Schools across Canada – including Hay River’s Harry Camsell School – observed Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24.
Also known as Anti-Bullying Day, it has its origins in 2007 when two students at a Nova Scotia school took a stand after a fellow student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt.
Caleb Swan, a nine-year-old Grade 3 student at Harry Camsell School, has a family connection to that school in Nova Scotia.
Caleb said his mom, uncle and aunt attended the school where Pink Shirt Day started.
“This person came to school and was wearing a pink shirt, and he got bullied,” the nine-year-old explained, adding some other students then figured out that they could all wear pink shirts.
Caleb, who said he has helped observe Pink Shirt Day every year he has been in school, thinks it’s a good idea and is happy it has spread all over Canada.
Susan Warren, a Grade 3 teacher and vice-principal of Harry Camsell School, said Pink Shirt Day helps bring awareness to students about bullying.
“It gives us a different way to talk to them and it makes them really think about it,” she said. “For them, it’s a way to see that there are other people who have experienced some of the things that they’re experiencing, and it also makes them realize that what they’re doing sometimes might be some subtle bullying that they don’t really understand. So then it gives us a chance to talk about how hurtful it is, and we talk about that a lot anyway.”
Warren explained that bullying is not really a big problem among students at Harry Camsell School, which is for Kindergarten to Grade 3.
“I think there’s some bullying in all different kinds of places but it’s different here,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘I don’t want to play with you,’ or ‘I want to play with her, but we don’t want you to come with us right now.’ It’s more that they’re learning how to relate to each other, and sometimes they don’t have the social skills yet to understand what’s hurtful and what’s not.”
Warren said exclusion is a subtle form of bullying.
In Yellowknife, Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses attended a rally for Pink Shirt Day.
“Bullying is a complex and serious issue that can have devastating effects on our children and youth,” he said, according to a news release. “Bullying is unacceptable and we are one of the jurisdictions across Canada actively standing up to stop bullying.”
Moses said bullying comes in a number of forms – physical, verbal, emotional, and cyber-bullying.
“All of these leave children and youth alike feeling alone and threatened, and often that they have nowhere to turn,” he said.
Moses said the GNWT’s new Safe and Caring Schools Regulations, including a Territorial School Code of Conduct, will come into force on Sept. 1.
The regulations set a standard of behaviour for NWT students, teachers and the school community.
“This is an important piece of the ongoing work that reinforces our government’s commitment to students and school communities that bullying is not acceptable, and every person in a school should feel safe and secure,” said Moses. “We hope that this legislation will help contribute to safe and stimulating learning environments.”
On Feb. 24, all MLAs wore pink flowers in support of Pink Shirt Day.