WITS’ award-winning bullying prevention programs started in Victoria and have since spread into elementary schools across Canada and into the USA and Brazil. WITS, which stands for Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek help, was created in West Coast schools where teachers began coaching students to “use their WITS”! The concept was quickly adopted by many other schools, and “using your WITS” became a common phrase in Canada.
WITS takes a whole community approach, working with partners like the RCMP, local police forces, the Red Cross, Indigenous elders and others to deliver the WITS messages to children and their families. These partnerships help us keep the program affordable for the schools that need it the most. WITS was studied in two UVIC evaluations and has been proven to be effective in reducing incidents of peer victimization. Also, WITS is literacy based, with over 70 books vetted for the programs in English, French, and a few Indigenous languages. The WITS team creates lesson plans to accompany every ‘WITSpick’ book, making it easier for teachers to deliver these concepts.
Twenty years since its beginning, WITS is recognized as the leading program of its kind (Dalhousie 2016 report). There are now four segments: WITS for Kindergarten to grade 3, LEADerS for grades 4 to 6, and French counterparts DIRE and MENTOR. More than 200,000 children across Canada have been introduced to the program in every province and territory. Over 1,200 Canadian schools have started the WITS or DIRE programs, becoming a part of their culture. We’ve had interest from schools in Hong Kong and England, and a group of teachers in Brazil is working with program developer, Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater, replicating WITS as DIGA in Portuguese.
The WITS Programs Foundation is a registered Canadian charity based in Victoria, BC.