Grand Forks Gazette and School District 51 take stand against bullying

Pink will be a popular colour today (Wednesday) as it is annual Pink Shirt Day, which seeks to show that bullying is not tolerated.

The Grand Forks Gazette

The Grand Forks Gazette

Pink will be a popular colour today (Wednesday) as it is annual Pink Shirt Day, which seeks to show that bullying is not tolerated in Grand Forks, Christina Lake, Midway, Greenwood or anywhere for that matter.

Educating youth about the damage that bullying can do is important because if the anti-bullying message is given at a young age, students will grow with that message engrained in their consciousness.

Workers at the Grand Forks Gazette’s office are wearing pink and locally, schools are doing their part to preach the virtues of anti-bullying.

Generally, there have been reports of numerous occurrences of older students bullying younger throughout the years and across the continent.

According to Midway Elementary and Greenwood Elementary Principal Darryl Turner, elementary students in Midway will be traveling to Boundary Central Secondary School to take part in a flash mob with the high schoolers.

At Greenwood Elementary, child and youth counselors from the school and Freedom Quest (regional youth services) are working together and organizing anti-bullying awareness activities for students – all students in each school will receive a pink shirt.

“In small schools any bullying stands out a little more when it happens. We, the staff at each school, often talk about what bullying looks like throughout the year with students when it surfaces,” Turner explains. “We make sure students understand our schools’ expectations involving inclusion of all, cyber-bulling, traditional bullying, etc. We educate students with programs like ‘Roots of Empathy’ and ‘Friends’ to help students become aware of others feelings. We partner with Boundary Family Integrated Services to help develop social skills within small groups with identified students. This helps students to not be targets and to fit better socially.”

At Grand Forks Secondary School (GFSS), students designed Pink Shirt Day T-shirts through a logo competition says Principal Scott Stewart, who adds that the shirts with the winning logo have been made and similar to other schools, GFSS will have a related assembly.

“Personally, bullying is still an issue we deal with fairly regularly either through interactions in school but more increasingly through online social media,” explains Stewart. “Often times it is difficult to pinpoint the origin of bullying as many times we end up with ‘he said, she said’ stories. Online media has in some cases made it easier to track down the behaviours but because of the impersonal nature of online communications, it is easier to say inappropriate things to people online without getting that emotional reaction that often prevents those interactions in real life.”

He adds that students at GFSS are generally accepting and the overall incidents at the school are not high compared to other jurisdictions.

“The key issue for us is overcoming the tendency of kids and parents to not want to tell when things are happening with the fear of making it worse and that is the challenge for us to educate our students about how to access support when bullying occurs,” Stewart goes on to say.

Students at Hutton Elementary School in Grand Forks will also be taking part in Pink Shirt Day activities.

“All staff are wearing Grand Forks Secondary School silk screened pink shirts, as are many of our Grade 7s. The parent advisory council is going to award a ‘classroom treat’ to the class that wears the most pink shirts in celebration of anti-bullying,” says Doug Lacey, Hutton principal.

On top of that, Hutton will have an anti-bullying themed morning assembly and the Grade 7s will perform related skits throughout the day to all the classes, which Lacey says is like a travelling road show. The seventh graders have also prepared a class newspaper on bullying and Pink Shirt Day that will be distributed to each classroom.

“It is crucial to recognize that every classroom (at Hutton) and every teacher works with students every day on social responsibility,” Lacey explains. “The culture of inclusiveness, caring and concern for others has been developed over years of using programs like the Virtues program, Respectful Relations, Friends program and various teacher-directed lessons to meet the outcomes of the health and career curriculum and the expectations of the Social Responsibility Performance Standards.”

At Perley Elementary in Grand Forks, there will be an anti-bullying and acceptance assembly as well, which will be preceded by the school’s third annual Perley Pink Parade, where students and staff will parade through the school clad in pink.

“In terms of dealing with bullying, we work on building our students social responsibility on a daily basis,” says Perley Principal Kevin Argue. “Every class works on this all year long and I speak to incidents and positive choices at almost every school assembly.”

Pink will also be a notable colour at Christina Lake Elementary School today as Principal Bob Chapman says students will be encouraged to wear pink and teachers will talk about the day’s significance and stresses the importance of educating students on the topic.

“We do not tolerate bullying obviously and we teach kids what bullying is and what isn’t bullying,” Chapman says. “Too often behaviour is labelled as bullying but it really isn’t, so we work hard to make sure kids know what bullying is, ways to deal with bullies and bullying and we do our very best to make sure that bullying is dealt with properly as we do not want it in the school. Complicating things is the amount of contact kids have outside of school through social media and that certainly can complicate relationships for students at school.”