It would have been a full sea of pink if it weren’t for winter jackets, but the sentiments, and cheeks with a
rose-coloured hue, were there.
Classes from Harry Camsell School and Princess Alexandra School participated in Hay River’s first Pink Parade on Feb. 27.
Led by members of the Hay River Fire Department also decked out in pink, and a crew of enthusiastic teachers, students marched together from Princess Alexandra to the Don Stewart Recreation Centre in the early afternoon hours.
The pink shirts and sweaters covered by their winter wear were replaced by pink armbands and paper pseudo-stop signs declaring ‘Bullying Stops Here.’
“Today you are making a very strong statement standing up against bullying,” said school principal Chris Philpotts as he addressed students. “If you see someone being bullied, you intervene. If you are being bullied, use your wits. Walk away. Ignore them. Tell someone.”
Philpotts was referring to the WITS (Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, Seek help) program that came to the schools earlier this year. That and the LEADS (Look up and listen, Explore points of view, Act, Did it work, and Seek help) program were created to help make for healthy learning environments for students, giving them skills to manage if they were bullied.
The original Pink Shirt Day movement began in Nova Scotia, where two high school students decided to stand up for a boy who was beaten up for wearing a pink shirt. They spread the word, bought 50 pink T-shirts and showed up the next day in support of their classmate.
Since that day in 2009, that gesture of support has morphed into a national day of bullying awareness support for mental health.
Princess Alexandra vice-principal Carolyn Carroll said staff decided to organize the march as a more mobile part of the movement.
“We really wanted to make a statement this year,” said Carroll. “I’m sure we are not going to eradicate bullying off the face of planet, but we can take a step towards action. This way, students make a personal commitment, showing the whole town we are wearing pink and getting that message about respecting and caring about each other.”
Students Roxy Beaulieu and Shayna Wilford said they’ve both witnessed bullying within their school and still wrestle with what to do during such a situation. They’ve run to tell teachers and sometimes get involved by speaking up.
This is a start, said Fire Chief Ross Potter in addressing the students.
The Hay River Fire Department has partnered with the schools for the anti-bullying campaign.
“This is a campaign to stop bullying in all of the community, in all ages,” said Potter. “People can be bullied for the stupidest of reasons. We all have feelings, and deserve to be treated with respect.”
– Angele Cano