WITS Primary Program

Program snapshot

Age group: Late childhood (7-11)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Aboriginal/Indigenous

Topic: Bullying/cyberbullying

Setting: Rural/remote area; Urban area; Community-based setting; School-based

Location: British Columbia

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 2

Continuum of intervention: Primary crime prevention

Brief Description

The WITS Primary Program is a community-based, school wide intervention that brings together schools, families, children, and communities to prevent bullying and peer victimization. The WITS acronym – Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, and Seek help – provides a common language so children and adults can talk about and respond to peer victimization.

The program is centered on conflict resolution; leadership and youth development; parent training; school-based strategies; skills training; and social emotional learning.


The main goals of the WITS Primary Program are to:

  • Create responsive communities for the prevention of bullying and peer victimization; and
  • Create safe and happy places for children to learn and grow.


The appropriate clientele for the WITS Primary Program are youth between the ages of 6 and 12 who are at-risk of making unsafe choices when faced with peer conflict. Participants are referred to the WITS Primary Program by teachers, school administrators, and parents.

To participate in the program, youth must attend a school in which the WITS Primary Program is being implemented.

The WITS Primary Program has also been implemented for Aboriginal/Indigenous communities.

Core Components

The WITS Primary Program consists of:

  • A police-liaison program: At the beginning of the year, all Kindergarten to Grade 3 students in the school are “deputized” as the school police-liaisons’ helpers to keep their schools safe and help other children;
  • WITS lesson plans: These lesson plans are based on popular children’s books that depict characters facing conflicts in a variety of situations. The lesson plans contain activities that extend students’ understanding of the characters, how they used WITS, and how the characters could have done a better job of using their WITS; and
  • WITS at home: A stuffed walrus (called Witsup), activity books, book marks, pens, pencils, and a WITS for siblings pamphlet have been developed to reinforce the WITS messages at home.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must mobilize parents to participate in WITS activities at home so that the program’s messages can be reinforced outside of the classroom setting.
  • Partnerships: The success of the WITS Primary Program depends on its partnerships with schools, school board, teachers, and parents.
  • Training and technical assistance: Teachers are required to complete the WITS Teacher Accreditation Program before administering the WITS program.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Facilitators should consult the WITS Resource Manual, the audio and literary media resources, lesson plans, and activities for children provided on the WITS Primary Program website.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Promising
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The WITS Primary Program has been implemented in various schools across western Canada (2006-2008) (2012), particularly British Columbia (2000-2002).

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

Study 1

An outcome evaluation study of the WITS Primary Program was conducted in 2000-2002 by Leadbeater and colleagues. A quasi-experimental, longitudinal study was conducted to evaluate the WITS Primary Program so that comparisons could be made between the WITS group and a control group.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • Children with higher levels of behavioural problems (p < .10) and those in first grade classrooms with higher levels of behavioural problems (p < .05) reported increases in physical victimization; and
  • As for relational victimization, the interaction between individual levels of emotional problems and classroom levels of social competence was also significant (p < .05). Physical victimization also increased and then dropped in the high poverty program schools but increased and remained stable in the high poverty control schools.

For more information, refer to Leadbeater and colleagues’ (2003) publication.

Study 2

An outcome evaluation study of the WITS Primary Program was conducted in 2006-2008 by Leadbeater and Sukhawathanakul. A quasi-experimental design was employed to compare schools with well-established WITS programs to non-program control schools, using three waves of data.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • An average participant reported a -0.22 (10%) decrease in physical victimization per additional year from baseline assessment, declining from an average initial physical victimization score of 2.19 to a score of 1.97 from baseline to T2 and from 1.97 to 1.86 from T2 to T3; and
  • By the end of Grade 3, average levels of physical victimization declined by 15%. The average rates of relational victimization also declined over time. More specifically, the average participant reported a -0.23 (10%) decrease in relational victimization per additional year such that by the end of grade 3, average levels of relational victimization declined by 15%.

For more information, refer to Leadbeater & Sukhawathanakul’s (2011) publication.

Cost Information

No information available.


Leadbeater, B., Hoglund, W., & Woods, T. (2003). Changing contexts? The effects of a primary prevention program on classroom levels of peer relational and physical victimization. Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 397–418. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jcop.10057/abstract  

Leadbeater, B., & Sukhawathanakul, P. (2011). Multicomponent programs for reducing peer victimization in early elementary school: A longitudinal evaluation of the WITS Primary Program. Journal of Community Psychology, 39(5), 606–620. Available from: http://www.witsprogram.ca/pdfs/schools/research-evaluation/changing-the-contexts-of-early-elementary-school.pdf  

For more information on this program, contact:

WITS Program
Telephone: 1 (855) 858-8766
E-mail: wits@uvic.ca
Website: http://www.witsprogram.ca/  

Record Entry Date - 2018-03-14
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
Date modified: