Pink was definitely the predominant color scheme at Curtis Corner and Westerly Middle Schools this week as both schools partnered with the Coalition to celebrate international Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday, February 27th. Both schools provided hot pink wristbands with bullying prevention messages to all students and awarded prizes to students and staff wearing the “pinkest” outfits.
A tradition born in a Nova Scotia high school
Pink Shirt Day, which is celebrated on the last Wednesday of February each year, began in 2007. After witnessing a 9th grader being bullied for wearing a pink polo shirt in their Nova Scotia high school, seniors David Shepherd and Travis Price organized a protest. They bought 50 pink shirts at a local discount store and contacted classmates that night to wear pink to school the next day.
In the morning, Shepherd and Price were standing in the school’s foyer handing out the shirts, when the bullied boy walked in. His face spoke volumes.
“Definitely, it looked like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders,” Price recalled. More importantly, the bullying stopped at the school.
“If you can get more people against them [the bullies] … to show that we’re not going to put up with it and support each other, then they’re not as big as a group as they think are,” added Shepherd.
News of the incident sparked a movement throughout Canada and around the globe now known as Pink Shirt Day.
Curtis Corner Middle School Celebrates Pink Shirt Day for 2nd Year
“Everyone enjoyed participating in Pink Shirt Day last year,” said Assistant Principal Jared Vance. “Pink Shirt Day is a great way to empower students to stand up against bullying and support their peers.” This is being reinforced on the school’s hot pink wristbands which say “CCMS Stand Up Against Bullying!” Vance added, “The school uses the Day to remind students they can and do make a difference.”
CCMS Pink Shirt Day activities included specially designed student lessons all week with bullying prevention themes as well as a special workshop for parents on Social Responsibility and Social Networking:A Journey into Internet Safety, Sexting, and Cyberbullying with Dr. Lawrence P. Filippelli, Assistant Superintendent in Scituate.
Westerly Middle School Working to “Keep Calm and Pink On”
The theme for February at Westerly Middle School has been “Keep Calm and Pink On” to promote “random acts of kindness and support”. Staff have rewarded student good deeds with pink wristbands, T-shirts and “Acts of Kindness” citations. The whole month’s activities have been focused on promoting positive behaviors and creating a school climate of support and acceptance among students,” noted WMS Assistant Principal Michael Templeton.
The month’s activities culminated with two special activities on Wednesday, February 27th. First, the school’s 6th graders participated in Mix It Up at Lunch, where students sat at different tables than usual to expose them to new people. High school student volunteers facilitated interaction.
Dean of Students Peter Fusaro, who organized, the program, says, “Social barriers tend to be most apparent in the school cafeteria. Mix It Up at Lunch is a modest opportunity to break them down.”
Secondly, the whole school community celebrated Pink Shirt Day. “And the powerful message of Pink Shirt Day is that students can stop bullying,” said School Social Worker Patrick Cozzolino.
For a link to local newspaper coverage of WMS’s activities, click here.
Pink Shirt Day activities part of a long-term effort and partnership
But Pink Shirt Day activities are just part of both schools’ impressive and long-term efforts to combat bullying. For example, last summer students at both schools were required to read books with bullying themes to provoke thought and discussion once school resumed this fall. Both schools are also partnering with the Washington County Coalition for Children to implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a school-wide intervention and prevention program backed by 30 years of research.
“Bullying can undermine a child’s self esteem, impact school performance, and leave lasting scars,” said Susan Orban, Coordinator of the Washington County Coalition for Children. “The electronic age, has only exasperated this age old problem. For generations, no one knew what to do about it. Now we do, but it’s not an easy fix. Bullying is a pervasive problem that requires long-term and consistent effort to address. For this reason, we’re pleased to be partnering with three Washington County middle schools to implement the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program,” reported Orban. “Broad Rock Middle School staff just underwent training last month to begin implementation of the program.” The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program [www.Olweus.org] is one of only 11 Blue Ribbon Prevention Programs identified by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) from the federal government as proven effective.
Orban will present a workshop for parents through the Westerly Parent Academy on Tuesday, March 19 from 6:30-8 pm entitled Bullying 101: Understanding the Impact of this Age Old Problem in the Digital Age. To register, go to http://portal.westerlyparentacademy.org/ or call 348-2319.
The Coalition’s bullying prevention efforts have been made possible by grants from the RI State Office of Rural Health, The Friendship Fund, and the Richmond Grange.