This Wednesday (Feb. 26), Ladysmith will be awash in pink as students, educators and residents don the colour in support of bullying prevention.
Pink Shirt Day first began in 2007 when two Nova Scotia Grade 12 students stood up for a Grade 9 male classmate who was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. In a show of support, the two older students purchased a number of pink tops and encouraged all of their friends to wear them to school the following day. The campaign was a success and the pink shirt became a symbol of bullying prevention. Over the next couple of years, Pink Shirt Day morphed into a cross-Canada movement that raises awareness about bullying and seeks positive ways to address it.
In Ladysmith, Pink Shirt Day has become a popular annual event. One of its main supporters is the local Vancouver Island Insurance Centre (VIIC), which this year will give away approximately 1,800 pink T-shirts to students in and around Ladysmith.
“Anti-bullying initiative is aligned with our VIIC core values of care: commitment, accountability, respect, excellence,” said Therese Saunders of VIIC. “We are accountable to our communities so are donating these T-shirts to our schools to assist in keeping the message out front not only during the month of February but also throughout the year. The message is about supporting habits that exhibit excellence and respect for all ages.”
At Ladysmith Intermediate School (LIS), Pink Shirt Day serves as a reminder of the values educators seek to instill year round.
“Teaching goes well beyond academics, to citizenship and social responsibility,” said principal Cathal Walsh. “Schools are microcosms of society. We have a responsibility to address bullying. We have an opportunity to offset some serious future behaviours if we get this right.”
At LIS, students and staff are working together to prevent bullying. Staff have access to assessment tools to help determine if a particular behaviour constitutes bullying or another type of conflict. Once the type of conflict and appropriate action has been determined, staff use a communication system to inform all school employees about the situation. When necessary, staff can then keep students in the loop, and open communication between students and educators is encouraged.
Students, for their part, are producing a five-minute video on bullying prevention. Walsh said that students have risen to the challenge of writing, filming, editing and producing the video from start to finish.
“They are inherently good kids. Given the opportunity to take leadership and take a meaningful role – they step up,” he said.
The school is also reaching out to parents to include them in the discussion. Walsh said the delicate subject of childhood bullying can drive a wedge between parents and educators, but that they should be working together towards a common goal, not against one another.
“The ultimate bullying prevention is to foster positive relationships,” said Walsh. “We need to stop the labelling and the finger pointing and work collaboratively.”
He said that educators have a number of tools at their disposal to address bullying and that LIS is interested in sharing those tools and training with parents.