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Students take a stand against bullies

Dec 09 2012
Dunsmuir Middle School students Matt Alcadinho, left, Alex Robinson — a.k.a. Dan the Safety Man — and Michael Veenema are doing their part in a campaign to stop bullying at school.¬†

Dunsmuir Middle School students Matt Alcadinho, left, Alex Robinson — a.k.a. Dan the Safety Man — and Michael Veenema are doing their part in a campaign to stop bullying at school.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , timescolonist.com (Dec. 2012)

Eager to make their school as welcoming as possible, staff and students at Dunsmuir Middle School in Col-wood have launched a two-week campaign to foster respect and curtail bullying.

The Take a Stand project kicked off Monday and extends into next week with symposiums, brainstorming sessions, games and other activities.

"It doesn't mean just take a stand against bullying; it means take a stand for the school," said teacher Gord Johnson.

The project stemmed from a desire to get a head start on anti-bullying activities that usually coincide with Pink Shirt Day in February.

"We're just trying to be proactive and send out a good message from our school, letting the kids know that we're aware and that we're here to help them, that they're not on their own," Johnson said.

The symposiums will give students a chance to act out different bullying scenarios and discuss effective ways to deal with them - whether as a victim or a bystander.

Principal Yushy Wallace said she hopes students learn what it means to be respectful and become more resilient in the process.

"There will be times where there will be conflict," she said. "There will be situations that they have to deal with. But they will have those skills and those strategies that they can draw on and say, 'OK, this is happening. How do I deal with it?' "

The project also aims to build school spirit. A fair in the lunchroom this week featured a booth where students could get their pictures taken together and a graffiti wall where they could write positive messages. They could also enter a prize draw by submitting random acts of kindness that they had witnessed around the school.

Johnson said the most popular feature at the fair was the opportunity for students to get an autographed picture of the school's newly minted mascot, Dan the Safety Man.

Dan came into being about a month ago when Johnson and another teacher got the idea of asking Grade 9 leadership student Alex Robinson to roam the halls in a Dunsmuir hoodie, sheriff's hat and a bright orange safety vest. A cape was added later, as were two security guards in black clothes and mirrored sunglasses.

"He's a pretty fun-loving kid, so he was actually all over this," Johnson said.

Alex, 14, said his basic job is to keep the hallways safe, which, he admits, is a fairly easy task. He has yet to encounter anyone in real trouble.

"It's a fun school to go to," he said.

Johnson said students have embraced Dan and the Take a Stand campaign, so staff hope they can keep the positive energy going.

"We're trying to build a safety legacy that the kids are creating," he said. "By the end, they're going to have their ideas of how the school can be safe, and we're going to be creating posters that can be put up in each classroom - sort of as rules to live by around this whole issue."


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