In 1993, the WITS acronym was created at Lampson Street Elementary School in Esquimalt BC, Canada, when Principal Judi Stevenson began teaching students four simple conflict resolution strategies: Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out and Seek help. These were eagerly adopted by teachers, counselors, and administrators and soon, “using your WITS” was a common phrase at local schools.
After seeing WITS work, school police liaison Tom Woods, MBA sought to broaden its reach. In 1997, he launched the Rock Solid Foundation with a group of local athletes and law enforcement officials. Its mission? Provide violence prevention programs to children and youth.
Wanting the WITS acronym as part of Rock Solid’s efforts, Woods partnered with Principal Stevenson to develop a WITS Program. It was a community-based approach. School District 61 teachers and counselors provided input, and University of Victoria psychology professor Dr. Bonnie Leadbeater and her research team signed on in 1998 to contribute to the development, implementation, and evaluation.
The WITS Programs were collaboratively developed by the Rock Solid Foundation under the direction of Tom Woods, and the University of Victoria with the leadership of Dr. Leadbeater. The simple acronym evolved into the WITS Primary Program – the only peer victimization prevention program that reaches beyond the classroom to involve families and communities.