In a joint effort with the District Student Advisory Council and Student Voices, teens from Cranbrook to Elkford gathered together to put the spotlight on bullying. Student Voices began in 1990, when a group of dedicated students and educators saw a need for enhancing student leadership in British Columbia. The B.C. Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association, with the support of the Ministry of Education, assisted the group in launching a concept called BC Student Voice. Since then, the Voice has grown to represent all regions across the province. BC Student Voice has placed representatives on provincial Ministry of Education committees and represented student opinion at regional and provincial meetings and played a very important role in students getting their voices heard and influencing decisions that affect their education. With bullying at the forefront of student and school concerns, thoughts from students who are at the heart of the issue are seen to make a huge impact on what school staff, adults and parents can do to help. Information, thoughts and ideas gathered during the student discussions will then be taken to higher levels within the BC Education System as well as being heard by the Minister of Education.
From each school within School District 5, leadership students took the trip to Elkford and spent the day in discussions on bullying, what resources are available and what can be done to stop the epidemic of peer bullying. The overwhelming theme to the discussions were that students felt as if teachers, principals and parents could do very little to stop bullying and it was up to the students as a collective peer group to put an end it. “Eden Miller a grade 9 student from Parkland Elementary School learned that during the session she confirmed her suspicions that when an adult does get involved, it usually makes things worse. “It really needs to be the students to be involved in taking a stand to fix this,” she said. Kieyra Harris, a grade 11 student from Mt. Baker stressed the importance of having programs in communities that involve peers. “Sometimes our parents don’t really know about bullying and aren’t sure what to do to help,” she said. “It is obvious that bullying is everywhere. We could talk about it all we want, but we need to actually do something about it to make a difference,” said Savanah Kormil, a grade 9 student from Jaffray.
Students all expressed that peer support, and a strong peer counseling system is somewhat effective in combating bullying. “We largely agreed that that it is mostly within the school, for bullying to be dealt with effectively. It is the peer support that is necessary,” says Scott Takenaka a grade 12 student from Elkford Secondary School. “At our school we have a group of girls and guys available for peer support. Its completely helpful. Teachers and adults don’t really make a big difference but when a student is getting bullied and they are able to come talk to other peers about the situation it helps,” says Alex Beswick a grade 9 student from Laurie Middle School. “We believe that any time a student can connect with another student it is helpful. The more students that talk about it and want to make a difference the less it empowers the bully,” says David Martin, Vice Principal of Laurie Middle School. He explained that students who volunteer as peer councilors are trained and that it is having an positive effect of bullying.
The meeting was not only successful in gathering ideas about bullying, but it gave the students a rare oppourtunity to meet with students from other schools and create friendships across communities. “It is really great to have the oppourtunity to get together with other students and share ideas. It great to meet and interact with other teens from other schools. It not only gives us a chance to discuss bullying, but it is fun as well,” says McKinley Richards a grade 9 student from Fernie Secondary School.
Ideas, thoughts and plans are shared with each school in the District and Bev Bellina Trustee commented that each school takes a look at what is working and what can be done. “Bullying is serious issue and a big deal. Finding solutions is in the forefront of what the schools are working on,” she says.