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Bullies be gone

Lisa Scott
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 04/05) - All hands go up in a group of six students when asked if they have ever been bullied. Only a couple of hands go down when asked if any of them have ever bullied others.

The honesty of the Mildred Hall students points to an epidemic on the playground, but they, along with six other students at the K-8 school, are doing something about it.

They are called the Peacemakers and they act as mediators when fights, squabbles or other skirmishes happen between kids.

They use reasoning and sharing circles to resolve conflict between students. When that doesn't work, they turn to a supervisor.

"It's kind of uncomfortable for them, but it's better than a teacher," explained Max Rossouw, 12.

The group is made up of students from Grade 6 to 8.

Rashmani Chakrabarty, 11, moved to the city last year. She had trouble making friends and said her peers made fun of her Indian background.

"I got teased about it a lot. I want people to recognize other cultures and understand people for who they are," said the Grade 6 student.

The Peacemakers think their actions are reducing bullying in the school, which they say is a definite problem. They hope a survey taken by students later this year shows some success for the program.

The Peacemakers were formed after students took part in an anti-bullying conference in Yellowknife in the fall of 2003. They received formal training from a peer mediation centre at the school.

The next big event on their agenda is fundraising that will allow them to attend an international anti-bullying conference in Ottawa, March 21-23.

Six members and two teachers will attend the conference. Organizers have even asked them to speak about their anti-bullying initiatives.