(ANTIGONISH, N.S.) - It was a full house earlier this month in the gymnasium of HM MacDonald School in Maryvale.
The elementary school, in conjunction with RCMP, StFX Athletics and the Antigonish Town and County Crime Prevention Association, participated in a “swearing-in ceremony” and “tug of help” to help launch the WITS bullying prevention program.
WITS stand for W – walk away; I – ignore; T – talk it out; and S – seek help.
“This is pretty important,” Sean Barker, school principal, said, noting the reason for everyone gathering in the gymnasium.
Antigonish RCMP community policing officer Cst. Michael McKenna talked about the importance of being part of and helping form a “caring community,” in his introduction to the WITS program. "It is about helping people and keeping people feeling safe."
“Everyone has a role to play in keeping their community safe,” McKenna added, noting the importance of providing people with a “sense of belonging.”
Students learned about the meaning of each letter in the WITS acronym during an earlier scavenger hunt.
“Go to someone,” McKenna noted as a key if someone is being bullied.
He asked the StFX student-athletes to talk about situations in which they may have used their “WITS.”
“When I would get into an argument with my brother, I would walk away,” Donald Tabor, a member of the X-Men football team, said.
Mat MacDonald, a men’s basketball player, talked about ignoring hostile fans. “We just keep focussed,” he noted.
Cross country athlete Alexa Zarins noted “lots of issues” can arise on teams. “Eventually, we work together and we are able to work things out,” she said.
Football player Brett Hubbeard reflected on an occasion where veteran players were bullying recruits. “We went to our coach and he was able to deal with it,” he said.
Another component of the program launched was McKenna’s reading of Walrus’s Gift, which deals with inclusion.
McKenna and his colleagues, including other RCMP members, crime enforcement personnel and paramedics led the students, teachers and staff in the acquisition of their “special constable skills.”
“Stand at attention, salute and handshake,” McKenna said as instruction before each leader, along with school staff and students took a special bullying prevention pledge.
In the second part of the assembly, Grade 4 to 6 students learned about the “importance of being leaders,” according to McKenna.
To illustrate the benefit of getting help from other when in a bullying situation, student Cody van de Sande battled X-Women basketball player Lia St. Pierre – playing the bully – in a tug of war.
After losing the first “tug of war,” Cody, with some help from his friends, was able to defeat St. Pierre.
“It shows the importance of seeking help with a problem,” McKenna said.
To help with the implementation of the WITS program at the school, the local crime prevention association made a $200 donation, which member Barb McNally handed over to Barker during the session.
For more about WITS, visit www.witsprogram.ca.
Courtesy of Corey LeBlanc