Elementary School

Bullying at the Elementary level

By: Annalee Grant
Reporter, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

At Gordon Terrace Elementary, students wear their feelings about bullying
proudly on their sleeves.

The students have gone through a number of presentations on bullying, and they are
reminded on a daily basis of the school’s values. In the fall, they were each given an anti-
bullying bracelet and learned what mean spirited comments can do to their peers.

Principal Michelle Sartorel said they asked each student to draw a self portrait, and as she
read out hurtful comments, each student crumpled up their portrait. At the end, they tried
to smooth out the wrinkles and noticed they couldn’t make them all go away. It showed
the students how bullying can have a long term effect on each other.

“It was very, very powerful,” Sartorel said.

Also in the fall Const. Katie Forgeron a Cranbrook RCMP officer and parent, did a
presentation at the school on cyber bullying for older students. She surveyed the students
about their cellphone ownership as she talked about cyber bullying, and Sartorel said the
results were startling.

“It was actually almost jaw-dropping to see how many kids have cellphones,” she said.

Const. Forgeron told the students that everything they write on the internet is permanent
– even if they delete it, someone could have copied and reproduced it.

The school will be celebrating Pink Shirt Day at the end of February, which is just
another step in the ongoing process of teaching students how to treat each other and avoid
bullying. They have previously celebrated each others’ differences with a multicultural
day for Grade 4 students.

“I really believe awareness is integral,” Sartorel said. “Social awareness is what anti-
bullying really boils down to.”

Each month Gordon Terrace celebrates a new virtue, which in February was acceptance.
The students can be nominated for displays of that virtue and earn a bracelet and
recognition.

“My goal is to see everybody get recognized for something,” Sartorel said.

Outside of school Sartorel keeps updated on the issue. She attended a conference recently
on bullying and believes it’s important to create an atmosphere where students feel

secure, so they know they can access help if they need it.

“If you drop the ball, then things continue,” Sartorel said. “I think talking and
communication is huge.”

Things have changed for kids going through school. Sartorel doesn’t remember the type
of bullying that happens now when she was going through school.

“I don’t remember this kind of mean stuff,” she said. “There’s more avenues these days
to be hurtful. Kids are growing up too fast these days.”

When Grade 6 students prepare to make the jump into middle school, Sartorel said they
work with them to develop their social awareness so they are ready for the big change.
They encourage smart choices and having a safe adult that they can talk to when things
get tough.

Sartorel has unfortunately had to deal with bullying situations in her office, and often
finds the bully has also experienced a wrongdoing.

“Often when I deal with children in bully situations, an injustice has been done to them,”
she said.

Sartorel said she looks to experts such as Barbara Coloroso and Gordon Neufeld,
who both speak about and have authored books on bullying. She suggests Neufeld’s
book “Hold on to Your Kids” for parents looking for more information, and “How Full is
Your Bucket for Kids” by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer.

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