Like any recognizable calendar marker, Pink Shirt Day, has its own origins story. What is now widely recognized as a day we band together in making our schools safe and welcoming environments for one and all, came from humble beginnings not that long ago.
In 2007, in small-town Nova Scotia, High School students David Shepard and Travis Prince witnessed a younger student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. Dumbfounded and offended by the callous actions of their classmates they, and a few other members of the student body, decide that in a show of solidarity they would all wear pink to school the next day.
Over 15 years later, each February you'll find a sea of pink in schools across our country, and even the world; with CFIS as no exception.
We also recognize that preventing bullying starts with creating healthy friendships and an inclusive environment. This is why, for several years now, our Elementary division has used Pink Shirt Day (or rather week in our case) to promote healthy friendships and facilitate activities to foster them. In fact, we have our very own Pink Shirt committee that dedicates many hours to planning all these details.
Bullying is defined as an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.
We choose to focus more on healthy friendships instead of bullying, to represent our students' needs better. It doesn’t mean that we don't talk about anti-bullying on Pink Shirt Day, because that conversation is just as real and valid, but instead, we use the week leading up to arm students with vocabulary and actions that they can use to support one and other, ask for support, show kindness, and recognize their own needs when they are being met and when they are not. We talk about the importance of recognizing the difference between a "mean moment" or teasing versus a much more serious matter.
We also use this opportunity to foster conversations, in age-appropriate ways, with students around what a healthy friendship looks like to them. For example, In Grade 1, students brainstormed about acts of kindness, small things we can do to make someone's day better; like sharing, helping someone when they're hurt, and opening the door for someone. Our Grades 2 to 4 students, read books to prompt discussions about including others, like, as one student suggested if you notice someone is feeling sad, you should ask if they want to play with you during recess. Our Grade 5's and 6's, navigated what being a good friend looks like. That by accepting and celebrating each other's differences we can gain more understanding for one and another.
It goes without saying that school should feel safe for everyone - that no one should ever feel afraid to attend class. We hope that our halls are a happy place for our students to be and that we are sending more "friends" out into the world. Perhaps, more than ever, these are lessons that we could all benefit from.