Bullying can be found at school and on the Internet

To understand the effects of bullying we must first be able to recognize signs of the behaviour.

To understand the effects of bullying we must first be able to recognize signs of the behaviour.

Students at Ponoka Composite High School (PCHS) received a powerful three-hour presentation on the effects bullying April 11 from Dwayne Peace, a life facilitator with Dare to Care. The organization’s goal is to give schools an opportunity to understand the effects of bullying,  and to give students and administrators and means of dealing with the issue.

Peace is a former Calgary police officer who has spent the last seven years of his career as a school resource officer. He spoke passionately to students and gave them tips to understand bullying.

“If I’m mean to you once, that’s not bullying…There has to be a history to it,” he stated.

He advocates either positive or neutral interactions with others and if a person has something negative to say then it is better not to say anything at all. “If you’re trying to make a joke about anything racist, stop it now.”

Victims of bullies will do anything to avoid a confrontation even if that means taking the long way home or being late for class.

“They would rather deal with their teacher than your crap,” stated Peace.

Bullying can also come from teachers, students and parents and he believes the issue is a societal one. He recounted a story where a girl was beaten with a vacuum hose by her father. Peace charged the man for assault with a weapon. The father then returned later to Peace and tried to say the issue really was with the girl because she had to learn a lesson and Peace was teaching her the wrong one. “Bullies don’t grow up and stop being bullies.”

Usually someone who has these tendencies comes from a home where there is little warmth or attention, explained Peace. He feels girls have a challenge as they often change who they are around different people.

“Why do you have to be a chameleon to fit in with your different groups?” he asked. “Girls, you’re losing your identities.”

He strongly believes cellphones should not be allowed in school, not because of texting or making phone calls but because of the camera. The urge to take inappropriate pictures can be strong for youths and Peace strongly advises students to be careful with their cameras.

Cyber bullying is an issue for kids and once a photo is transmitted that person in the photo has no control over what happens to the picture.

“You guys are smart. You are intelligent but you have no wisdom,” he said. “As a police officer I have access to every text message you’ve sent in the last two years.”

His advice to students was to consider whether they would be able to read a message to everyone in the room before sending. Sexting is something he does not approve of. “Ladies, the first question I have is why would you do that to yourselves?”

Students can be charged for sending and receiving inappropriate pictures of a young person and Peace advised the boys to immediately delete an image if they receive one — otherwise they would be in possession of child pornography.

He told the story of Amanda Todd who committed suicide Oct. 10, 2012 because of cyber bullying.

She was coerced to flash herself to a predator who then asked her to repeat the action. The predator threatened to put her images on the Internet if she did not comply; Todd did not and then the video went online. Those images ended with Todd being harassed and beaten by fellow students.

Bullying usually requires repetitive behavior but cyber bullying can be a one-time occurrence. “Everything you do here is public and permanent.”

People sometimes fear telling authorities if something is happening because they do not want to be seen as a rat but Peace disagrees. “Are you a rat if you prevent a crime?”

There are people who know a person may be suicidal but saying nothing does not help. Peace suggests a person is better off losing a friend by saving a life because “suicide is a long-term solution to a short-term problem.”

“You need to let somebody know, otherwise you’ll be attending a funeral,” stated Peace.

He has helped more than 40 youths deal with this issue and he wanted students to know he can help.

Students should tell a bully to stop and document the occurrences and if they continue then speak with a trusted teacher. If more bullying goes on then students should re-approach the same teacher who can speak to administration. Usually administration can deal with the parents and if the actions continue the bully can be charged. Most of the time bullying stops when parents get involved, he added.

Peace closed his presentation by telling the boys to be aware of how they speak to girls. “You guys have to be aware of your words.”

Parents were invited to an evening session on bullying the same day with a similar message. The presentations were paid for by Family Community and Support Services.