As part of this year's Pink Shirt Day, students at Whistler Secondary School have taken an anti-bullying workshop run by the Canadian Red Cross — and will in turn teach what they've learned to elementary school pupils.
The 11 leadership students in Grades 10 to 12 completed the youth-supporting-youth program called Beyond the Hurt, and will run their own workshops for Grade 6 and 7 pupils at Spring Creek and Myrtle Philip Community Schools in the next few weeks.
The high school students will then offer the same workshop to their Whistler Secondary classmates in Grades 8 and 9.
Bev Oakley, the principal of Whistler Secondary School, said the two-day certificate program went through scenarios and conceptions of bullying, and had participants commit to bullying prevention.
"The idea is for children being bullied to go to their classmates. A lot of time kids don't feel comfortable reporting it to adults," Oakley said.
"It really dovetails nicely with Pink Shirt Day, and we will go to Spring Creek and Myrtle Philip before Spring Break."
Oakley said the Red Cross facilitator would then return to her school to debrief the original group of students and see what they learned.
The original Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007, when the older classmates of a boy who was being harassed for wearing a pink shirt to school took matters into their own hands, buying 50 pink shirts and distributing them around the school to wear and silence the bullies. It worked. The day has spread throughout North America.
Amrit Dhatt of The Canadian Red Cross said the Beyond the Hurt program was established in 2002, with over 10,900 youth reached through the Red Cross's anti-violence programs, including Beyond the Hurt, last year.
"We found the peer-to-peer education works really well. It gives the students a set of skills that are valuable, like public speaking, and they get to understand the issues. When they deliver to younger peers they have more credibility... We make sure teachers are equipped to deal with these issues after the training takes place so it is sustainable and stays within the schools," Dhatt said.
Nick Pascuzzi, the principal of Don Ross Secondary School in Brackendale, said they would be marking the day by encouraging students to buy and wear the pink shirts, and by watching a presentation by Justice Theatre in Vancouver, which performs scripts of trials to discuss ethics and outcomes.
"It's really neat. They are reenacting a youth case that involved cyberbullying and will choose kids from the audience to act as the jury. It is very engaging."
Howe Sound Secondary School in Squamish, along with several other schools in the Sea to Sky School District, will be marking International Anti-Bullying Week in April rather than Pink Shirt Day next week. But vice principal Ji Ai Cho said they were carrying out anti-bullying and diversity-supportive initiatives throughout the school year.
School bullying remains a big issue, with a Harris/Decima poll released on Feb. 15 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada determining that half of all Canadian adults were bullied as teenagers or children. Thirty per cent of Canadian adults believe that the bullying they experienced as children had a detrimental effect on their lives.