Keeping Our Children Safe: the Whole Village Approach

Keeping Our Children Safe: The "Whole Village" Approach

In the fall of 2009, PSI will launch the Keeping Our Children Safe: The “Whole Village” Approach program. This is a dual track initiative to help keep our children safe at school. This program will:

  • Offer families practical strategies to share with their children focused on alternatives to the typical fight, freeze or flee response to mistreatment by peers; and
  • offer families strategies for working in collaboration with their child’s school to deal with the insidious problem of bullying.

September 24 – Oxford School, Halifax
September 30 – East Richmond Education Centre, St. Peter’s
October 1 – Baddeck Academy, Baddeck
October 7 – Kingston and District School, Kingston., NS
October 13 – Truro Junior High, Truro
October 19 – Aspotogan Elementary, Aspotogan, NS
October 20 – Hebbville Academy, Hebbville, NS
October 27 – Digby Elementary School, Digby

Stay tuned for more presentation dates in locations around the province to be posted soon. You can contact the school or check back here for more information.

This project is generously supported by the IWK Community Grants Foundation and the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union Shenoroil Foundation.

Shenoroil logo    IWK logo

Unfortunately, mistreatment of children and youth by their peers is a chronic and serious problem. Dr. Wendy Craig, one of Canada’s leading researchers in the field of bullying, states that one in four children is being victimized while in school. Bullying, harassment and intimidation are community problems which call for a community solution. This project will bring together the “whole village”, including both parents and educators, to work cooperatively to come up with concrete, practical, positive and collaborative solutions to this insidious problem.

In families where a child is being bullied at school, the health of the family suffers. Parents are anxiety-ridden and the child can develop serious health issues. In addition, research has shown that there are a range of both short-term and long-term negative outcomes for health and well-being associated with being the victim of bullying, including criminality and antisocial behaviour, anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

Parents want to help their children deal with bullying and other forms of mistreatment. The problem is that they usually do not know how. This program will offer parents support in the form of practical and realistic strategies to help their children respond in an assertive and safe manner when confronted with mistreatment by their peers. It will also support parents as they try to navigate through the school system in order to come up with a united family / school plan to deal with these problems in a collaborative manner.

The program is based on a series of three children’s books which act as teaching tools and resources to help families coach their children in interpersonal problem solving strategies. These written materials are designed to provide families with realistic, creative and practical coping skills to deal with bullying. These skills will be aimed at on-the-spot problem solving and will ultimately develop self-esteem and resiliency in children who are at risk of being victimized.

The books are:

Sam and the Goodwill Sandwich – Sam learns the "Goodwill Sandwich" method for giving feedback, addressing issues of controversy, offering criticism and re-direction, and de-escalating problems. The technique uses a combination of goodwill, good data and ends with more goodwill in order to engage the other person as an ally in the problem-solving process.  
Sam Takes a Stand – Sam learns how to deal with put-downs, mean jokes, demeaning comments, teasing, and verbal abuse, without resorting to counter-attack or aggression.
Sam Speaks Up – Sam learns how to speak up for himself in a respectful manner when he feels he has been unfairly treated by an adult.

The children’s books are accompanied by a 32-page guidebook for adults, entitled “Keeping our Children Safe: the ‘Whole Village’ Approach.”

In addition to the written materials, Peaceful Schools International will give a presentation for parents in each of the nine health regions in Nova Scotia in the fall of 2009. The parent presentation will focus on practical strategies for helping their children deal with bullying and other forms of mistreatment by peers and strategies for approaching a school with a complaint about bullying aimed at resulting in a win – win solution. The first 40 families at each presentation will also receive a free copy of the “Keeping our Children Safe” toolkit, including the three Sam books and the guidebook. The presentation and books will also be available in DVD format so that families unable to attend a public presentation are still able to benefit from these resources.

Presentations will be conducted by Hetty van Gurp, a teacher and principal with 30 years experience, and an internationally recognized expert on peace education. Hetty is the President and Founder of Peaceful Schools International, and has a deep commitment to helping schools and parents develop a culture of peace in their schools, homes and communities. In 2006 Hetty was named as a Canadian hero by TIME magazine. Reader’s Digest also recognized Hetty as a Canadian hero in 2007. Hetty holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from Mount Saint Vincent University where she is also a part-time faculty member. Hetty’s contributions have been honoured with a number of other awards, including a Baha’i Commendation for promoting racial harmony, the YMCA Peace Medal, the Nova Scotia Principal of Distinction Award, the Annual Crime Prevention Society of Nova Scotia Award and the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation Special Recognition Award for meritorious service to education and the Human Rights Award from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. In 2005, a Doctorate of Civil Law was conferred on Hetty by Saint Mary’s University. Hetty is also the author of four books.

The full written toolkit, “Keeping our Children Safe: the ‘Whole Village’ Approach”, can also be purchased from the PSI online store, The DVD presentation will also be made available in Fall 2009.

This project is generously supported by the IWK Community Grants Foundation and the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union Shenoroil Foundation.



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