Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad  Print this page

NNSL Photo/graphic

Educators in Yellowknife are waging a campaign against violence like bullying by teaching students about tolerance and understanding. - John King/NNSL photo

Yk high schools: A no-fight zone

John King
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 12/05) - By focusing on preventing violence, educators in Yellowknife say they are stemming the tide of violence in city schools.

"We've had only three incidents of violence this year throughout the whole district," says Mel Pardy, assistant superintendent with Yellowknife Education District No. 1.

But those are only the ones that are found out. Students often participate in violent behaviour after school hours, and in many cases, just off school property.

"Kids will go to the bus stop or go behind the school on top of the hill where there are trees. But the bus stop is the most common place," says Ben, a Grade 9 student at Sir John Franklin.

Educators in Yellowknife are focusing on programs like Peacemakers at Mildred Hall school, where students counsel each other and mediate problems themselves.

Another initiative, Effective Behaviour Support, focuses on positive interventions and supports, instead of negative and reactionary responses to school violence.

Mieke Cameron, principal of Sir John Franklin high school, says that creating a culture of tolerance gives children a sense of belonging.

"Violence takes many forms, and it can be subtle and underhanded," Cameron says.

"It can take the form of bullying, which assumes a nature teachers find hard to catch," Cameron says.

For Brenda Dragon, a parent who chairs the William MacDonald PAC, violence is a societal problem.

"Bullying is not limited to schools. We see intimidation, aggression and coercion in the adult world as well," Dragon says.

Cameron agrees, and points out this is why educators in Yellowknife focus on helping students understand one another.

"I think we have extraordinary educators in Yellowknife who show a desire to take care of every child in our schools," Cameron says.

At Sir John Franklin, students are urged to make amends after doing something wrong.

"Most people who make a mistake want to go back to what it was like before that mistake," Cameron says.

Despite the best efforts of Yellowknife educators, fighting and bullying still occur at schools, but usually after hours when teachers are least expected to be looking, says Adam, a Grade 9 Sir John Franklin student.

"There's been lots of fights since the start of school, especially Grade 9 students," Adam says.

"It's usually after school and sometimes off school grounds. There'll be a big circle around the two fighting," says Adam, another student.

Often there are no teachers around to stop the fight, says Adam, and observers surrounding those fighting usually become involved themselves.

"As soon as you step through the school doors, you're pretty much fair game," says Ben.

Crystal, a St. Patrick's student says violence is just a fact of life.

"I see bullying every day," Crystal says.

"I think the teachers do a little, but the cameras don't seem to do much at all," Crystal says, talking of the many surveillance cameras placed throughout the school.