Standing up to bullies

HAPPY TO HELP: Students Steph McGrath (left), Brandon McDonnell and Kenny Fung have been and will continue to encourage positive social behavior under a Bully Stoppers program at Wangaratta District Specialist School. PHOTO: Luke Plummer

OLDER kids at a local school will lead by example through the Bully Stoppers program starting next term.

The Wangaratta District Specialist School (WDSS) will receive $5000 to roll out the Bully Stoppers program, focusing on positive social behavior in the school yard.

It will also educate students, teachers and families about acceptable behavior outside school grounds for when young people start working.

WDSS psychologist, Luke Arhens, created a six week course called Pitstop that empowers children to help themselves and others in guarding themselves from bullies in society.

School principal, Libby Hosking, said the school does not have a bullying problem, but the Pitstop course is needed to educate students about how to act and respond to bullying.

“The program is to raise awareness about what bullying is and what children can do about it in the school ground, and more importantly when they leave school, so they’re not victimised in the work place,” Ms Hosking said.

“Our children can be very vulnerable and we need to teach them the skills about how they can best look after themselves.

“They are vulnerable in the sense that they don’t always know hurtful behavior when it happens to them.

“It is about the more senior children helping the little kids in the yard and empowering them in terms of the skills and knowledge they need to have.”

The Pitstop course touches on all elements of bullying including physical and social media.

Tim McCurdy (MLA, Murray Valley) said up to one-in-five children is involved in school bullying.

“The Bully Stoppers message is to ‘Make a Stand, Lend a Hand’ – step in and help out when you see bullying occurring,” he said.

“Bullying has been shown to stop within 10 seconds when bystanders take positive action.

The school is among more than 100 schools across the state sharing $450,000 in grants in the first round of the program, which is part of the Victorian Government’s $4 million Bully Stoppers initiative.

Telstra is supporting the grants program with a $150,000 commitment, providing each school that receives a Bully Stoppers grant a tablet computer, a data card and a cyber-safety kit.

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