Both the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek school districts are strongly considering applying for a one-time provincial grant of $15,000 to support its anti-bullying programs.
This comes after the provincial government announced last Wednesday that $1 million will be made available as grants to school districts across the province as forfeiture grants. Each district that makes a successful application is granted $15,000.
“The school district is definitely going to be looking at this to see if we can use this grant money to support any other projects we currently have,” said Stephen Petrucci, director of instruction for school district 60.
When asked what his district is doing to combat bullying in their classroom Keith Maurer, district principal for Dawson Creek said, “We just got through our ERASE training … and this week we’re bringing new protocols back to our district.”
ERASE is a five-year province-wide anti-bullying strategy that was announced this past summer. As well as being a campaign to raise awareness of bullying, under ERASE the Ministry of Education trains school personnel including teachers, guidance counselors and other support staff on how to mitigate bullying.
“We’re [currently] polling our schools to find out where their greatest needs are,” said Maurer
He said that the forfeiture grants would definitely support the district’s existing anti-bullying program but more discussion needs to take place among school officials about the parameters of the funding before they can decide whether or not to submit an application.
The province has issued a set of funding criteria. Applicants that best meet the criteria will have the best opportunity to receive the grant funding.
The chief criteria mentioned is that the applicant must demonstrate clearly how the additional funds will be used to prevent or respond to bullying.
The applicant must demonstrate that it is or will partner itself with other community partners to combat bullying.
Petrucci said that the school district is currently partnered with the RCMP and the Ministry of Child and Family Development to deliver its comprehensive bullying strategy: ERASE Bullying.
Recently, Theresa Campbell, president of Safer Schools Together, which was awarded the contract to implement the ERASE Strategy, gave a two-day threat assessment workshop to 16 regional school officials, as well as mental health professionals and RCMP.
“[Bullying] is something that we want to pay particular attention to and its been, in a good way, highlighted on a province-wide basis … We’ll see if we can tie [the grants] in to enhancing and building upon our existing initiatives like the ERASE strategy” said Petrucci.
Cpl. Jodie Shelkie of the Fort St. John RCMP said that local police’s crime prevention unit frequently gives presentations to local students regarding bullying and cyber-bullying.
The RCMP is interested in forming stronger community partnerships to address the issue of bullying.
“If there was a program that other partners in the city felt was beneficial and that the RCMP could have a role in, then we would definitely have a look at any way we could participate,” said Shelkie.
Makayla Macleod, a student at North Peace Secondary School, says that more money and attention is needed to address bullying in local schools.
“I’ve seen some people who were badly picked on and nobody seems to care. Maybe the kids need to step up and teachers too,” she said, noting that she had seen some teachers walk by incidents of bullying in the school’s hallways without intervening.
When asked what her school does to address bullying, Macleod said that after Port Coquitlam teen Amanda Todd’s bullying related suicide her home-room class had a thirty minute discussion about bullying.
In addition, she said that she had done a class project on bullying.
“I’ve seen it every once in a while but it’s not that bad [here] but then again, we tend to keep to ourselves,” said Curtis Cook, another North Peace student who was standing with a friend.
The deadline imposed by the province for an anti-bullying forfeiture grant is Dec. 12.
Forfeiture grants are derived from the sale of assets—cars, property, cash and other assets—seized by police during criminal investigations into alleged unlawful activity.