For the past 10 years, Canadians old and young have worn pink on the last weekend of February to show solidarity and support against bullying.
Mike Skinner, assistant superintendent at School District 91 (Nechako Lakes) said the first step in dealing with bullying at school is reporting it to a teacher. Once it’s been reported, teachers investigate the situation and following that necessary action is taken against the student found bullying.
“Some of the statistics I have seen on the effects of bullying on our provincial site [erasebullying.ca] are that more than half of all adults have been bullied. I think the other statistic is that one in three teens experienced bullying,” he said.
“So it’s a problem in society that affects children, youth and even adults… Our schools work very hard to eradicate bullying, obviously not just on Pink Shirt Day but throughout the year.”
Teaching kindness, sharing, inclusion and acceptance through curriculum is a big focus area for School District 91, Skinner added.
Libby Hart, principal of WL McLeod Elementary school in Vanderhoof, said that their focus at the school is to learn kindness and caring. So every year they honor Pink Shirt Day, by doing an activity with children in the school, she said.
This year, the kids wore pink and walked through downtown Vanderhoof with slogans to create awareness and stand up against bullying. The school also got students to make a video this year where they gave every grade a piece of the same song and edited it all together.
“In this day and age sometimes we forget that it is really important to just be kind to each other. To just treat each other with respect and love and we may not always be perfect at it, but it’s really important to discuss it and we do,” Hart said.
Monica Sillje, principal of Nak’albun Elementary school said they advise their students to immediately tell an adult if they feel they are being bullied.
“Pink Shirt Day is an important day that we all proudly wear our shirts, and are united in promoting and representing kindness. We are always working together to encourage respectful behaviour and interactions with each other, both in and out of school,” she said.
Meanwhile, the outcome for a child found bullying is varied, Skinner said, noting the school district uses the provincial website – Erasebullying.ca to determine the nature of the act.
“The website has examples of what bullying is versus what being mean is. So depending on the age of the student, cognizant level, past history – the outcome can vary,” Skinner said.
However, the main goal is to teach students to become better and to learn from their actions, he said. This does not take away from the traditional ways of dealing with bullying including suspensions, Skinner said, noting that consequences will exist regardless but, “we want consequences to be restorative in nature. So that it helps students learn going forward and aids in being better people.”
In terms of dealing with cyberbullying, Const. Borelli from the Fort St. James RCMP detachment said, one preventive measure that can be taken by parents is monitoring their child’s screen time.
“We never had to deal with cyberbullying while growing up and it’s a totally different ball game. Now kids can hide behind screens and say what they want… I have heard a couple of good ideas on how parents can monitor their child’s screen time. One is having a family computer where everyone has access to it and the child is not going on it alone in their room,” Borelli said.
Another suggestion he said is setting iPhones to allow internet usage for a set time period. “So you can say to your child you have 30 minutes a day on Facebook and once they have used those 30 minutes the phone wouldn’t allow them to access Facebook. They can still use text and call features for emergencies.”
Meanwhile, Borelli said the youth need to understand that their digital footprint stays and doesn’t disappear if you delete the comment or photograph.
Skinner said students should take photos or screenshots of comments if they are being cyber-bullied as that is evidence at hand.
If the bullying is severe, criminal code charges can be levied.
“Criminal harassment is a charge in the criminal code where if someone is fearing for their safety and there has been harassment on the person, then with enough evidence the person causing harassment can be charged,” Borelli said.