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Immanuel Christian School links with local community groups to raise abuse awareness

Written on November 28th, 2008

Activity ties into school’s exploration of a theme on peacemakers this school year

Immanuel Christian School (ICS) in Oshawa has linked with local community groups to raise awareness of abuse at all age levels, including school-age bullying.

Principal Jasper Hoogendam says working together on the issue will be more effective than tackling it as an individual school.

“When you start working with other agencies, you get a broader perspective,” he says.

ICS is a member of the Coalition for Action Against Bullying - Durham (CAAB-D), which was launched on Nov. 18 with a range of community organizations in support, including the Canadian Red Cross Region of Durham chapter and the Durham District School Board.

Hoogendam was involved in the planning stages of the coalition and arranged for the ICS senior band to play at the launch ceremony. He says the school will continue to take part in relevant coalition activities.

Being an active member of this group ties into the school’s exploration of a theme on peacemaking this school year.

Weekly chapel meetings and other school activities, including a monthly student presentation at a local retirement residence, are all geared to unpacking what being a peacemaker is all about.

In a recent chapel presentation, Hoogendam focused on two key messages around playground bullying: the seriousness of it — that it is not a behaviour that is necessarily outgrown — and the understanding that bystanders play a much more important role than they may realize in stopping it.

“I really encouraged the students to see themselves as being proactive about it,” he says.

“I wanted to stress with students that as young as you might be or as insignificant you might think you are when you see something going on, you do have a lot of power.”

In his presentation Hoogendam noted that bullies are generally insecure people who need peer support to continue their activities. When they lose that, they tend to stop what they’re doing.

His message dovetails with what the CAAB-D is emphasizing as well, that bystanders in bullying episodes need to take action in a non-violent way.

Research has shown that there are bystanders in 85 per cent of bullying episodes. Most of the time, those bystanders either passively watched (53 per cent) or worse, helped the bully (22 per cent).

But those statistics also show, when someone does step in, the bullying stops within 10 seconds 57 per cent of the time.

The coalition is emphasizing the need to raise bullying awareness early on and in all aspects of society.