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February 24, 2011
Students embrace anti-bullying message

Article by Candice So, For The Windsor Star

Photograph by Nick Brancaccio, The Windsor Star, For The Windsor Star

Students Wearing Pink ShirtsThe colour of the day was pink at Roseland public school, where students from kindergarten to Grade 8 celebrated Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday.

They were among students from across Canada who donned pink to show their concern over bullying, homophobia and discrimination.

Special education teacher Shelley Whittaker, who helped organize the day at her school, said the students embraced the day's message.

"I do believe everyone deserves a positive, safe space," said Whittaker, who teaches grades three to eight. "I think this is a great way to address it, especially visually."

The students put pink cellophane on the school sign and used food colouring to make pink snow on the school lawn.

They also signed class pledges and created a commitment wall, agreeing to try to prevent bullying in their classrooms.

"We really want to educate students on how to deal with bullying," said Roseland vice principal Bruno Pallotto. "So we try to equip them with the proper tools and the proper vocabulary to deal with bullying."

Anti-bullying advocate Mike Neuts, whose son Myles died in 1998 after he was found dangling unconscious from a washroom stall coat hook at his Chatham school, visited the Windsor students.

"Some kids are not understanding their existence is important in this world. Kids are dying and that just shouldn't happen," said Neuts. "It rips my guts out when kids think they're being cool and bullying."

He said that last year he received 7,000 letters from kids who have been victims of bullying, proving the problem hasn't gone away.

But Whittaker said she believes bullying incidents have gone down at Roseland because students have learned to use anti-bullying language around each other.

For example, kids have learned to say "Please don't say that," or "We don't accept that."

Instead of being passive bystanders when they see bullying, they also try to be "upstanders." That means seeking help or comforting victims of bullying.

Whittaker said Pink Shirt Day started when two male students at a Nova Scotia high school wanted to support another male classmate who had been bullied for wearing a pink shirt.

Through word of mouth and a Facebook campaign, the students made Pink Shirt Day a chance for people to show solidarity with victims of bullying.

"It's a grassroots movement," said Whittaker. Locally, Hugh Beaton public school, Belle River high school and Forest Glade public school [among many others] also participated in this year's Pink Shirt Day.

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