Coast students sent a strong message on Feb. 27 that bullying won’t be tolerated as hundreds of kids across the Coast sported pink in solidarity and took part in a multitude of anti-bullying day activities.
Feb. 27 was dubbed Pink Shirt Day six years ago after two teenaged boys from Nova Scotia started a movement by wearing pink in support of a friend who was bullied for doing the same at school.
The boys purchased 50 pink tank tops and distributed them to classmates the day after the bullying had taken place. The simple act stopped the abuse and sent a strong message of support to the victim.
The movement soon caught on across Canada, and Sunshine Coast students were eager to show their support on Wednesday.
About 80 students from École du Pacifique poured onto Cowrie Street in downtown Sechelt, most dressed in pink with pink flowers in hand to give to unsuspecting passers-by.
The school children were obviously pleased with their mission to spread positivity to the town, which was warmly received.
The march was just one of many week-long anti-bullying initiatives at the French school prior to the public display.
Most of the 13 schools in School District No. 46 (SD46) said students were wearing pink on Wednesday, but noted they focus on spreading the anti-bullying/acceptance message year round.
Some schools even create “circles of friends” to help support those students who have been victims of bullying in the past.
At Cedar Grove Elementary School, principal Kerry Mahlman said some talented students have created a puppet play about bullying that will be filmed and released to the public in the near future.
She said the play is built around characters like the chipmunk who is “tree climbing disabled” and the “big bear who gets harassed by the hummingbird.”
Students created the play themselves and Mahlman said it speaks volumes about how kids view the issue.
On Feb. 27 the play creators introduced their work to fellow students and a major premiere will be scheduled at the school in the future so the whole community can see the thoughtful piece.
Mahlman said the issue of bullying is serious and requires ongoing attention.
“I think we’d all be fooling ourselves if we thought there weren’t kids going home every day having had something happen to them,” she said.
Grade 12 students at Chatelech Secondary School were asked by teacher Ellen Thomas this week who is to blame for bullying and how it can be prevented.
The anonymous answers were thought-provoking, with students blaming things like the “societal system” negative outside influences, a lack of parental support, the “selfish nature of humanity” and “ourselves.”
The students felt bullying could be prevented by doing things like “calling it out,” fostering a “friendly open, loving, atmosphere,” instilling self-worth in people, by “educating the new generation,” by “focusing on kindness rather than hate,” and by having more awareness days.
At Madeira Park Elementary School, students were hoping to raise awareness about the anti-bullying effort through their community run on Wednesday. The sea of 82 students wearing pink shirts running through the streets of Madeira definitely turned heads and sparked some anti-bullying conversations.
Sunshine Coast RCMP Const. Ashley Taylor came to speak to the students before the run about what it means to be a bully and gave them a challenge to be bully-free until spring break.
An RCMP officer also came to speak to students at Kinnikinnick and Davis Bay elementary schools for Pink Shirt Day.
Davis Bay also saw all their students sign an anti-bullying pledge.
Pender Harbour Secondary School held a diversity film festival that “tied in really well,” to Pink Shirt Day, principal Mark Heidebrecht said.
Capilano University also screened some short movies about anti-bullying, social inclusion and diversity.
Students in the Mountain Bike Operations program took part in an “experiential learning” activity where they were given different identities that carried different levels of privilege and oppression to understand what that might feel like.
“We’re trying to take the idea from bullying to social inclusion,” said Jules Smith, who works as an advisor, counsellor and program developer at Cap U. “With better relationships comes better learning and more academic success.”
It seemed every student on the Coast was taking part in some sort of anti-bullying effort on Wednesday, which pleased SD46 board chair Silas White.
“Cutting down on bullying is a key element of our commitment to learning environments in our strategic plan,” White said. “Bullying is unquestionably a problem that exists in every school district and every school, but we’re working on fostering a compassionate community atmosphere including students, parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, trustees and community schools. Anti-bullying day is a great way to promote these values and lead to a culture where every day is anti-bullying day.”
Learn more about how to spot and stop bullying at www.erasebullying.ca.