“You’re not alone.”
Visiting the Surrey School District’s anti-bullying website, that’s the first message students see, followed by assurances that no problem is insurmountable and someone they can trust is listening.
It’s an online salve to students affected by the negative, unsafe or even violent behaviour of others.
And it’s also a safe and anonymous way for Surrey students to report bullying, threats of violence and vandalism.
“Students who have been victims of bullying are sometimes understandably reluctant to come forward with information,” says Theresa Campbell, manager of the district’s Safe Schools department. “This gives them a way to report the behaviour without feeling like they’re putting themselves at further risk.”
The district developed the Protecting Surrey Schools Together website (www.psst-bc.ca) as an interactive forum for students to obtain or share information about issues that concern them. The website is hosted by the Surrey School District with support from Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Crime Prevention Society.
The anonymous “Report It” feature allows students to report instances of bullying, substance abuse, threats of violence, vandalism, weapons possession, sexual harassment and even suspected criminal activity occurring near a school.
“We respond to tips ranging from bullying and weapons to suspicious activities in the neighbourhood,” says Rob Rai, acting manager of Safe Schools. “One PSST tip actually led to police taking down a drug house and resulted in an arrest.”
In addition to safety-related issues, the site provides an opportunity for young writers to practise their craft and post stories publicly. Surrey students provide content for the site on an ongoing basis to promote student ownership, relevance and participation.
Unique in Canada at the time, the site was created in 2005 under Campbell’s leadership.
Today, it gets more than 3,000 visits each month and receives between 55 and 80 tips about bullying each year.
The B.C. Ministry of Education is currently working on a similar initiative as part of its ERASE Bullying strategy that would make reporting bullying anonymously an option available to all B.C. students. Campbell is assisting the ministry with development of the strategy.