Battling bullying covers a lot of ground, says Safe Schools manager for Sooke School District

Jamie Adair’s background is tailor-made for the work he does with the Sooke School District.

Adair, Safe Schools manager for SD 62, has worked as a child protection officer and as a social worker, as well as with corrections and youth detention.

“Before that I worked as a doorman,” Adair said. “I’ve always been involved in conflict resolution and keeping the community safe.”

Regarding the issue of bullying, Adair said more than half the reports he deals with arise from social media.

“It’s problematic because the issue extends outside the school,” he explained.

“Something may come in at 11:30 p.m., which makes it difficult for the school to monitor. If someone says they’re being bullied, we take that very seriously.

“We’re always going to offer assistance. My focus is to look on social media for the social interaction, what brought it to that point.

“The other side of that is looking at what’s going on in the bully’s life, what’s missing for them that’s causing that behaviour. We always bring the family into situations that warrant that.”

Education through online counselling is an effective tool that Adair often suggests.

He’s also an ardent proponent of Erase Bullying, a B.C. government website and part of the Safe Schools initiatives that provide a wide range of tools and information for students, parents and teachers.

Topics cover a wide range, including erasing stigma, cyber-bullying and violence, and how to better embrace understanding, open conversations and kindness.

“Safe Schools is based on a preventative approach, rather than wait and react,” Adair said. Safe Schools also provides funding for presentations that are invaluable for the parents who attend, he added.

The Erase report tool enables a student who may not be comfortable reporting an incident to report it anonymously. “What happened goes directly to me and an associate,” Adair said.

“Response can vary, depending on the details, but it can provide a heads up so we can take action based on the information provided.”

READ ALSO: On Pink Shirt Day, province announces $160,000 for online safety sessions

Educating parents to learn about the social media habits of their children and the kind of behaviour they can get into online is key, Adair stressed.

He cited a new app called Tik Tok, which can be used to create videos, as an example. “The majority of students use social media in a positive way. Some kids, however, will use it for bullying and intimidation and their parents may not even know this is going on. Tik Tok may be replaced by something new in a matter of months, it’s symptomatic of the age we live in.”

The problems that can arise are not exclusive to schools, Adair noted.

That underlines the importance of relying on partnerships with the RCMP, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as well as mental health services and other resources within the community when required, Adair stressed.

It’s important to remember that although there are 12,000 students in SD 62, Adair said. “We have to keep in perspective that a lot of kids are using these apps and the majority of students use social media in a positive way.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

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Pink Shirt Day founder Travis Price speaks to Mount Douglas secondary students in 2016. (Black Press Media file photo)

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