Students, teachers and parents at Ecole Marie Poburan in St. Albert will stand together against bullying during Pink Shirt Day events at the end of the month.
“We will be doing Pink Shirt Day and hosting Dare to Care. It is a full-day series of workshops for all students on bully-proofing your school. We’ve had it before and it is really good,” said principal Catherine Giesbrecht.
On the evening of Feb. 27 parents will attend workshops presented by Dare to Care, a non-profit agency from Calgary that presents anti-bullying programs at schools throughout the province. The next day Ecole Marie Poburan students will spend the day attending age-appropriate workshops.
“The program raises awareness about our differences and talks about relationships. Of course there is no guarantee that you will never have a bullying situation in your school but it gives a child tools to stand-up to bullying,” Giesbrecht said.
The Pink Shirt initiative is a way to tie the two anti-bullying programs together. Everyone will wear the symbolic pink shirts.
“We tell the kids about how Pink Shirt Day started. It’s a powerful story,” Giesbrecht said.
In 2007 two Nova Scotia junior high students, David Shepherd and Travis Price witnessed the bullying of a new student at their school. A Grade 9 boy was ridiculed because he wore a pink shirt on his first day at school. Shepherd and Price went to a discount store and purchased 50 pink tank tops. The next day they stood in the school foyer and handed out the shirts to the boys in their school. Since then the Pink Shirt Day initiative has spread throughout the world.
“At our school students from kindergarten to Grade 2 will take part in role-playing activities to understand what bullying looks like,” Giesbrecht said.
The youngest children will have a one-hour session on building friendship skills. The Grade 6 students will talk about internet bullying and about texting on their cellphones. Parents and teachers will talk about how an imbalance of power leads to bullying on a societal level, not just in school.
“We talk about how to recognize if your child is being bullied as well as how to recognize if your child is the bully,” Giesbrecht said.
Ecole Marie Poburan acknowledges the Pink Shirt events every year and pays homage to the meaning of the day, but Dare to Care is a special add-on that coincides with it.
“We had Dare to Care come to the school two years ago but we wanted to keep it fresh so decided to do it every other year and it worked well to tie it together with Pink Shirt Day,” Giesbrecht said.
Giesbrecht maintains that lessons learned from previous anti-bullying workshops do resonate with the students in her school.
“Hokey as it sounds, once the kids attend the role-playing sessions, and practice the skills and focus on the language of anti-bullying there is change. They are definitely able to change and understand the language of bullying and they gain strategies for what to do when things come up,” Giesbrecht said.