Skip to content

Assumption students discuss bullying on National Suicide Awareness Day

Bullying, suicide and self-harm were some of the issues addressed during a special presentation at Assumption Jr./Sr. High School last Thursday.
Retired school resource officer Dwayne Peace spoke to students at Assumption Jr./Sr. High about bullying.
Retired school resource officer Dwayne Peace spoke to students at Assumption Jr./Sr. High about bullying.

Bullying, suicide and self-harm were some of the issues addressed during a special presentation at Assumption Jr./Sr. High School last Thursday.

Retired police officer turned world-renowned educational consultant Dwayne Peace provided a group of students with a lengthy slide show on youth suicide and the factors that lead to it.

His presentation, titled “Life's Challenges in Secondary School,” went through a variety of issues students face during their teenage years.

“All I want to do is to get you thinking,” said Peace, addressing the group of students on hand in the cafeteria.

“Anything you learn can be unlearned…bullying is a learned behavior.”

Peace delved into a definition of bullying and what students should be aware of. He provided examples of bullying, citing stories that he had been told during his 12 years of public speaking.

The stories focused around different types of bullying that can occur, such as in-person harassment and exclusion or cyber harassment through texting and other online platforms.

“You think you have this knowledge and opinion to share with everybody. You do, but you have to share it with respect,” said Peace.

He understood that not all students in high school get along and like each other, but urged students to be neutral and not negative.

“You might not like a person. Just leave them alone,” said Peace. “You don't have to rip on them, just leave them alone.”

The three-hour long presentation saw Peace ask the students to raise their hand in response to a series of questions. Theses questions revealed quite a bit about the crowd, showing that there was indeed bullying at the school and that many students knew those being bullied and the ones doing the bullying.

He urged the students to think before they act and offered those being bullied with six steps to try and solve the issue. The steps started at simply asking the bully to stop, to seeking a teacher's help, and escalated to eventually involving the police.

After spending 25 years as a school resources officer with the Calgary Police Force, Peace was able to offer insight into certain situations he dealt with around bullying and the possible criminal charges a student can face for bullying.

Slowly the conversation morphed from bullying into suicide, bringing uncomfortable topic to the forefront.

“I wanted to give them permission to talk about suicide,” said Peace. “That it is okay to go talk to an adult about suicide.”

When questioned about the topic the majority of the students in the audience signaled that they knew of someone who had caused harm to themselves, debated suicide or committed suicide.

The serious conversation was welcomed to the school by family outreach coordinator Scott Todd, who has experience first hand the impact Peace has had.

“I have worked at a councillor in this school and there are kids that get touched by his presentation that then come forward through him or through one of the other teachers and end up getting help,” said Todd.

“These are kids that we know and we see everyday and for some reason it just didn't resonate with them when we are saying it. When they hear a different way some information really resonates with them.”

After the morning presentation a select group of 25 students continued their learning, moving to an off-site location and participating in a variety of in-depth activities. The afternoon session was created to try and break barriers and make the students realize that everyone is different.

“Students need to come together and accept everybody's difference as opposed to ripping on people for their difference,” said Peace. “They need to understand that everyone has a story and if they really took the time to understand another students story they would have more compassion, understanding and respect for them.”

An abbreviated version of his presentation was offered to parents at the FCSS building in the evening. The night presentation went over a lot of what was presented to the students but also offered several parent specific slides. Peace presented the results of the afternoon session to the parents involved, letting them know what the students were saying about the issues and situations in their lives. He also offered the parents in attendance some advice about dealing with suicidal situations.

“He is one of those guys that I will keep brining back again and again because (his message) is quality it is not fluff,” said Todd. “It provides realism, an understanding of what is out there and positive steps. “We have lost kids in this community to suicide and drug overdoes and this is the kind of message the students need to hear so that we can stop that.”

Peace says that being able to have an impact world-wide and save lives throughout North America is the driving reason behind why he has dedicated the last 12 years of his life to spreading his message and talk about suicide.

“When you change and save as many lives as I have, how can you not do this. I was a police man for 25 years in Calgary an I have saved more lives in any one year of doing this than I have combined in 25 years of policing,” said Peace.

“I'll calls from parents saying you have saved my child's life…it doesn't get any better than that.”