Bullying stops here! Across the district, Pink Shirt Day reveals our true colours…
“We can help change things…”
Hands up for kids at École Qayqayt elementary school: where every single one of the 493 students have a hand in the project to help stop bullying.
Resource teacher Shallene Gill wanted to bring the whole school together as a community for Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 23 – a national day to focus on the message that, in the words of Qayqayt students, “bullying is bad, bullying hurts and bullying bothers us.”
A bulletin board in the hallway highlights each child’s part in taking a pledge that when it comes to bullying:”We won’t stand by, we will stand up.”
Students in the school agree that “being mean stinks” and that “we won’t watch someone get picked on…because we care.”
“It’s a way to support a positive culture across the school,” said Gill. For kids, it’s evident that finding the paper hand on the wall with their name on it is a sign of pride in the pledge they took.
As Principal Karen Catherwood explained, “bullying is a serious issue, and it’s taken seriously.” Bullying often involves a power imbalance between bullies and their victims and can include physical force or aggression; verbal bullying using words to attack someone; and social bullying aimed at excluding or ignoring someone.
Although the national theme for Pink Shirt Day in 2018 is cyberbullying — using electronic media to threaten, embarrass, intimate or or exclude someone — Catherwood said bullying tends to.take place face-to-face among younger students.
She noted that it’s important to understand the distinction between a disagreement and bullying. “You can stand up for yourself, and you can choose to disagree, but you can do that using respectful and kind words.”
District-wide events…from court cases and police presentations to an inspiring speaker who lives with Cerebral Palsy
Across the district, schools have planned their own unique events, assemblies, flashmob activities, student presentations, and even an “interactive adaptation of a real court case about bullying.”
- The mock trial event was hosted last week by the Justice Theatre of the People’s Law School at Queensborough Middle School, with students serving as members of the jury. The troupe of professional actors perform dramatizations of criminal trials as a way to raise awareness and promote discussion of issues impacting youth and communities.
- New Westminster Police Child and Youth Resource Unit Officers are actively involved in schools and will be making presentations – for instance at Queensborough Middle School – helping educate youth on safety issues, including social media awareness, internet safety and bullying.
- At École Lord Tweedsmuir elementary school, Michael Bartolotto — a professional and inspiring guest speaker who lives with Cerebral Palsy — will meet with various grade levels. He will help young students understand “how to look beyond a person’s skin colour, speech, physical shape and abilities, to embrace them as a friend.” For older students, he will show them how to realize goals and dreams through social inclusion.
- The district’s Hyacks football team from New Westminster Secondary School also visits schools to share a message with students about getting help, speaking up and working together to stop bullying. This year, the Hyacks are visiting Lord Kelvin and École Lord Tweedsmuir elementary schools.
- Meanwhile, at École Glenbrook Middle School, students in the leadership club are in charge of the upcoming school events.
- At F.W. Howay elementary school, Pink Shirt Day has been extended to the whole month of February with students throughout the school celebrating “Real Acts of Caring.” They are writing messages of kindness and support to each other that are being shared in the hallway, and have been spreading cheer through surprise “flash mob sing alongs and dances” at recess. In Vice-Principal Tu Loan Trieu’s class, students are learning to journal positive thoughts, express gratitude and do acts of kindness as a way to embrace happiness.
Safe Schools and positive learning environments…
Pink Shirt Day is recognized nationally every February. It was inspired by an act of kindness in Nova Scotia when two teenagers supported a younger student who was bullied for wearing a pink T-Shirt, by organizing a high school campaign for all students to wear pink.
In BC, the BC Ministry of Education has created ERASE Bullying (Expect Respect and A Safe Education), a prevention and intervention strategy with the goal of making BC a leader in addressing bullying and harmful behaviours.
At New Westminster Schools, the district is committed to creating and maintaining a respectful, welcoming and nurturing environment. Incidents of bullying, harassment or intimidation and other types of serious misconduct are addressed in ways that restore or strengthen relationships. The district fosters positive school cultures and strives to ensure optimal environments for learning.
The serious consequences of bullying…
Evidence shows that bullying behaviours – such as those that target specific people, involve ‘mobbing,’ or are acts of cyberbullying – have serious effects on victims, leading to consequences from social isolation to depression and in extreme cases, even suicide.
Funds raised through donations and contributions to Pink Shirt Day support anti-bullying programs that help nurture kid’s healthy self-esteem, and teach respect, empathy, compassion and kindness.
Funding also supports programs that work directly with students who have been involved in bullying behaviours and help give them the tools they need to succeed in school. Students learn to understand the consequences of their actions and how they would feel if their peers made up stories about them; they learn healthy social media habits, the impact of peer pressure, taking responsibility for their own actions and understanding behaviours more deeply.
Pink Shirt Day has supported programs including the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, the Rock Solid Foundation, KidSafe Project, Kids Help Phone and more.