July 20th, 2024

Pink Shirt Day encourages inclusion and respect

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 29, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Students at Our Lady of the Assumption School assemble in celebration of Pink Shirt Day and bow heads in prayer on Wednesday afternoon to remember the importance of kindness and encouragement against bullying.

A wave of children wearing pink shirts could be seen at Our Lady of the Assumption School on Wednesday afternoon as a reminder of the importance of kindness and encouragement against bullying.

Pink Shirt Day was inspired by an incident in an eastern Canada school were a male student wearing a pink shirt was singled out by some of his peers and bullied. Other students felt inspired to come to school wearing pink shirts to encourage the student who had fallen victim to bullying.

“Their initiatives spurred a movement of anti-bullying crusading across the country, which is pretty cool because it’s student led. And it’s organically coming out of students who desire to put an end to bullying,” said Caryn Swark, associate principal at Our Lady of the Assumption School.

Swark explained how Pink Shirt Day has become a day to celebrate each other’s differences.

“Pink Shirt Day has become an annual day to just discuss bullying, discuss, not just bullying, but the positive things that help us get away from bullying.

Moving towards more of inclusion, growing community, respecting others and respecting differences. But we remember those origins by wearing a pink shirt and looking for ways that we can celebrate differences in our community,” she said.

Although Pink Shirt Day is a powerful reminder for students to be kind, Swark said it is something the school tries to corporate every day.

“This is something that we really focus on all year at our school, is this, this need to build community, this need to be respectful diverse communities, this needs to appreciate the differences in other people, rather than treat them as a threat.”

Post-COVID Swark says she has noted a breakdown in community and has identified behaviour challenges in children finding a place to fit in.

“Unfortunately, one way that’s very easy to find a place that you fit in is to cut other people out to form a group of people who are just like you; find somebody who’s different and singled them out and that is what leads to bullying.

One thing that we’ve focused on a lot over the last few years is just this idea of diversity, of recognizing that everybody has different perspectives, that there’s not always a right or wrong way to look at a situation. And that we can treat our differences as something to be celebrated that differences don’t have to be a threat,” said Swark.

Swark admitted having no bullying within the school has not been 100 per cent successful, but it is something the school continues to strive towards. She said students can still belong in a diverse community.

“You can fit in with people who are not exactly the same as you. You can have your place and be safe and secure within a diverse community.”

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