Don’t stand by, stand together

 In Opinion

There is a new Pink Flag flying at the Collingwood Library this week as a result of the persistent efforts   of local resident Trevor Henson, a current student at the Adult Learning Center.  On an annual basis Trevor has drawn attention to the issue of bullying and has garnered much support and praise from his fellow students and the community so much that the Town of Collingwood created a Flag Policy so this important week could be officially recognized. Way to go Trevor! You may have also noticed some extra “pink” displays on the main streets of  Collingwood, Creemore and Stayner as students came together to speak up in support of equity, inclusiveness and  acceptance.

I met with some insightful Grade 7 and 8 students from Cameron Street School, under the enthusiastic direction of teachers Lisa Saunders and Patty Fedorco, who were part of the Collingwood, “Paint the Town Pink” organizing team. I was immediately struck by the group’s maturity, empathy and sensitivity towards the project. Their strongest message to me was clarifying the important role of the bystander in situations where someone is being treated unkindly. They suggested the best strategy was to not “fight hate with hate” but rather to approach the situation in “a nice way”, preferably in a small group to show the person that their behavior is not acceptable and that they will not idly stand by.

They shared some of their proactive planning ideas aimed at encouraging students to be more accepting of others. The logo for their Pink T-shirt was created by giving each community school a small shape of a puzzle piece to decorate and then they were pieced together to create the final t-shirt design. According to the students, the design was to show that “we may be a bit different, but underneath we are the same and can still connect together”.

Instagram and Snapchat are the most widely misused forms of social media. The students say, “People become very brave posting and hiding behind their phones and when you can’t actually see the person you are targeting and how they are reacting, something you may think is simply funny may in fact be very hurtful.”

If I may, I might suggest that this is a good time to check in with your own children or grandchildren about what they are actually posting behind closed doors. A good conversation starter might be “I read something about the word THINK and how each letter relates to posting on social media.” (THINK stands for: Is it True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and is it Kind?)

The SCDSB  make a distinction between bullying and conflict however in my mind they both happen too often and can be equally harmful to a student’s wellbeing. Rest assured I will continue to advocate for budget money to be allocated in support of staff training and student programs aimed at raising awareness about the importance of being kind and accepting of each other.

 

Annie Chandler is the Education Trustee for Collingwood and Clearview. She can be reached at 705-229-6217 or at [email protected]

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