Westminster School joins anti-bullying program

Westminster School is the first junior high school in Edmonton to adopt a bullying prevention program.
Westminster School is the first junior high in Edmonton to adopt a school-wide anti-bullying program. (CBC)

Westminster School is the first junior high school in Edmonton to adopt a school-wide bullying prevention program.

The school is using the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a program in use at four elementary schools in Edmonton — Talmud Torah, Nellie McClung, Delton and Glenora.

"Last fall we had some issues with cyberbullying, some issues with racist comments being made to students," said assistant principal Maureen Winter.

Teachers began looking for a way to deal with bullying after four or five serious incidents, she said.

"As classroom teachers we feel that we can take the program and teach it to our kids," she said.

The program involves not only students and staff, but also each classroom, the school and even the community.

"The most important piece will be the weekly classroom meetings," said Winter. "Every Wednesday students get together with their home-room teacher for discussions with bullying issues and issues teens face at school."

So far the discussions in some classrooms have been rather muted, she said.

"They've been quiet about bullying so long," said Winter. "Once we build that comfort in our home rooms and that confidence, they will speak out about what they see."

Grade 8 student Sarah Kondoi calls Westminster is a friendly and inclusive school where students largely get along, though she's been aware of some cyberbullying.

While some students think the classroom discussions are waste of time, she believes attitudes will change.

"People don't like telling adults," she said. "They think they will be the next victim, but with this, people are going to tell an adult, their teacher."

School trustee Dave Colburn would like to see more Edmonton schools adopt the program which costs between $10,000 and $15,000.

Bullying is a serious threat to safety and well being of students, he said.

He recalled a conversation he had with a woman whose son died after being bullied.

"I found it devastating to realize that a mother should lose a child, a child should lose their life because of bullying," he said.