Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 7, 2005
School safety is Rock Solid
Cop talk teaches students how to diffuse bullies
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Jack was a Grade 8 student at Louis St. Laurent Junior-Senior High School two years ago when a group of several larger boys bullied him.
They broke Jack's pencils. They kicked him while he walked innocently down the school's hallways. They once secretly cut the bottom of Jack's backpack so when he stood up from his desk and grabbed it, the contents spilled out. The bullies laughed while Jack remained quiet, fearing their retaliation.
A teacher asked him if there was a problem. Jack had endured the abuse for three months. Still, he feared he would be called a snitch. But enough was enough.
When the teacher took him aside after class, Jack spoke up.
A child does not have to suffer in silence, EPS Const. Ron Smithman told Grade 4-6 students at St. Stanislaus School recently. In fact, it is okay to get involved by talking to an adult.
Smithman, school resource officer at LSL, told Jack's story as part of a presentation of Rock Solid, a program begun in 1997 by a group of policemen in Victoria, to provide youth with positive solutions to violence, threats, intimidation and aggressive behaviour. The policemen were alarmed by the escalating level of violence in schools.
"Rock Solid is about recognizing an individual's rights and implementing peaceful solutions," said Smithman, who has been giving talks and performing skits for the foundation for three years.
"Everyone is entitled to mental, physical and emotional safety. It's a simple message of common human decency."
The Rock Solid Foundation has now spoken to more than 500,000 young people across North America.
Smithman was in charge of handling Jack's case. The bullies were arrested for assault and mischief and taken to the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre. Their parents were notified.
"Jack was pushed into lockers and called terrible names. I advised him that he could have come to me the first time it happened. In all, we were looking at 20 criminal charges," he said.
"It is pretty traumatizing the first time you're arrested. They were led from school in handcuffs."
The students sat transfixed as Smithman described the ordeal. They became lively participants answering questions after Smithman and four St. Stanislaus students performed several skits, with Smithman acting as a bully.
In one scene, he pretended to take a $25 watch from a student. He then asked the children if they would put up a fight. Only a few raised their hands.
In another, he robbed a group of $200. Nearly all of the kids raised their hands when Smithman asked them if they would defend such an amount of money.
"Does it make any sense to risk our lives for only $200?" he asked.
He told them that talking with their teacher, parents or a police officer is the right thing to do. Being called a rat or a tattle-tale is just a name because telling a responsible adult that they are being bullied takes strength and courage.
Smithman wanted the children to understand that talking to an adult before a situation escalates to violence makes a difference.
"Several children in Canada are injured or killed every year because they use violence to solve their problems," he said. "Please talk to one of us."
Smithman said the situation with Jack eventually came to a peaceful resolution.
"Jack said he didn't want (the bullies) to go to jail so we worked out an agreement. The boys were made to apologize to him and then they performed some community service," he said.
"And they never bothered Jack again."
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