A lot of children experience bullying and some concerned citizens are banding together to bring bullying to an end.
Next week, a number of community organizations are working together to host “Free from Fear” -- Standing up to Bullying for three days starting on Tuesday.
The three-day conference will focus on a number of topics and will be held in numerous locations during the three days, including City Hall, Vincent Massey Public School, Carlton Comprehensive High School and the Cooke Municipal Golf Course.
Jane Krafchuk, a former social worker for the Sask. Rivers School Division and current member of the Compassionate Community Response Team, said she has seen a lot of bullying throughout her time working at schools.
“I obviously did have a lot to do with bullying,” Krafchuk said. “Prince Albert is putting together a co-operative effort to eliminating bullying or reducing the amount of bullying that goes on in schools and in this community.”
As a social worker in the school, Krafchuk often saw firsthand bullying in the schools.
“Bullying was very much a part of what I dealt with,” she said.
She would usually deal with about two or three bullying cases each month.
“When I was notified and made aware and I was able to get moving on it right away, those situations were resolved and the bullying stopped because if adults are made aware and the proper steps to intervene are taken,” Krafchuk said.
“I had a process I had worked out basically on my own to make sure the child who was being victimized was no longer being victimized and would feel good about themselves and feel safe and secure in the school,” she added. “There are certain ways you do that and certain ways you don’t.”
There are different types of bullying, including active, passive and cyber, she said.
“When you think of bullying, you think of the kids being beat up on the school ground or on their way home from school,” Krafchuk said. “There is a more pervasive and just as dangerous of bullying called passive bullying.”
Instead of physically hurting another child, the bully will exclude or not talk to a peer.
“More often than not, girls will do that but it is just every bit as damaging as being beat up on the playground one day,” she said.
Krafchuk said bullying most often appears when children are in Grade 5 to 7. During this time, children will start to become a bit detached from their parents because they are getting ready to be independent adults.
“In order to do that, they need to have a peer group and usually that is their friends, the group they are friends with at school, gymnastics, hockey (or other activities),” Krafchuk said. “What we have, unfortunately, is children that are somewhat isolated or marginalized.”
Sometimes children who come from broken or tumultuous homes will depend more on their peer groups to feel like they belong.
“Belonging is what it is about for most human beings,” Krafchuk said. “We are pack animals and are very social animals.”
Since humans are social creatures, it is important to have someone close, from a best friend to a grandparent.
Often children will not find a social group, finding themselves on the outside due to being different from the rest, Krafchuk said. This could be anything from having thick glasses of red hair, to being overweight or effeminate.
“Peer groups are all about everyone conforming to the social behaviour that group thinks is the norm,” Krafchuk said. “If they all wear different coloured shoe laces, then it becomes important that you have the same as your friend.
“That is just the way human beings are, but if a child is different, then they don’t fit in as levelly or easily and have to find another best friend who is not part of the main peer group.”
Children who are different will then often be bullied for their uniqueness, falling into negative feelings, such as depression and anger.
“Children at that age tend to think black and white and have more tunnel vision,” Krafchuk said. “If they had a horrible day at school, they can’t picture how it is going to be fixed.
“Lots of times, they feel very ashamed, so they don’t reach out and tell anybody and blame themselves,” she added. “They are so ashamed they don’t want to tell their mom and dad that there is anything wrong but mom and dad will notice that their child is withdrawing to their room or apart from them.”
Those who are bullied will often start avoiding school or claiming to be sick, will cry more often and have violent outbursts.
They could also be checking social media more to see what is being said about them and paying close attention to the phone, she said.
Parents and the school need to work closely together to pay attention to what is going on in children’s lives, as teacher may notice something happening in a hallways and parents will notice strange behaviour, but neither know the whole story, Krafchuk said.
“Not every child will go home and tell their parents and not every child will tell a trusted teacher, because remember they are feeling very ashamed and hopeless at this point because it has gone on for a while,” she said. “ If you see these situations, talk to the child.”
She also suggests that parents monitor their children’s social media sites and cell phones, to make sure there is no cyberbullying happening.
“The school and the home can work together and it can and will stop,” Krafchuk said. “I know that firsthand because I worked with that two or three times a month for 25 years. It can be stopped.”
It is important to stop the bullying before the child turns to self-harm, she said.
“We have certainly heard from the media a number of incidents of young people who have ended their lives because of a campaign of cyber bullying and school yard bullying,” Krafchuk said. “We want that to stop and as a community say that is not OK. We want to arm students, parents and schools with strategies to eradicate as much as we possibly can.”
One thing the teachers and parents should do is involve the school social worker or counsellor.
“Because the social worker is not perceived as an authority figure, therefore they stand a way better chance of getting the information about who is saying and doing what at the very beginning,” Krafchuk said.
The bully and the victim should not be the only children talked to, Krafchuk said.
“There is always someone on the sideline -- often times it is not the person who did the beating up on the playground, it is usually someone standing off a bit who is really quite powerful in the peer group pulling the strings,” she said. “Eventually, what will happen if you interview all the children, somebody will tell you who is driving the bus and calling the shots.”
“Once you find out really and truly what happened and why there is an issue, why this child is being bullied, then it is time to call in all the parents,” she added.
She said her system was about 95 per cent effective in stopping the bullying in its tracks.
“It is really rewarding work because then you will see the child coming to school, enjoying being there, making new friends and feels that they belong,” Krafchuk said.
Krafchuk is excited for the upcoming event.
“It is a three-day celebration of our youth and a reminder to the community that it takes all the partners to work together to make children feel safe and included and free from bullying … They are loved, they are part of this community and we stand with them.”
The “Free from Fear” -- Standing up to Bullying conference agenda:
• On Tuesday at noon -- event will start at City Hall with a declaration of Victims of Crime Awareness Week, followed by guest speakers and a performance by Donny Parenteau.
• Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m. -- Internet Child Exploitation Unit presentation at Vincent Massey Public Community School.
• Wednesday -- Day of Pink at Carlton Comprehensive High School.
• Thursday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Beyond Bullying - Practical Approaches to Help presentation at Cooke Municipal Golf Course. Call Tina at Victim Services (306-953-4357) to register.