Pink Shirt Day has become well-known in Canada since its inception in 2007, but in Sooke and across Canada, the day has taken on a different theme this year.
“We’re keeping it pretty low-key this year,” said Tess Vally, principal of Sooke elementary school.
“We’ll be emphasizing kindness. We’re not calling it bullying anymore, but instead we’re shifting it to the positive and talking about how we should all be kind to one another.”
The children will be encouraged to wear pink to mark the day (Feb. 27), but there will be no rallies or large scale presentations.
“We’ll be reading a book about kindness over the PA and individual classes will talk about the importance of kindness.”
Over at Edward Milne community school, the students will also be marking Pink Shirt Day starting with an activity they’ve dubbed “It’s the Small Things that Matter”.
“It’s the message of building and fostering positive relationships that will be the focus of our Pink Shirt Day,” said vice-principal Todd Powell.
“The Leadership program wanted to provide opportunities for staff and students to anonymously write down a positive ‘small thing’ they wish another person to know. This could be a kind word, a pat on the back, or a simple compliment. The school has done activities similar to this in the past, with positive results.”
The shift from confronting bullies to teaching the basic concept of kindness is an approach that isn’t unique to Sooke.
Sara Dubois-Phillips, the executive director of the CKNW Kids Fund that organizes the annual Pink Shirt Day nationally, acknowledged that the focus is no longer on bullying.
“We don’t really love the label bully. Everyone has different life experiences and kindness is something we can do that’s positive,” she said.
The Canadian Red Cross has been a sponsor of Pink Shirt Day in the past but said that they have made some changes that have them no longer formally involved in Pink Shirt Day activities. They will provide schools with resource guides.
The move to a positive message about kindness comes within an environment where a poll by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation indicated that 89 per cent of Canadian teachers ranked bullying and violence as serious problems in the public schools.
Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a group of teenagers rallied around a Grade 9 classmate who was being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. They took a stand by all wearing pink shirts.
While the approach of standing up to bullies has a certain visceral appeal, Dubois-Phillips said that the old approach is not as effective as addressing bullying with a positive approach.
“If we confront it with kindness it’s more effective. It’s a positive behaviour that will help them understand what it means to be a good friend for the rest of their lives,” she said.