Vernon RCMP safe communities unit rural programs director Warren Smith (right) explains his unit’s anti-bullying programs to local media as Margaret Clark of the Restorative Justice Society of North Okanagan (left) and RCMP school liaison officer Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec look on.

Vernon RCMP safe communities unit rural programs director Warren Smith (right) explains his unit’s anti-bullying programs to local media as Margaret Clark of the Restorative Justice Society of North Okanagan (left) and RCMP school liaison officer Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec look on.

WITS used against bullying tactics

Vernon RCMP Safe Communities Unit is keeping its WITS about it when it comes to bullying.

Vernon RCMP Safe Communities Unit is keeping its WITS about it when it comes to bullying.

On this Pink Shirt Day, a day that promotes awareness to bullying in both schools and communities, the unit helps respond to the four types of bullying – physical, verbal, social and cyberbullying – and helps provide successful outcomes through its WITS program.

“WITS means Walking Away, Ignoring, Talking it out and Seeking help,” explained Warren Smith, rural programs co-ordinator with the safe communities unit who delivers WITS to seven elementary schools in the North Okanagan. “The response has been very positive from schools, parents and the community. It brings them all together to respond and deal with bullying issues.”

WITS can also be used outside of schools.

Smith released numbers from the B.C. Human Resources Association that showed approximately 50 per cent of employers are seeing some type of bullying or harassment in the workplace.

In the schools, RCMP school liaison officer Kathy Szoboticsanec works with school staff to empower youth to stand up to bullying, take a stand, confront, and teach those being bullied to how to express themselves and tell someone what’s happening.

Two types of bullying that Szoboticsanec has seen a lot of in her four years as school liaison officer are face-to-face and cyber bullying.

“Cyber bullying is huge in my world,” said Szoboticsanec. “It’s done through text messages, through Facebook messages. I’ve had to go to high schools to explain to students that once you post bullying that’s negative or is threatening or harassing, that’s evidence and it will help me in my investigation.”

Szoboticsanec, who said she is brought in to deal with a bullying situation if the victim feels unsafe, said there is a shift going on in regards to cyber bullying from the high schools to the elementary schools, as more kids have access to cell phones and the Internet.

Asked by a reporter if one gender bullied more than the other, Szoboticsanec said she deals with both, but that “young ladies are vicious.”

“Girls in the last 10 years, a lot of the violent acts we hear about are committed by young ladies,” she said. “A lot of it will be trends. Girls will align themselves with each other. If there are criminal charges, one of the conditions is usually not to have contact with another girl, so we try to break up these groups.”

Should there be a need for the RCMP to be involved in bullying, there is another way to resolve the situation.

Margaret Clark of the Restorative Justice Society of North Okanagan sometimes get bullying referrals for her program.

“Everybody that comes to us has to admit they’ve done something wrong, face the people they’ve harmed and agree to restorative justice, which is usually in the form of a written or verbal apology,” said Clark.

Szoboticsanec estimated that, locally, one out of every three students has been bullied, has been the bully or has witnessed a bullying event.

Smith expects the North Okanagan to be awash in a sea of pink shirts today, promoting the anti-bullying awareness movement.