Chiefs on side of nil bullying
With school bullying receiving so much coverage people could be forgiven for believing nothing is being done to tackle the problem but behind the scenes a new initiative is under way to kick bullies into touch.
Under the Kia Kaha antibullying programme Waikato Police have launched a partnership with the Chiefs’ Super Rugby franchise in an initiative to reduce bullying in the region’s schools.
Constable Lance Smith, of the Melville Community Policing Team’s Youth Education Services, said the partnership came about after contact from the Chiefs’ management. ‘‘The Chiefs were looking for a worthwhile community-based project to become involved with which would have a positive impact at the grass roots level and what better place to start than with kids in schools?’’ he said.
‘‘Kia Kaha is a whole school programme that doesn’t just target students but involves everyone from the kids, teachers and even the boards of trustees, working to establish safe emotional and physical environments in our schools.’’
Mr Smith said with buy-in from the Chiefs the programme now had enhanced mana and credibility with children who might initially be nervous about discussing issues around bullying.
The person driving the Chiefs’ involvement with Kia Kaha, professional development manager Judy Clement, said from the players’ perspective they were passionate about the opportunity to support children and particularly youth at risk. She knows this will be extremely beneficial to the rugby players as well.
‘‘Kia Kaha’s anti-bullying message means a lot to the Chiefs’ team members. They are proud to work with the police in this area and look forward to joining them in visits to local schools to assist in delivering the programme.
‘‘ The team will be involved throughout the Chiefs’ Super Rugby campaign and split into eight groups. Each group will attach themselves to a youth education officer and visit two schools per month,’’ she said.
Mr Smith said while the players’ involvement would bring huge benefits in promoting the programme it wasn’t without risks and to mitigate these the players had undergone training prior to the visits beginning.
‘‘One of the key things we all needed to appreciate was that because of who they are the kids will automatically warm to them and that has some risks in how players react to matters that may be disclosed to them and how they deal with issues that may make them uncomfortable?
‘To address these issues police ran seminars with the players on how to deal with such situations and how to deal with them.
‘‘Like any group of young men there was a lot of joking around at the start but very quickly they appreciated just how serious an issue this is, which is a credit to them,’’ Mr Smith said.