Pink shirts send a message

LSS leadership students handed out pink shirts and wristbands provided by Vancouver Island InsuranceCentres

The entrance to Ladysmith Secondary School (LSS) was a sea of pink on the morning of Feb. 25, as students celebrated Pink Shirt Day with the community.

LSS welcomed students from Ladysmith Primary School and Ladysmith Intermediate School, as well as representatives from Ladysmith town council and the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District to send a strong anti-bullying message.

Throughout the morning, LSS leadership students handed out pink shirts and wristbands provided by Vancouver Island InsuranceCentres (VIIC) Ladysmith.

“We looked at this, Mayor Stone and I, as an opportunity to come down and talk about the community and the note about the community and respect for all around anti-bullying is the piece about power,” acting superintendent John Blain told the students. “The community and the individuals within the community have the power to stop this … If we are active and work together — and that’s the point of today, working together — then we can reduce and stop the bullying for all of us.”

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone congratulated everyone there that morning for making such a strong statement.

“This day signifies something that I think we need to carry throughout the year from every level of our community, whether it’s at our younger ages, all the way up through to us as adults; we all have a role to play in respecting the right to be different,” he said. “You see the different slogans on the different shirts, and what it is is it’s about celebrating diversity. Diversity and differences between us are really what make the community vibrant and an exciting place to be. We all have a role to play, so when we look at others, look to build them up and support them, and it will make a stronger community, not only in your school but in the greater community that we all share.”

At Chemainus Elementary Community School, students and staff took part in a large assembly celebrating diversity.

Principal Brenda Stevenson says the assembly was all about anti-bullying but also about standing up for diversity and respecting the right to be different.

VIIC Ladysmith provided pink shirts for the students and staff at the school.

For the past two years, buddy classes in Grade 4/5 and kindergarten have made videos around anti-bullying with help from a dad who is a videographer. They shared these videos during the assembly, and Grade 5 students Amelia Halbot, Gwen Connolly, Bianca Steele, Hannah Clarke and Hailey Parkes read poems they had written for Pink Shirt Day. They also took a school photo, and the whole school danced to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”

Halbot, Connolly, Steele, Clarke and Parkes say their poems are about diversity, bullying, pink shirts and how you have to accept and respect that everyone is different.

They were all a bit nervous reading their poems out in front of the school, but they all feel they got a message out.

“It felt kind of nice to let people know how we feel,” said Parkes.

“We just want everybody to feel like they’re special in their own way,” said Connolly.

This year’s Pink Shirt Day was the eighth time the day has been acknowledged in B.C. It brings additional emphasis to B.C.’s ERASE  Bullying Strategy (Expect Respect And a Safe Education).

ERASE Bullying is a 10-point comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy designed to address bullying and harmful behaviours in schools.

At a Pink Shirt Day celebration at the B.C. Legislature, two secondary students from the ERASE Student Advisory released social media guidelines to help students, teachers and parents use social media responsibility.

The ERASE Student Advisory is made up of 20 students from all over B.C., representing public, independent and First Nations schools. They were selected to advise the Ministry of Education on bullying and student safety issues and develop social media guidelines.

“Through social media, today’s young people literally have the world at their thumbs and fingertips,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a press release. “There’s no question that it is a powerful educational tool, but social media can also be easily misused. The reality is that these days, using it comes with great responsibility, and I want to thank the students for these guidelines because they can be used by everyone.”

To learn more about ERASE Bullying, visit www.erasebullying.ca.