Rimbey Elementary School students and staff donned their pink shirts last Wednesday, Feb. 26, for the nation-wide anti-bullying awareness Pink Shirt Day; but at this school they make student safety and bullying awareness a priority every day.
School principal Jodi Bramfield says Pink Shirt Day is an enjoyable day for the students because it’s a way for them to send a visual message they won’t stand for bullying and are being educated on how to handle situations as they arise.
“Anti-bullying is something we talk about on a regular basis with our students,” said Bramfield.
At Rimbey Elementary messages like Pink Shirt Day and all anti-bullying information is taught to students starting at a young age, usually via health classes. “We find that bullying can be at any age and the sooner kids are aware what it is, they can go to an adult and they can get help,” said Bramfield.
She says students of all ages are grasping that concept because of the ongoing education they receive, especially around the ideas of getting help and telling an adult rather than staying silent.
Children often suffer in silence under a bully because they feel ‘telling’ will only make it worse. However, Bramfield and the school staff focus on teaching their students that bullies don’t want their victims to speak up so they themselves don’t get in trouble.
Like all schools, Rimbey Elementary deals with bullying incidents but Bramfield says there are steps in place to handle each situation, including a variety of consequences. “We base it upon: it’s incident by incident.”
When consequences aren’t enough to change a student’s behavior the school introduces social behavior training, which includes mediation tactics. “Students are given the chance to sit down and talk,” said Bramfield. “And the one who feel’s they’ve been victimized has a voice . . . and that’s pretty powerful.”
She adds, in most cases, dealing directly with the bully is enough to change behavior because they’re then aware adults know about the situation. “But I’m not naïve enough to think that works every time,” she added; hence the need for anti-bully education and events such as Pink Shirt Day across the country.
Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 after two high school boys, David Sheppard and Travis Price, witnessed a Grade 9 boy being bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school.
On Feb. 26 of that year the two boys wore pink shirts to school and began distributing other 50 shirts they had purchased themselves to the boys in their school. Since then Pink Shirt Day has spread like wildfire across Canada from school to school. Rimbey Elementary has taken part for the last four years.