By Tina Comeau
This week’s winter carnival at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School is aimed at instilling a feeling of school spirit and belonging at the school.
Which is why the student council feels the timing is perfect to incorporate a pink day into its schedule on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
The last Wednesday of February is recognized as national anti-bullying day. The fact that the day is recognized across the country further ties in with what the school is doing in that a former YCMHS student approached teacher Jeremy Dease with the idea for a ‘west coast to east coast’ anti-bullying initiative.
Krista Wallis, a 1996 YCMHS graduate, is an RCMP constable posted in Campbell River, British Columbia, where she was a school liaison officer providing services to 18 schools.
“I learned a lot about the challenges our youth deal with today, mainly bullying,” she says. “Bullying occurs in many capacities; in person, whether it is on the playground, school bus, hallways, or in the classroom and also cyber bullying, which can follow our youth everywhere they go, including in the safety of their own homes.”
Last year Wallis created several hundred pink ribbons that incorporated the Campbell River RCMP's pin into their design. She provided one to every staff administrator within Campbell River schools. All she requested in return was that when people asked about the ribbons that they spread the anti-bullying message. Some schools went further by creating their own ribbons and distributing them further to students and parents.
The RCMP also allowed Wallis to wear a pink stripe down the leg of her RCMP uniform, instead of the traditional yellow stripe.
This year the Campbell River Kinsmen Club sponsored Wallis’ pink ribbon project and donated enough money allowing her to prepare extra ribbons and pins.
“They were older gentleman and some of them came up to me afterwards and started to tear up because they felt it was a powerful message,” she says. “They explained to me how they were bullied in school and how they have grandchildren that were bullied. They were very supportive.”
She contacted Dease telling him she was sending ribbons to the Yarmouth high school to circulate amongst staff and students to further spread the anti-bullying message. Dease and the school’s student council welcomed the opportunity and decided to have a pink day at the school. Pink is the colour that has come to symbolize students taking a stand against bullying.
“That’s what pink day is about, making everyone feel included and treating everybody equally,” says student council co-president Allie Berry. Co-president Kalli Hood points out that incorporating the message into their winter carnival activities works well because winter carnival is aimed at making students feel good about their school and friends. They try to organize activities that make the entire student body feel included.
Dease says it is always good to raise awareness about bullying. Cyber bullying occurs a lot in society, he says, through negative comments that are posted online or sent in text messages or emails.
He says bullying can be overt or subtle and students need to be aware of both.
“A lot of what we see in the classroom is also just words that they may use with their friends when they’re out just being themselves and they don’t realize in certain situations, or in many situations, those words can be hurtful when heard in unintended ways,” Dease says. “So it’s a matter of making them aware that you’ve got to be careful of what you’re saying.”