implementation of this program. Step one of this process involves the establishment of a working group that will help guide the project, namely teachers, administrators, support staff, parents (PAC), students, and other interested community members. After this working group has been established, they must recognize and discuss the problems associated with bullying behavior. As a result, this working group must identify bullying prevention as a priority while critically examining this resource so it to becomes a part of the schools long-term plan. The Focus on Bullying resource outlines the duties of the working group while providing them with an action checklist that will help with the implementation of this program. The next two phases, outlined in the Focus on Bullying implementation sections include the involvement of the parents, and the students. This section includes PAC meeting agendas and overheads that provide a basic overview of the program as well as action checklists and fact sheets for both the parents and the students (BCME & MAG, 1998).
The latter four stages of this implementation process involve creating a new school statement, building a supervision plan, and developing and implementing the new plan. When creating a school statement for bullying prevention, this resource encourages the input of the school staff, students, and parents. Secondly, it is important for any school implementing this resource to modify their existing supervision plans by determining the new role of staff and aides and identifying and monitoring high-risk areas for bullying occurrences. Focus on Bullying supports and encourages pro-social behavior, therefore they have designed special tickets titled ‘Good Stuff’ to acknowledge this behavior. These tickets are designed for and distributed by supervisors on the playground. Lastly, this program encourages schools to develop a response plan for bullying behavior. In doing so, educators must have detailed guidelines and procedures that are consistently followed. They must identify strategies to support students who are bullied, and strategies to respond to students who bully others while planning restorative interventions to bring together all parties that have been involved in a bullying incident (BCME & MAG, 1998).
The next section of Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities addresses bullying prevention through classroom lessons. The lessons provided in this resource are intended to accompany and compliment interpersonal skill programs such as Personal Planning. These lessons provide specific classroom based instruction to students that deal with the concepts of bullying, the school prevention plan, and specific strategies that the students can use to prevent or respond to bullying situations. The lessons provide are organized by grade and contain three modules.
The first proposed module for each grade deals with the definition of bullying. This module provides students with the opportunity to recognize the difference between bullying and other playground problems. This module encourages the students to share their past experience while relating and empathizing to those individuals who have been victims of bullying. In addition, there are numerous role-playing activities that enable the students to demonstrate assertive response strategies to bullying attempts. Module two enables the teacher and students to thoroughly discuss the school plan in detail. The lessons in this particular module assist students to develop a clear understanding of the schools expectations for behavior while committing to the goal of building a bullying-free school and community. The final module encourages students to develop the necessary insight and skills for dealing with bullying incidents. The lessons in this module enable to the students to learn and practice assertive responses to bullying behavior, understand when and how to seek help, and ways in which the students can protect others from bullying behavior.
Each lesson plan provided contains a content section that explains the focuses and objectives of the lesson, and an instructional approach section, which describes the proposed method of instruction, including the resources available (worksheets, scripts, etc. In addition, the insight and understanding section of the lesson plan enables the teacher and students to discuss certain topics using various interactive approaches such as role-playing and communication circles. Each lesson provides the necessary vocabulary and definitions and extra materials and resources for the lessons. Lesson scripts for each lesson are also provided, should the educator need to refer to them, and there are also proposed assessment strategies at the end of each lesson to aid in the evaluation process (BCME & MAG, 1998).
Focus on Bullying also provides curriculum links that connect this program to the Personal Planning K to 7 Integrated Resource Package (1998). This portion of the resource provides educators with specific learning outcomes that are applicable to the proposed content of this program. The curriculum connections are divided into separate grades and cover three major elements of the Personal Planning Curriculum, namely, mental well-being, child abuse prevention, and safety and injury prevention (BCME & MAG, 1998). These three sub-sections contain a minimum of two relevant prescribed learning outcomes each, thus providing a minimum of six outcomes per grade level. These curriculum connections will make the implementation process of this program more attainable while giving educators the opportunity to integrate the issue of bullying across the curriculum.
The last section of this resource also promotes integration by providing the necessary publication information on extra resources that could be used to compliment the program. The resource section contains non-fiction and fiction and fiction resources for students, teachers, and parents. These extra resources include stories, novels, videos, and posters that deal with the issue of bullying.
The issue of bullying affects every school and typically every child at one point in time. As a result, the Ministry of Education proposes numerous programs that help deal with these difficult issues. One such program is Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities. This particular program was developed during the second phase of the Safe Schools Initiative. Although this resource provides tremendous insight regarding the issues of bullying, the implementation of this resource requires professional training provided by the BCTF and the BCPVPA facilitators for the teachers, administrators, and support staff who wish to participate (BCME & MAG, 1998). This two day training process consists of two phases: the awareness phase and the implementation phase. Although the workshops are funded by the BCTF and the BC Safe Schools Center, it may prove difficult for all interested individuals to participate. In addition, in order for this program to be completely successful, all parties involved including administrators, staff, students, parents, and community members must support it’s implementation. This may also prove difficult considering the complexity and density of this program.
Focus on Bullying: A Prevention Program for Elementary School Communities is a complex program that is intended to cover all aspects of bullying including, basic information on bullying and harassment, strategies for coping and responding to bullying as well as social skills training (BCME & MAG, 1998). However, this program may not fit into the long-term plan of all schools. In addition, the success rate of this program is based entirely on a complete commitment of all parties involved. As we know, many educators cannot commit to a minimum two-day training session due to the complexity of his/her own yearly plans.
Therefore, it would be extremely difficult for some schools, staff, and administrators, etc. to fully commit to not only the complex implementation of this program, but also the overall objectives and goals for the entire school year. However, this program does contain an abundance of great resources, suggestions, and information regarding bullying that could prove valuable for many educators as complimentary additions to their curriculum.
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