NEW GLASGOW – When it comes to bullying, Chignecto-Central Regional School Board has a new message.
Stand Up. Speak Out. Stop Bullying.
The strategy, announced this week in Truro, focuses on the root causes of bullying – the breakdown of relationships between people – and not just punishing one person or one group for their actions.
“Stand Up. Speak Out was developed with the tenets of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) at its heart,” said Trudy Thompson, CCRSB board chair. “Through SEL comes the understanding that people’s negative actions – like bullying – result because relationships have broken down, because we’ve lost or never learned positive ways to interact with people when we feel angry or upset.”
Stand Up. Speak Out was developed to support and honour the many SEL-based initiatives currently operating in CCRSB schools and offices and to provide extra support to those that need a boost.
As part of the initiative, handbooks for students, parents, guardians and communities were developed in partnership with Dr. John LeBlanc, associate professor, pediatrics, psychiatry, community health and epidemiology at Dalhousie Medical School and director of the Canadian Prevention Science Cluster (Atlantic).
CCRSB staff and Dr. LeBlanc’s team based the handbooks on SEL practices and also incorporated the many recommendations put forward by Wayne MacKay. The handbooks all begin with an explanation of what bullying behaviour is, and is not, to try and ensure that all members of the CCRSB community are operating from the same understanding. A video featuring CCRSB students, telling their own stories, was also developed for use in schools and offices.
“The basic idea behind Stand Up. Speak Out. is that we all have a role to play to address bullying, that we all can make a difference in our own and someone else’s lives,” said Scott Milner, director of education services for CCRSB. “But we can’t do this alone. To make a real change we have to come together as a system, that means students, staff, parents, guardians and the communities in which our schools and offices operate.”
In conjunction with this initiative and to support the development of positive school climate, the CCRSB Code of Conduct was also re-written. The updated Code of Conduct spells out the behaviours/actions that will not be tolerated in CCRSB schools and the consequences that could result from a violation of the Code. The new code will come into force later in the fall.
“Obviously there have to be consequences for negative behaviours like bullying,” said Milner. “Depending on the violation, though, the first consequence may not be suspension.”
He noted the first consequence may be a restorative option that brings both parties involved in the incident together, to discuss what happened and why.
“The goal is that a relationship can be forged or preserved so that both parties can move forward positively,” Milner noted.
The concepts of SEL, positive school climate and restorative justice are all part of a larger race relations, cross-cultural understanding and human rights social justice framework at CCRSB.
The Stand Up. Speak Out handbooks can be accessed on www.ccrsb.ca; also watch CCRSB’s Facebook page and Twitter account (@Chignectocrsb) for ongoing information.