Pink Shirt Day at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School is about making sure victims of bullying are not alone.
That’s the message students Sarah Carter and Melody Watkins want to get across, especially to those facings struggles, whether in their home life or being picked on at school. Everyone has a different story and varied experiences.
“Just making sure everybody feels included and safe, which often isn’t the case,” said Watkins, a Grade 11 French Immersion student. She and Carter are also members of the Amnesty Club, Social Justice Club and student government, which they believe helps make the school a better place.
Carter said it’s important to bring awareness to people’s struggles. PSO has experienced everything from fighting to even a recent incident of sexual assault. The school does what it can to address such issues but the students would like to take a new approach to deal with bullies. Last year’s student government proposed using restorative justice to rehabilitate bullies but didn’t get the chance to implement the idea, as many have since graduated. This year’s student government plans to pick up where they left off.
The general idea is to look at ways to correct bullies’ behaviour rather than just send them straight to detention, the principal’s office or home, Watkins said. Students had found this type of punitive action wasn’t getting the message across as the attitude seemed to be “oh, if we get into a fight we’re just going to go to detention and we’ll be back in class in the next few days.”
When students stand up to bullies, their peers tend to listen more, Carter said.
“With bullying and harassment, we do see all ranges of that here at school and in life in general,” Carter said. “Sometimes big things happen, sometimes it’s just in the background but I think in all types of schools bullying is always present. I think it’s just a part of growing up in school, unfortunately. Everyone is changing, everyone is going through struggles.”
When it comes to addressing bullying behaviour, Carter said it’s important to understand why people feel the need to do it. Bullying is always taught, Carter said.
“There are a lot of kids who lose their lives because of bullying behaviour and it’s very important to recognize this and try to put an end to it if at all possible,” Carter said. “Just make sure people know they aren’t alone, there are people who will help and it does get better, as cliche as that sounds.”
Watkins knows firsthand how it feels to be bullied which makes Pink Shirt Day all the more important to her. In addition to presentations, on Pink Shirt Day itself, Watkins said she and Carter collected funds “the one-way teenagers know how to speak, food” for the Amanda Todd Foundation by selling pizza for a minimum donation of $1.