Kelly Waterhouse,  Booster Magazine: Bullying is not Child's Play

At some point in your life, you have come across a bully.  Whether in your childhood, at your job, in the lives of your own children, chances are you can conjure up a face that fits your ideal of a bully. These days, it’s not just in the playgrounds, bullying is ending up on the news.  Something we once shrugged off as “kids being kids,” has now proven deadly as violence and suicide rates escalate with this growing issue in our communities.  It doesn’t have to happen.  In Centre Wellington, something is being done to save help those children who find themselves in the path of a bully. 

It starts with recognition.  What is bullying?  Here is a simple definition for a complex problem:  bullying is a pattern of harassment.  It can be either verbal, emotional or physical, resulting in someone being hurt.   It can lead to violence, and even death.  The good news is that if caught in time, something can be done.  The challenge is ensuring that those who are victims, or witnesses to the bullying, feel safe enough to come forward and report the acts.  Nothing scares a bully more than being confronted.  If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to challenge a bully.  Thanks to the members of the Centre Wellington Anti-Bullying Campaign, our community is up the challenge.

It all started with the concern of Keith Robb, a Community Services Officer for the County of Wellington detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police.  Through his work with the local school board, Robb recognized that bullying was becoming an issue of increasing concern for parents, students and teachers alike.  “It can adversely affect the development of a child and result in lifelong mental health issues or even suicide. Violence is on the increase everywhere and our children need to be safe anywhere they go.”   His educational programs had touched on the issue of bullies, but Robb knew the time had come to gather current resources and put this issue in the spotlight. “I thought we needed a program that would address the needs of all children starting from junior kindergarten right through high school. We also needed to educate parents, teachers, police officers and other community partners on how to identify bullying and what role they should play to help stop it.”  It’s not the same world that most of us grew up in.  Technology has played a role in the contempt of the bully.  Now the attacks aren’t just physical.  Threats come via email, cellular phones, text messaging, and the internet.

Officer Robb needed help to get his vision off the ground.  That’s where the Center Wellington Community Oriented Policing Committee came in.  Together, they created a highly successful program that has spread to classrooms across all of Wellington County. 

There is an important message that the Centre Wellington Anti-Bullying Campaign wants to make clear: there is a difference between tattling on someone and reporting an incident.  Bullies play on the victim’s fears.  A child is being harassed feels ashamed of their status, which has already made them inferior.  Tattling on a peer would not only bring on further retaliation, they believe, but it would make them un-cool –something they are already dealing with.  With their self-esteem severely bruised, they become convinced that no one can or will help them.  After all, they’ve probably heard time and again that bullying is part of life.  Wrong!

Often times our children are bystanders of bullying activity.  We’re grateful that they aren’t the victim and we tell them to look the other way.  What does that teach them?  We need to give our children the power to stand-up and speak out about the injustices that most adults are oblivious too.  If we teach them that bullying is not cool, not even remotely acceptable, than they can be the judges in their own playground.  Instead of being bystanders, they can be the majority that faces the bully down. Again, it’s the issue of tattling versus reporting.  If someone is being tormented or is being threatened with violence, we must encourage young voices to seek help. Consequently, that help must be given, immediately. Adults must take an active role in this.  If we see a child being tormented, we have the power to get that child help.  It’s our responsibility.  If we stop seeing bullying as child’s play, and set the standards for right and wrong, we can actually save lives. 

The key to it all is communication.  The more this community discusses the issues and gets educated, the better off we’ll all be.  That is why the Centre Wellington Anti-Bullying Campaign is proud to launch its programme with the generous support of its partners; The Co-operators, Made You Look Design, CMHA, the Government of Canada, the Fergus IODE and the Fergus-Elora Rotary Club.  On  *date*, this group will be presenting Dawna Speers, speaking on Bullying and Positive Youth

Relationships.  The evening will include a question and answer period along with further resources designed to help combat the issue of bullying in our community.  The doors open at 6:30 p.m. This event is free. Find out how you can make Centre Wellington a safe place for all children.  Remember: bullying is everyone’s problem. Together, we can stop it.