By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff students wore pink on Feb. 24 to take a stand against bullying. Two rallies were organized by the DREAMS (Developing Redcliff Educational and Mental Health Supports) program, one at Margaret Wooding and the other at Parkside School. The object of Pink Shirt Day, said DREAMS program coordinator Jamie Sawatzky, was to teach students about standing up to bullying but also being kind to the victims of it.
“Being kind to others makes a huge difference,” said Sawatzky. “We focus on how kindness can change the word. Bullying can’t be solved over night. A day like today just reminds the kids how kindness can make a difference in each other’s lives and even if you are feeling uncomfortable, and you don’t know what to do when you see bullying happen, that just being kind to the person who is the target can make a huge difference.”
At the Parkside School rally held at 2 p.m., in the school’s gymnasium students listened to special guest speaker, local radio personality, Shalinda Kirby talk about her experiences of being bullied through social media when first arriving at My 96 in Medicine Hat, and how difficult it was for her to cope with that at the time.
“This generation has never really known a world without the internet,” said Kirby. “Now we have Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, YouTube, the list goes on and on. As awesome as all of those sites are, they are supposed to bring us together but instead some people use those things to abuse others… Cyber bullying occurs 24 hours a day. It continues when you go home. It continues when you come to school or work.”
Kirby encouraged students to speak up if they are being bullied either through social media or in person, and to find someone they can talk to about their problems.
Thirteen year-old Parkside student Sarah Johnson also spoke at the Pink Shirt Day rally. Johnson, who has been a victim of bullying herself in the past, said it was time people stood up for one another to stop bullies wherever they are found.
“Bullying affects everyone, not just students,” said Johnson. “Adults too; in everyday life. Being a victim of bullying, Pink Shirt day touches me a lot. I just want to help get the message out. I know how it feels to be alone and all that. So I just want to get the message out to my fellow students.”
Kirby said rallies like Parkside held last Wednesday start the process of making a difference.
“It’s the national anti-bullying day. I think the pink shirt symbolizes that, and I think it is important to do these events do people really understand what it is about. I am hoping people are starting to understand, but bullying is a big issue still. I don’t think it is ever going to stop being a big issue because some people just won’t get it through their heads that bullying really does hurt. Whether it is on social media or in person.”