This week, schools in Hay River are observing Pink Shirt Day, a time to raise awareness about bullying.

Princess Alexandra School, Harry Camsell School and Diamond Jenness Secondary School were to mark Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 22.

“Pink Shirt Day is symbolic of what we try to teach children,” said Carolyn Carroll, the principal of both Princess Alexandra and Harry Camsell. “It’s a reminder of our core values of kindness, respect and empathy for each other.”

Carroll said students are encouraged to wear pink T-shirts or something pink if they don’t actually own a pink T-shirt.

“It could be a pink button. It could be a shirt,” she said. “It’s really just a symbol of taking a stand against bullying, and remembering to be kind and respectful to everybody.”

Pink Shirt Day has been observed at her two schools for about 10 years.

“Most of our students participate, and if somebody forgets to wear pink that day, they quickly make themselves a little pink heart to put on their sweater or whatever,” said Carroll. “What really counts are their actions. It’s just symbolic of the actions of kindness. And if you treat each other kindly and with respect every day, then that’s going to cut down on any bullying. It makes our children understand that they give respect and, in return, respect is received.”

The three schools in Hay River under the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) observe Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 22 because the rest of the week has been set aside for professional development for teachers.

In most schools across Canada, Pink Shirt Day is set for Feb. 24.

Ecole Boreale is marking the day on Feb. 25.

Richard Letourneau, the principal of Ecole Boreale, said the school has observed Pink Shirt Day for three years.

“It’s something that’s important for us,” he said. “Having a strategy against bullying is definitely something that’s important for the department of education and the school board and the school itself.”

Letourneau noted Ecole Boreale purchased some pink T-shirts a few years back for students to wear, and staff members are also encouraged to wear pink.

“It’s an opportunity to celebrate diversity and make sure that everybody is included and has a place in our school,” he said.

Curtis Brown, the superintendent for the SSDEC in Fort Smith, said Pink Shirt Day originated in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a group of students wore pink in support of another student who had been bullied for wearing a shirt of that colour.

“Since then, of course, Pink Shirt Day has been something that’s celebrated every year,” Brown said, noting it helps to create positive environments where everyone works together and treats each other in a respectful manner.

Since 2007, Pink Shirt Day has grown to be observed across Canada and in other countries.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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