They won’t have their usual school assemblies and activities for Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24 but Peter Skene Ogden Secondary students are still taking action against bullying.
PSO principal Geoff Butcher said this year students are taking the lead in examining how schools deal with bullying. PSO’s student government, for instance, is looking at doing restorative work around bullies themselves, such as approaching them positively, and not punitively, in an effort to help them rehabilitate.
“That would be an interesting new method that the kids came up with in our student government. I was quite surprised that it wasn’t ‘get rid of the bullies, get them out, get them out’ but ‘ok, how do we help them become proper citizens,’” Butcher said. “That was refreshing to hear, though how successful it will be we will see. We’re just in the preliminary stages of that.”
Pink Shirt Day, or Anti-Bullying Day, is a Canadian movement, having started in Berwick, Nova Scotia in 2007 when David Shepherd and Travis Price bought and distributed 50 pink shirts for students to wear after their fellow schoolmate Chuck McNeil was bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The stand against bullying has since rapidly spread and is now celebrated across Canada and countries around the world.
At PSO, the student council is also focused on the harassment part of bullying and plans to hold small group assemblies to talk about what forms bullying can take and how students can respond. Butcher said it’s positive seeing his students take a leading role in planning for Pink Shirt Day, noting the council is already active in advocating for human rights and social justice causes.
“They’re quite generous thinkers anyway, very humanitarian,” he said.
Butcher said he has ordered pink shirts for the whole staff so they can wear them and show their solidarity with the students. For their classes, they’ll be using clips from the video statement of Amanda Todd, a 15-year old B.C. girl who committed suicide after being cyberbullied, and other anti-bullying materials to promote conversation within each class, in lieu of a school-wide assembly.
The student government and social justice group also plan to do some fundraising on Pink Shirt Day, the proceeds of which will be donated to anti-bullying activist groups.
At Mile 108 Elementary, principal Ken Lucks said they’re still planning the specifics of their students’ Pink Shirt Day.
However, the school’s Parent Advisory Council has ordered the pink shirts they’ll be wearing this year.
When it comes to combating bullying on a regular basis, Lucks said the school employs its WITS Program, which is about evidence-based bullying prevention. WITS teaches students about how best to deal with peer-to-peer conflicts, such as walking away from confrontation, talking it out and knowing when to seek help to deal with an issue.
“I think it’s important because there’s so much awareness about the impact of kids coming into conflict and not being able to deal with that. We can help kids recognize what a conflict looks like and what the appropriate strategies are for them to be able to be successful (in dealing with it),” Lucks said. “We want a place where kids are welcomed and embraced. When they come into conflict, that’s typically about exclusion and differences of opinion.”