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Empowering endeavours

The fight to eradicate bullying, which plagues many children in St. Albert and across the province, can seem daunting and never-ending.
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The fight to eradicate bullying, which plagues many children in St. Albert and across the province, can seem daunting and never-ending.

According to the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), bullying rates in Canada are higher than two-thirds of western countries. Research compiled by PREVNet estimates 10 to 15 per cent of children repeatedly bully others and the same percentage of kids is repeatedly bullied.

The group says younger children are more likely to engage in physical bullying, while verbal, social and electronic bullying tend to rise between the ages of 11 and 15 – persisting “well into the high school years.”

In November, during an event at Vital Grandin School to promote bully prevention, St. Albert RCMP said school resource officers will intervene to encourage proper behaviour in bullies and, if necessary, take them to court. Less than five per cent of bullying cases in this city lead to actual criminal charges.

There is obviously no magical elixir to eliminate bullying, but a group of motorcyclists is revved up to do its part to empower victims, including one St. Albert girl, and send a strong message to bullies and those who might think about following their lead.

Members of Bullying Enns, a non-profit group set up two years ago to support bullied kids, give students free rides to and from school on their motorbikes, although they switched that up for a limo in this winter's latest deep freeze.

Founder Steve Enns of Beaumont and his warm-hearted biker buddies left a lasting impression when they escorted Jessica Jones’ daughter, a target of relentless bullying for more than four years, to Sir George Simpson School recently in a stretch SUV limo.

“She was so ecstatic to go to school. They told her, ‘You’re going to be our sister. You have 100 brothers just like us.’ To her, it put a spark back in her eye,” Jones said.

Enns has found an innovative and effective way to bolster the spirits of kids who need it and hopefully squash any predilection for bullying.

His initiative garnered accolades from several shoppers the Gazette spoke to during a visit to Gateway Village Shopping Centre on Hebert Road on Wednesday.

“What a wonderful thing to do for a child in need,” said Jacquie Benedict, who has two children aged 23 and 25. “It’s a shame we haven’t been able to find a way to put a stop to bullying once and for all. With technology, it seems like it’s just getting worse and worse.”

Mike Richards, whose 15-year-old granddaughter has also been bullied, said he hopes more Albertans follow the lead of the caring motorcyclists.

“Good for him and those bikers for doing that. Gets the message across, doesn’t it?” Richards said. “We need to stand up to all of the bullies, do our part to show this won’t be tolerated.”

The recent visit by the bikers comes as St. Albert students prepare to don pink shirts on Feb. 27 in support of bullying prevention.

The bikers’ message, and the message of Pink Shirt Day, needs to be taken to heart by anyone – child, youth or adult – who engages in bullying behaviour: Bullying is never OK, and we all need to work together to put an end to it.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.