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SD46 on student mental health and bullying

SD46 on student mental health and bullying

School District #46’s (SD46) mission statement – committing to supporting each student to experience joy and fulfillment in realizing their potential – is prominently displayed on its website homepage. Knowing the damage that bullying can inflict on individuals, Kate Kerr, the district’s director of instruction for inclusive education, is on a community team that ensures that support exists in every Coast school.
Kerr is aware of incidents of physical and verbal bullying in area schools. “It’s important to understand that bullying is based on a power difference between individuals,” said Kerr. She believes the development of social and emotional skills creates internal strength. That strength helps young people recognize that they have the power to stand up for themselves and that they can express their views without having negative impacts on others.
Working in the delivery of the mental health portion of the district’s strategic plan, Kerr is part of a team that stretches beyond SD46 staff. She says area students are fortunate that with the support of the board, structures like the Healthy School Committee and the Coast’s Youth Action Committee have developed. These groups make key resources like community mental health professionals, the RCMP, and specialists from areas like recreation and leadership available to support programs in schools. They also give youth a forum to voice their views on matters that impact them.
An outcome that Kerr views as a “win” against bullying is the Mentors in Violence Prevention program implemented in secondary schools. This initiative uses peer-to-peer mentorship with Grade 11 and 12 students providing advice and guidance to their younger counterparts. One of its main focuses is understanding the responsibilities of a bystander who witnesses bullying behaviours. Kerr sees this work as impactful and more effective than adults “lecturing” young people.
Other efforts are based on the provincial ministry’s ERASE program. ERASE stands for “expect respect and a safe education.” Its goal is to build safe and caring school communities. It does this by empowering students, parents, educators and partners to help the education system address challenges facing students. ERASE has six key subject areas: online and school safety, bullying, mental health, substance use and sexual orientation/gender identity.
To help students understand appropriate behaviours for the online world, SD46 has introduced programming developed by experts in these fields. The White Hatter provides internet and social media safety, digital literacy, and violence prevention education. Kids in the Know is the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s national safety education initiative. It uses interactive activities to build skills that increase a student’s personal safety online and
“Students have access to much more information than in the past. Young people need trusted adults that they can go to if they have questions or fears about something they have seen, heard or read. A caring adult within a student’s life is a clear indicator of a sense of belonging,” said Kerr. She said that is one of the reasons SD46 focuses on relationship building and caring for others as a core value in education.
Connie Jordison

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